A year ago, Ivan Miller started walking and 4000 kilometres later shows no signs of stopping.
In a bid to raise awareness about mental health, and to raise funds for the Mental Health Foundation, Ivan Miller left his Kerikeri home last February with the goal to traverse New Zealand by foot.
And the mental health advocate returned to Marlborough on Sunday as he completed his circumnavigation of the South Island.
So far, he’s travelled 4063 kilometres.
“It’s a huge adventure,” Ivan says.
“Every day is extraordinary.”
The ups and downs of the winding roads through the countryside reflect the ups and downs Ivan has had through his own life.
His own experience with mental health inspired him to reach out to others.
“Everyone has a story,” Ivan says. “It’s touched everybody.
“I think mental health is something people haven’t talked about enough and it’s made me realise how big the issue is.”
Ivan says he suffered with mental health issues for most of his life, and at 31 while working on a vineyard in Marlborough suffered a mental breakdown.
After a stint at the Mental Health Unit at Nelson Hospital, Ivan credits his recovery to a friend who encouraged him to study the arts at NMIT in Nelson.
In 2018 he was made redundant from the Kerikeri orchard where he works and, with his 50th birthday looking, he opted to take the chance to do “something memorable”.
“It’s definitely been a memorable year,” he says.
With no experience of long-distance walking, Ivan set out from Cape Reinga on 9 February 2019 with just his backpack and a new pair of walking shoes.
“I got a really rude shock on the first day – I was gasping for breath.”
But with no cellphone reception along most of 90-mile beach, Ivan had no choice but to tough it out.
“It only took three or four weeks to build up that fitness,” he says.
“Now when I’m walking, it can be tough, but I don’t think about what my legs are doing anymore.”
Ivan says his hope is to share his highs and lows along the way, walk with others, and basically allow others to follow his personal journey.
He says he will have a few days rest catching up with mates in Marlborough and Wellington before turning his sights on the longest leg yet of his journey – the east coast of the North Island.
“I’m only about two-thirds of the way through,” Ivan says.
He says there’s about 2000 kilometres to go before the finish line, back where he began at Cape Reinga.
“I’ve been helped and supported by a lot of people,” he says.
“It’s been an amazing experience.”
To support Ivan raise money for the Mental Health Foundation, donate at events.mentalhealth.org.nz/fundraisers/ivanmiller/Ivan–s-Walk and follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pg/Walking-for-Life-1247548552058877