“When I was young I used to want to ‘be’ something – an MP, a minister. But as I get older I realise that the greater responsibility is not ‘to be’ but ‘to do’. This is why I walk.”
Today Lord Michael Bates is setting off on a 625-mile trip. On foot.
The Minister of State at the Department for International Development, and member of the House of Lords, will walk from London to Edinburgh via Cardiff, Manchester and Belfast, raising money for the Red Cross.
“We have all been shocked and saddened by the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester,” said Michael.
“In response to the attacks the British Red Cross established the UK Solidarity Fund to support victims and their families. I wanted to do what I could to help.”
‘I’m no walker’
Accompanied by his wife Xuelin, who is helping organise the logistics of the trip, Michael will spend the summer on the road. In total, he expects the walk to last 45 days.
You might be surprised to learn then, that walking isn’t really his thing.
“Some people think I am a kind of outdoors fanatic but really I am more Beer & Grills than Bear Grylls,” he continued.
“I enjoy putting my feet up indoors and enjoying a movie or a match on the TV with a glass of Malbec and Xuelin of course.”
Among Michael’s biggest worries are finding a place to sleep, and making sure he is on the right road.
“I confess to having ‘let myself go’ since returning from my walk in Latin America last August,” he said.
“It will take me a few weeks to get back to reasonable fitness. Beyond that my concerns are just keeping going and making sure Xuelin is safe as she goes back and forth in the car.”
One million pound target
Underpinning his journey is a simple desire to make the world a better place.
“If I was a better politician I might be able to get some of these ideals into policy,” he said.
“If I had the skills of a diplomat I would seek to resolve disputes between nations and peoples.
“If I was a writer I would expound them in a book. If I was a musician I would seek to communicate this in song.
“I am none of these, so I walk.”
This walk is the latest in a series of fundraising walks the couple have undertaken.
Five years ago they pledged to walk 10,000 miles and raise £1 million for charity.
So far they have covered over 7,000 miles in 23 countries and raised £427,000. Their goal is to reach £500,000 and 8,000 miles by the time this trip is over.