Today I’m delighted to introduce Keith Foskett. After I walked the Camino Ingles in 2012 I became obsessed with all things Camino and Keith’s book on his Camino journey was one of the first I downloaded. While Keith has walked many miles since, I’m afraid I haven’t. Keith’s latest book, is a memoir called High and Low, telling how he hiked 600 miles across Scotland, while coming to terms with depression.
Keith Foskett is a long-distance hiker and the author of five books on his adventures. He was born, and still lives in West Sussex, where his love of the outdoors was nurtured on the South Downs. He quit his decorating job in 2016 to concentrate on writing.
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Society by Eddie Vedder – One of my favourite movies is Into the Wild. It epitomises everything I believe in, namely chasing freedom, carving your own path, and escaping the nine to five. The lyrics reflect this, especially where he sings about materialism.
Brass in Pocket by The Pretenders – There’s no deep meaning in this song. I like it because it was the first song I heard that epitomised ‘cool’.
Up until Chrissie Hynde appeared in my life, my staple musical diet consisted of my parent’s favourites such as Max Bygraves, Frank Sinatra, and Glen Miller. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, but I needed a more rebellious sound, and look, which The Pretenders offered.
Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush – I don’t know what Kate is singing about (as with most of her songs), I just like the beat and her voice.
Enola Gay by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – I was a teenager in the eighties when I started getting into music. Many genres I hated, for example punk, but I love it now. I was a dedicated new romantic, grey stay-pressed trousers, flicked blonde hair, the lot.
OMD were a favourite, and I loved Enola Gay. It wasn’t until a few years ago I discovered it’s the name of the US bomber that dropped the nuclear bomb of Hiroshima. Suddenly, despite it’s upbeat rhythm, the song became melancholic.
The Logical Song by Supertramp – I first heard of Supertramp when my sister bought their Breakfast in America album, and I liked the cover (I didn’t even know who they were).
I’ve been listening to them for years and The Logical Song was always a favourite. This is one song I just like the sound of, but the lyrics also strike a chord. They are very apt to my life, especially when I was growing up, and they helped through a harsh time in 2017.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Walking in the outdoors. What can I tell you? It’s what I love to do, and all my books are hiking related. If I couldn’t walk, I’d go nuts. It’s my escape, where I think, how I stay fit. I need the fresh air, the sun, the headspace, and the escape. Sometimes, I need to be as far away from society as possible.
Solitude. I’ll repeat the word, solitude. When I tell people this, they assume I mean loneliness. I don’t, and there’s a big difference.
Loneliness is struggling with isolation. Solitude is being comfortable in your own company, without the need to socialise, and I need it large doses.
Coffee. Anyone who knows me will tell you I love coffee. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s the taste obviously, the act of brewing, that’s it’s a natural food source.
Believe me, if I don’t have my coffee first thing, you don’t want to be around me!
Pets. I love animals. I’ve always had cats and a dog when I was younger. I plan on getting a dog this year, which I haven’t done before because I was often hiking in other countries, or travelling.
I’m curious about the communication, and how they perceive us. OK, so cats just want food and somewhere warm to sleep but I still wonder what they think of us. And dogs are way more intelligent than we give them credit for.
You can’t beat the unconditional love, especially with dogs.
The summer. I struggle with the winter, I hate the lack of light and the cold. I live for the time between April and October. Give me sun, and lots of it, I adore walking when the sun is shining.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Stop procrastinating. If I need to make a big decision nowadays, I will weigh it up, but I’ll make that decision quicker and stick to it. When I was younger, I’d spend ages speculating on the pros and cons.
Even when I knew that something could work, I still hesitated. Now, if it feels right I do it, and most of the time my decisions work out.
Don’t put things off because you think you’re too old. I remember in my late thirties, I wanted to have a go at being a pro-cyclist. You know, Tour de France and all that. But, I didn’t because at 38 I assumed I was too old. Now, a few years older, I kick myself because I could have.
OK, so we can’t be a football pro aged 67, but we’re capable of wonderful things, and for my life at least, age is no longer an excuse.
Make decisions with your heart, not your head. I think most of us look at life logically, not emotionally. This makes sense, I do it myself. If we’re looking at holidays, we check the climate, the cost, etc.
Sometimes, decisions and plans don’t stack up logically, but we feel compelled to do them anyway. Conversely, other things seem great in our heads, but our hearts say no.
All I can say is that my heart is usually right and I wish I’d followed that advice when I was younger.
