I have always been walking one way or another. My mindset and my technique has changed with time. The basic idea is simple – one step at a time. When I spent 115 days cycling through Australia I tended to say that while walking you see more of less. Today, there’s more to it than this. For me walking is meditation or even a form of medication. After a day out on the trails my body is tired but my mind is clear and at ease. It’s not only transportation, it is a way of living. Here I share some of my thoughts.
Today I tend to walk towards the goal and not at the goal. Sure I’m going there, but the mentality is different. Be humble to the task in front of you and to yourself.
It’s easy to push the limits telling yourself that you will be there sooner. Perhaps the rain is nearby or it’s getting late. By extending your stride you get more sore and you will feel it afterwards. By doing so we also tend to press the limits and instead of shortening the steps when need, we tend to step over objects and put our foot down directly after it. I think all of us have slipped on wet rocks and roots by doing this. Save your strength and be safe. When you want to get there quicker, be smart. Like minimising the weight in your backpack – you don’t start by cutting your toothbrush in half. There is more to it than that.
Some days you don’t get as far as you want to and you still struggle a lot doing the stretch you do. Other days everything just works out and you catch up easily. Being too far behind every day is not bad luck either, to be honest it’s probably poor planning! Be kind to yourself and make room for bad weather and unexpected events. Travel based on ability is more fun and makes everything safer. Don’t rush your journeys!
It’s not about the altitude you reached or the distance you walked. It’s about connection, love and respect to your surroundings and to others.
Be nice to yourself
Stop and feel the breeze, let the water of a stream ripple through your hands and take your time to lie on the ground. Take a break every now and then.
Keep the good vibe
When I’m out walking on longer adventures I start slowly. The first day out I’m getting into the mood, having a feel of being out again, searching for the travel bug and getting used to walking with my backpack once more. Perhaps you’re in a new country, being jet-lagged and all. If you walk at a slow pace the first couple of days, managing a healthy dose of strain on your body, you also keep the WOW feeling. This creates a good base for the rest of the trip. I saw a lot of people walking “too far” the first couple of days while doing my first camino. People that got blisters that they lived with for the majority of their walk towards Santiago de Compostela. Start slowly, give your body the best chance to adapt. Then, after a couple of days or a week, you increase the distance. If you finish your day still feeling that you could walk on forever, I would say you’re having a perfect start to your adventure.
Embrace the elevation
It’s true that it is a nice view from the top, but it’s also true that you don’t need to get up on all hilltops along the way. If you have the strength and want to, please do so but on a longer trip all ups and downs makes you sore. Plan your route by looking at a map, with binoculars or as you go every 5 minutes or so. Sometimes going slightly off the route is perfect, saving you an obstacle every now and then. If you climb upwards zig zagging slowly, still able to talk full sentences, you’re doing good. Imagine walking 50,000 steps every day or more for a week with 20kg in your pack saving let’s say 1500m of elevation every day by being aware of the surroundings. This could be helpful.
Searching, the past and the present
Why am I walking? Why am I out there wearing down my rubber soles? Am I looking for something special? I often think that’s exactly what I don’t do out there. I’m not searching, I’m existing. I feel calmer, more satisfied. I can simply be. In the city or at home, I often feel unsatisfied and in the wrong place. In the past when I was out hiking, I often felt that I needed to get up on the peaks that I saw. While up there looking around, I saw several new peaks and valleys. I wanted to go there too. I was not at ease. My thoughts rushed, forward, forward! Today, I can see myself standing there in the valley looking up. I know it’s wonderful up there, but, where I stand right now gives me that feeling of satisfaction and it’s wonderful here as well. I’m in the right place I don’t need to run any further. I usually want to sit and be in it (the feeling) instead of rushing on. It is not the whole truth but more true by the day.
As a reminder to myself that the trip is not only about distance I unbuckle my backpack and put it down.