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18.08.2018

I walked more than 460 miles to cure my crippling anxiety.

Torre DeRoche, 37, had always lived in dread, fearing everything from random sinkholes to global catastrophe. Then a series of terrible things actually did happen: DeRoche’s father died of metastasized colon cancer in 2014, and her longtime boyfriend broke up with her at the height of her grief — just months after she published a...
Time: 18:58     Date: 13.09.2017
US Living News: I walked more than 460 miles to cure my crippling anxiety. NY Post 24 - US News

Then a series of terrible things actually did happen: DeRoche’s father died of metastasized colon cancer in 2014, and her longtime boyfriend broke up with her at the height of her grief — just months after she published a memoir of the couple’s happy relationship.

The devastating experiences only deepened her anxiety.

“I was in a crisis and looking for something to believe in — hoping for some kind of serendipity to pull me out of it,” DeRoche tells The Post.

As chronicled in her new memoir, “The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World” (Seal Press; out now), DeRoche took a trip to Italy that summer to clear her mind and cautiously consider her next move.

It was there she found the serendipity she yearned for — thanks to an acquaintance and fellow travel writer named Masha Vapnitchnaia, who was traveling in the same region.

Vapnitchnaia, a spunky Russian-American woman whom DeRoche had met years earlier at an industry event, had spontaneously invited DeRoche to join her on a 221-mile pilgrimage through Italy.

Courtesy of Seal Press

It wasn’t an easy sell for the self-described worrywart.

“I was scared of snakes, I was scared of men, I was scared of animals, I was scared of what [all that walking] would do to my body … and then there was the fear of taking so much time off work and running out of money,” she says of her concerns at the time. “It’s really a question of what I wasn’t afraid of.”

With Vapnitchnaia’s encouragement, DeRoche agreed to tag along, setting out in July 2014 with the resolve to face her fears one day at a time.

To her surprise, the grueling exertion set her mind at ease.

“Walking all day, every day, caused my body to fall into this rhythm,” she says. “I became so deeply rooted in the present that I wouldn’t think about how many miles I had to go” — or what the future had in store.

“Worrying is kind of an obsession with looking ahead, and figuring out everything you can’t control in that situation,” she says. “When I was walking, I didn’t look ahead anymore. I learned to trust in myself.”

Take the tendonitis she developed within a week of starting her Italian pilgrimage — the result of wearing shoddy street sneakers. She confided in her travel companion that she wanted to quit, anxious that the pain would intensify and lead to lasting damage.

“Masha said, ‘Keep listening to your body and honor whatever it needs,’” DeRoche says. So she decided to quash her fears and forge ahead, buying a rusty old bike to ride when she felt too sore to walk.

A group of men making chai for Torre and her walking buddies midway through their walk.Courtesy of Torre DeRoche

The friends reached their destination weeks afterward. DeRoche felt so empowered that she agreed to tackle another three-week pilgrimage with Vapnitchnaia later that year, following the 241-mile path Gandhi took on his famous 1930 Salt March.

The author, now settled in Melbourne, Australia, hasn’t traveled much since successfully completing the India journey, but she’s still applying its lessons to her everyday life.

“I was seeing a therapist years ago, and he said, ‘Go to your happy place.’ I burst into tears and said, ‘I don’t have a happy place!’” she says. “This gave me a place. When I’m struggling now, I go for a walk.”

Trekking on foot is now her preferred way to see the world.

“I don’t want to travel any other way,” she says. “It’s so immersive. To be on a bus feels like skimming through a good book.”

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