By Cally Brooks
Thought you couldn’t get around Europe at the moment? Meet the woman who’s travelling more than 5,000 miles from the Ukraine to her home in Wales…on FOOT
Ursula Martin, 40, has already walked through 12 countries, and is expected to make it home later this year, after she’s already spent the best part of three years walking.
It’s a case of no planes, no problem for Ursula, who set off in 2018 and has walked through Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Andorra, and is currently making her way through Spain.
The former bakery assistant, from Llanidloes, mid Wales, spends most nights wild camping and only spends one night a week in a hotel or hostel so she can clean her clothes and charge her phone.
Taking a book with her as a luxury, Ursula is walking 5,500 miles across Europe with nothing but a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping kit, spare clothes and cold foods in her backpack.
She said: “I’d been planning this adventure for 10 years.
“Covid restrictions had a huge impact on my journey – I spent most of 2020 stuck in lockdown in France so spent the summer walking across the country.
“When you’re in lockdown and you’re wild camping, you have no home to return to and for a person who is constantly on the move, I found lockdown very difficult.
“I have a friend back home in Wales who has been sending me support packages to keep me going and I’m lucky enough to have a Patreon where people can support me financially.
“I’m doing up to 50,000 steps per day and only normally have one rest day a week which allows me to recharge.
“The most dangerous thing I could encounter is other human beings but I’ve had nothing but positive experiences the entire way across the continent; as a women alone there is definitely a vulnerability there.
“I try and go completely unseen when I’m camping; it does happen where you think you’ve found a quiet spot and then a car pulls up and fear runs through your mind.
“I don’t cook food; I’ll eat rehydrated carbs like instant mash potato or couscous and then usually dry meat like tinned fish or salami.
“I’ve never wanted to go home because as difficult as this is, it’s always really enjoyable. I never hate it. I may suffer during it because it’s painful and exhausting and I get lonely, but I never want to go home”.
Ursula was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 which spurred her on to completing a 3,700 mile walk across Wales.
After travelling Europe 10 years ago, Ursula knew she wanted to complete the mammoth task of walking home from Eastern Europe and finally got round to doing it in 2018.
Ursula said: “The walk in Wales was following on from the cancer and I did it for fundraising and to raise awareness.
“I managed to raise £13,000 in 2014 and when that came to an end, I wanted to keep going so I decided to walk across Europe.
“I was working in a bakery ahead of setting off for the walk and wrote a book so I used my savings to get me going.
“You just walk as far as you can each day and then search for a place to sleep so it’s very spontaneous”.
Ursula started in Kyiv, Ukraine and has managed to make it all the way to Spain where she is currently residing.
Despite the dangers of wild camping, Ursula has never had a bad experience and has encountered many wild animals along the way.
She added: “I was once sleeping in a field in Romania and I heard a tractor come in at 9pm at night and starts ploughing.
“We just had a really nice chat and the next morning he brought me a flask of coffee and a sandwich; it’s that kind of thing that has been my overriding experience.
“I’m hoping to make it home by June if all goes well with further pandemic restrictions.
“I had to spend five months in lockdown in France which really set me back.
“I have had loads of experiences with wild animals; I’ve seen bears a couple of times which was thrilling and something I had been really scared of in the run up to the journey.
“I have never felt threatened by an animal but it can be scary when you are laying in the tent at night and hear wild boars; it’s terrifying but also exciting”.
Ursula is already planning what she will do once she gets home from her three year solo trip across Europe.
She said: “The first thing I’ll do is have about two to three weeks where I just don’t do anything at all and let myself gradually get into normal life again.
“I’m not sure what my normal life is anymore.
“I’ll go home and plan the next adventure.”