Don’t be afraid to be creative. It pains me to see how our education system works. Our kids are gently ushered towards ‘safe’ careers. Often our parents point us towards the logical employment choices.
The consequence is many of us are in jobs we detest, I was for years. I love what I do because it’s creative. Many people view working creatively as risky, and it is, but the rewards are greater.
I go back to the point above, working as a writer was a heart decision and I always encourage others to follow their creative passion. It often works out.
Listen to others, but make your life your own. I was easily swayed by others when I grew up. I thought everyone else knew better than I did, and a lot of the time they did. But, I wished I’d chased my dreams more.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I listen to Max Bygraves. Just kidding. Interesting question!
I power nap. I reach mid-afternoon and fade; my concentration leaves me and I tire. I power nap for 30 minutes most days and I’ve got it down to such an art that I can time it without an alarm, to within a minute.
It feels fantastic afterwards. The Japanese encourage afternoon rest because it’s proven to increase productivity.
I suffer from depression. You might know this because my new book is about depression but I only made it public knowledge last year.
I’d unknowingly suffered for several years before finally realising in 2016. I’m aware of the factors in my life that cause it, and I’ve made positive steps to avoid them, which in turn, has made me a better person.
In a weird way, depression has actually helped me.
I meditate. I missed the meditation thing. You know how we go through life and some things completely evade us, like a great movie we never heard about? Well, that was me and meditation.
I started meditating to help with my depression, but found that I could also escape my head noise, as I call it. My head buzzes with ideas, most of them completely irrelevant. Occasionally I need to empty my head of everything, and the only way I can shut it up is by meditating. The peace and quiet up there is incalculable!
Nutrition fascinates me. I love cooking and my diet is pretty healthy because it makes me feel great, and I’m looking after my body. It’s amazing how certain foods can help us, and I’m constantly trying new things.
I’m interested in the unexplainable. UFO’s, the paranormal, witches, you name it. If science can’t explain something, it fascinates me. I’d love to write a book about Wicca especially, travelling around the UK meeting those who still practice it. I’d like to know if it can help us, if spells truly work and if there’s any satanic connections.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
A Border Collie. I plan on ticking this one in 2018. My travels put me off getting a dog but now I have no major travel plans, I want a one, and it has to be a Collie.
Live on a narrow boat. With the price of property in the UK, especially where I live, I have little choice. I had a mortgage when I was younger, but I sold the place and have struggled to buy anywhere since. For the price of a house deposit in south-east England, I can buy a narrow boat.
I love the simplicity, the space to have only what you need, and the adventure opportunities are endless!
Have a property abroad where I can escape to in winter. This goes back to my love of the summer and escaping the winter. If I’m ever lucky enough to afford another place to live, I’d do it. Probably southern Spain, somewhere with a warmer climate over winter.
Have a beer and a chat with Nicholas Crane. This man single-handedly got me travelling and writing. As a teenager, I watched him on Blue Peter, mesmerised as he talked about plans to run in the Himalayas. He cycled up Kilimanjaro, and hiked some amazing routes, including from Spain to Turkey which took 18 months.
In my mind, his name should be in the dictionary under ‘wanderlust’. His adventures encouraged me to follow mine.
Write a book in a different genre. I write hiking memoirs, and I love that because it’s my passion, so I hope my writing shines.
However, I have a good imagination as well so I’d like to write fiction. Plus, there’s always the book about wicca.
A few words from Keith.
I admit to having an idiot moment when I first read the questions, I couldn’t understand why they all started with ‘What are the first five things’, or ‘Highlight five things’. I thought there can’t have been much effort going into those questions, until I read the title – Five on Friday.
Like I say, one of my idiot moments!
Many thanks to Jill for asking me take part. Interesting exercise! Funny how I can happily knock out 100,000 words for a book, then get stumped by a few questions, it wasn’t easy!
Thanks for taking part Keith, and I’m pleased they proved to be not so effortless as you first thought. I will admit to my own idiot moment when I read Nicholas Crane and actually thought of Nicholas Cage! – I couldn’t understand why on earth you’d want a beer and a chat with him (apologies if you actually wouldn’t mind). I’m hoping you get your dog soon, life is so much more fun with a four legged companion. I also know someone selling a doer upper narrow boat if you need a challenge as well as boat! With your interest in witches you might be interested to know that technically I am one, though not of the Wicca persuasion. I only discovered recently that any female who has completed the Lyke Wake Walk is called a witch!
o – 0 – o
Depression threw him off course. A detour set his wilder side free.
