Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Keith Foskett which was first posted in March 2018.
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 has hiked thousands of miles and holds a deep respect for the outdoor spaces of this world. Well known in hiking circles, he has written several books and contributes to various outdoor publications.
The Great Outdoors magazine shortlisted his books for several awards, and his blog won the Go Outdoors best blog award.
**In June 2019 Keith decided to call time on long distance hiking and has re-discovered the joy of cycling, fingers crossed he will be writing about his new adventures.**
Over to Keith:
Which five 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.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you 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.
Give five pieces of advice 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 five 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.
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
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.
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High and Low
When dealing with emotional baggage, it’s best to pack light.
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 his inner demons. 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.
Keith Foskett adores the outdoors and is addicted to thru-hiking. A veteran of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, 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.
Balancing on Blue
Keith Foskett’s dream of escape started with a single step. Thru-hiking all 2200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, he left ordinary life behind for five months. Enduring an incredible test of physical and psychological strength, Foskett was pushed to his limits…
Accompanied by an array of eclectic characters – including a drug dealer, a world-champion juggler and a sex-starved Minnesotan – he weaves a route through some of America’s wildest landscapes and history, and writes with insight, honesty and reflection. Attempting to keep his English wit alive amidst the bumps and bruises, can Foskett survive his journey of self-discovery to emerge victorious?
Shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine’s Outdoor Book of the Year, Foskett’s novel-like tale is as entertaining as it is insightful. Venture beyond the journal-style of many outdoor books and join Foskett’s adventure of a lifetime.
Balancing on Blue is a superb standalone travel memoir. If you like living outside the box, escaping into the wild, and journeying deep into the unknown, then you’ll love Keith Foskett’s courageous trek.
Discover how this wilderness escape can change you too.
The Last Englishman
Born wanderer Keith Foskett had thousands of miles of thru-hiking experience when he prepared for his toughest challenge yet: a punishing 2,640-mile hike from Mexico to Canada. In a six-month journey along America’s Pacific Crest Trail, he battled the arid expanses of California’s deserts, the towering peaks of Oregon’s volcanic landscape, and the dense forests of Washington.
Battling phobias of bears, snakes, critters and camping in the woods after dark, can Foskett find new ways to achieve his ultimate goal when the worst winter in years bears down?
Shortlisted for The Great Outdoors magazine Outdoor Personality of the Year and Book of the Year multiple times, veteran storyteller Keith Foskett invites you for a trek across the greatest long-distance hiking trail on Earth. With astute observations, wit, and a delightful cast of characters, you’ll discover a compelling narrative that turns the travelogue formula on its head.
The Last Englishman is an extraordinary travel memoir by an experienced long-distance hiker. If you believe there’s more to life than work, yearn for new horizons and challenges, and believe in overcoming adversity, then you’ll love Keith Foskett’s tale of exploration.
The Journey Inbetween
A man at a crossroads. A thousand-mile hike. A life forever changed.
Keith Foskett was the definition of restless. Drifting aimlessly, he knew a piece was missing from his life. But when a stranger in a Greek bar tells him about a world-famous pilgrim’s trail, the chance encounter sets Foskett’s life in a new 1,000-mile direction.
On El Camino de Santiago, the hiker copes with extreme temperatures, fake faith healers, and kleptomaniacs. Threatened with arrest for ‘not sleeping’ and suffering with excruciating blisters, Foskett pushes himself to new limits. Can he find what he’s looking for and reach the finish in Santiago de Compostela?
Keith Foskett’s memoirs have been shortlisted for Outdoor Book of the Year multiple times by The Great Outdoors magazine. Awash with vivid descriptions and a cast of engaging real-life characters, the author delivers an amusing and enthralling tale of adventure and metamorphosis.
The Journey in Between is a daring travel memoir. If you like indulging your inner adventurer, taking the less popular fork in the road, and visiting other countries, then you’ll love this transformative tale.
A Thru-Hiking Trilogy
A real-life adventurer. Three epic thru-hikes covering 5840 miles.
Box-set – The first three books from Keith Foskett – Over 800 pages of adventure!
Book 1 – The Journey in Between
Book 2 – The Last Englishman
Book 3 – Balancing on Blue