During a culture-shocked exchange year in Japan, fifteen-year-old Lisa Dempster’s imagination is ignited by the story of the henro michi, an arduous 1200 kilometre Buddhist pilgrimage through the mountains of Japan.
Perfectly suiting the romantic view of herself as a dusty, travel-worn explorer (well, one day), she promises to return to Japan and walk the henro michi, one way or another, as soon as humanely possible.
Fast-forward thirteen years, and Lisa’s life is vastly different to what she pictured it would be. Severely depressed, socially withdrawn, overweight, on the dole and living with her mum, she is 28 and miserable.
And then, completely by chance, the henro michi comes back into her life, through a book at her local library. It’s a sign. She decides then and there to go back to Japan almost immediately: to walk the henro michi, and walk herself back to health.
Brushing aside the barriers that other people might find daunting – the 1200km of mountainous terrain, the sweltering Japanese summer, the fact she has no money and has never done a multi-day hike before – Lisa is determined to walk the pilgrimage, or die trying.