An amusing and life-affirming travel memoir, concluding with tips for managing depressive episodes.
Keith Foskett refused to let his dark mood define his limitations. Unknowingly suffering with depression, he took to hiking the wilds of Scotland to face the inner demons that threatened to gnaw him to the bone. From the craggy Highlands of the Cape Wrath Trail and West Highland Way, to the canals criss-crossing the low country, 600 miles of unforgiving hiking terrain called his name.
Keith repositioned his compass to what really matters in life. As laughter became his travelling companion, he discovered that when dealing with emotional baggage, it’s best to pack light. Pushing his mind and body past breaking point, his journey could set a brave new course for coping with depression.
Battling ferocious weather, the ubiquitous Scottish midge, strange-sounding local delicacies and substandard TV sets, this is one man’s battle to conquer the wilds of Scotland, and his own psychological demons.
Adventure addict Keith Foskett adores travel and the outdoors. A veteran of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Pacific Crest, Appalachian Trail and more, he follows a different lifestyle. Adventure and chasing dreams come first, convention and acceptance are second.
In this book he shares a collection of trips, thoughts and observations from his award-winning blog. From the extremes of the New Mexico wilderness to his beloved South Downs in England, he observes the world with clarity, hope, daydreams and humour.
With tales of local history, the changing of the seasons, facing death and pursuing his chosen path, this is a glimpse into one man’s unfaltering passion to follow his dreams.
Short-listed for Outdoor Book of the Year by The Great Outdoors Magazine
Every year thousands of adventurers attempt to hike all 2,180 miles of the gruelling and unforgiving Appalachian Trail. Around five months later, beaten and bruised, those who finish are known as thru-hikers.
Keith Foskett weaves a true-life tale that’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. Accompanied by an array of eclectic characters – including a world-champion juggler, a drug dealer, and a sex-starved builder from Minnesota – he takes the reader on a compelling adventure that pushes the limits of both endurance and imagination.
During his five months living in the woods, Foskett’s psychological apprehensions are stretched to the limit against the wild elements of nature. By turns humorous and harrowing, his journey allows him to overcome his fears while reflecting on the man he’s meant to be. His adventure weaves a route through some of America’s wildest landscapes and history, and is told with insight, humour and reflection.
Perhaps he too will tame the most renowned long-distance hiking trail in the world, and emerge as a thru-hiker.
There are few who can walk a thousand miles in Keith Foskett’s shoes. One can easily forgive such unwillingness considering the places his legs have carried him.
Across arid, desolate expanses of scorching heat, the magnificence of the Sierra Nevada, and the dense forests of Oregon and Washington, those who dare tackle the Pacific Crest Trail find there’s no room for complacency when facing the extremes of the elements.
However, within the heart of a hiker lives the soul of a writer. One who can easily translate the awe-inspiring and often humbling moments of life on the trail into a powerful, honest, and light-hearted tale of desperation, perseverance, and spirit.
Discover the wonder of the Pacific Crest Trail that so many aspire to but so few prevail as you journey across all 2,640 miles from Mexico to Canada. Witness the fear as he battles a phobia of bears, snakes, spiders, and camping in the woods after dark.
With the harshest winter for years looming, be by his side as he enters into a desperate race against time, facing a dangerous, physical and very real threat to become the last Englishman to complete the greatest long distance hiking trail on Earth.
El Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way, is the fabled path that weaves through French and Spanish countryside for 1,000 miles to its hallowed destination at Santiago de Compostella.
Thousands attempt to hike its entirety each year: some succeed, many fail.
Keith Foskett found himself at a crossroads, sensing his life was about to change. But, until a chance meeting with a stranger in a Greek bar, he didn’t know which path to take.
A week later, he found himself at the start of El Camino, and began a journey that would change him. Along the way he made friends with fellow pilgrims from all over the world, all travelling for their own different reasons.
From the pain of blisters and extremes of temperature to encountering kleptomaniacs, fake faith healers and being threatened with arrest in Spain for ‘not sleeping’, his hike was far from normal.
This is the story of one man’s walk, but it speaks to all who see life itself as a journey and are alive to the revelations that an escape to nature can bring. Written with insight, observation and a healthy dose of humour.
As this book shows, it is rarely the start and the finish that count, but the journey in between.
You can find Keith hanging out here: