Two men who have overcome their demons took on the walk of their lives to help raise awareness of substance abuse.
Danny Brighouse and Leon Currie walked the 800km Camino de Santiago route in Spain last month.
El Camino is a network of pilgrims’ ways, which many follow as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth.
It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organised tour groups.
The friends, both 39 and from Lancaster, were raising money for Young Addaction, a service based at Lancaster YMCA which helps young people across the district who are living with substance misuse.
It’s a charity close to both the men’s hearts, since both have had and still live with substance abuse issues.
Danny said: “It was out of this world. I never envisaged it would be that hard, I just thought we would turn up and walk but it was way harder than I thought it would be.
“But it was amazing, and we are already planning to go back and do a longer walk next year.”
Danny and Leon raised £600, which will go into Addaction’s Young Persons’ Opportunity Fund, which helps to provide positive opportunities and basic needs for the youngsters, including toiletries, which more and more young people are struggling to gain access to.
* To donate to Danny and Leon’s fundraising page, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dannyandleonsfundraisingtrek
Read Leon’s story about the trip and the effect it has had on both men.
“First and foremost what an amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, soul soothing experience walking the Camino de Santiago has been.
“It far exceeded both our expectations on so many different levels, both good and bad [the bad being ‘Wow! that’s a long way to walk’ and the good being all the rest combined.
“It was both emotionally draining and enriching all in the same day, the same hour sometimes.
“When talking about how the trip has changed us it’s very difficult to articulate exactly what it is that has changed, what it is that is different now.
“It’s more a feeling, a sense of self, or rather a a greater understanding of ourselves.
“And as Daniel eloquently headed our Facebook video with, we learned to love our fellow pilgrims, love the beautiful country in which we walked and most importantly we learned to love and appreciate ourselves.
“That’s a big thing we’ve taken from the walk. There was no great revelation, no grand unveiling of some once unattainable secret. It was more affirmation of what was already there within us...we could only be ourselves, but that was more than enough.
“We met so many weird and wonderful people on our travels from all different walks of life.
“Retired teachers,teachers on holiday, government workers from various different countries walking along with two working class blokes from the north of England, and we all made time for each other, we all cared.
“The sense of community on the walk really was special. There seemed to be an instant connection between pilgrims, the sense we shared a common goal.
“We knew each other’s heartaches and hardships suffered on the trail, each other’s elation and enthusiasm and we shared all these as we walked and talked, laughed and moaned but all the time making our way to Santiago, moving forward.
“All on our own separate journeys but safe in the knowledge that we were not alone. That this was a community with a common goal. there was always a warm welcome, an ear to bend, an ear to lend, a hug and words of encouragement to keep you moving forward.
“The warmth shown was beautiful. The walk it seemed was a great leveller. It instantly broke down social barriers. The material really didn’t matter.
“Your background, history, any baggage you carried irrelevant.
“We all wanted to be there, we all wanted to walk and it seemed we all appreciated each other and what we were all trying to achieve.
“One day at a time building on the day before and the one before that and so on.
“As we walked we made a good friend called Mihai Tatar from Romania and had many a good conversation and laugh but the one comment he made seemed to sum up our Camino perfectly and succicntly: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
“In hindsight this makes even more sense now, and what a journey it has been.
“The very first evening in Spain we had a backpack stolen as we slept on the beach in San Sabestian.
“Suffice to say I wasn’t very happy and the trip nearly finished before it had started. Luckily, any valuable goods, money, passport, was safe.
“Daniel helped me see sense; it was only clothes, what did it matter? I could share his clothes, his toiletries and the load of the rucksack we had left.
“This very first night made our trip, it set the tone in a very positive sense.
“We were there to walk. We had shoes, shorts, t-shirts, we were set.
“As we walked further on the trail and we talked to people and shared our story we kind of became infamous along the route.
“That and the fact we can both be quite gregarious and vibrant, a little too full of life sometimes you might say, but this seemed to be appreciated and our reputations on the trail preceded us; we were always received with a warm welcome, usually with the words “the crazy English guys” attached.
“There were days though when if it hadn’t been for the other, well I don’t know, but the support we showed each other I won’t forget.
“We seemed to know instinctively when to each take the lead when to push, when to rest, when to stop for cafe con leche, which was often.
“Every hardship felt on the way though washed away as we walked the last 15km into Santiago.
“It was a celebration for the two of us. We celebrated the achievement, the struggle, the beauty in the struggle and the elation.
“The sense of elation was something I have never felt before, not on that scale.
“Two men who met many years before in social care, dealt with an awful lot of life’s ups and downs and both just coming out from under a cloud and living in and enjoying the moment.
“Just writing about it now I’m beaming from ear to ear. Before I end I would just like to mention something both me and Daniel noted of the Spanish people; their way of life as we saw and experienced it.
“They seemed to have a really deep connection with each other and the community in general. On many a Spanish square of an evening you would see toddlers, teenagers, mums, dads, grandparents and couples all coming together to talk, enjoy each other’s company and just be, live and laugh.
“We spoke to a German on the trip about this and it was summed up perfectly when they said “I LIKE IT LIKE THIS.” So do we...very much.
“We would recommend anyone to do this walk, fully, or just a part of it.”