Going The Extra Mile
I happened to be in London last Spring and being the adventurous, outdoorsy person I like to think I am, I opted to look for any hiking trails that would take me outside the city. London is a wonderful city filled with culture and history, but I’m willing to admit, it’s lacking in the mountainous adventure department. My quest for hiking trails took me to Wales, but what I found interesting about my research was that “hike” didn’t yield the results I thought it would.
What we consider hikes or treks across the country go by a different name in Europe: walking holidays. It sounds totally mild, right? Maybe a stroll over a few hills and down the coast before stopping for a picnic lunch. False. These walking holidays included 72 mile expeditions in the Highlands, historic routes through national forests, and trails that literally spanned three countries. It’s not my definition of a holiday, but perhaps they consider it so because walking is already a part of their everyday lives.
If you are planning on going abroad, I can promise you, you will be doing a lot of walking. You’re probably not having your car shipped overseas, and it may take you a while to master the bus schedule or metro stops. But one thing relatively reliable in getting you from point A to point B is your own two feet.
Flip- flops aren’t going to cut it. It doesn’t matter if you are staying off the coast of Portugal and plan on spending all your time at the beach; invest in a sturdy pair of walking shoes. I’m not saying you need to break in a pair of hiking boots- please don’t embarrass yourself...unless of course, you want to tackle one of those walking holidays in which case, maybe grab some hiking poles while you’re at it. But for a daily jaunt through town, pick something comfortable that you could stand wearing all day. A pair of tennis shoes or maybe some Vans, Converse or Sperry's; something with a sole, and a lot of support! But if you’re buying new shoes for your trip, break them in before you go; blisters can be a nightmare.
Now that you’re equipped and ready, my advice to you is this: do what you’re comfortable with. It’s easy to run yourself into the ground when there is so much to see and do, but it is vital that you take care of yourself. If not for your own health, then for the sake of all the things you will miss out on if you get injured. Don’t force yourself to climb the top of that bell tower, or see that other cathedral miles away. It’s important to pace yourself.
I like to think I’m an active person and when I found a hiking trail in Wales, I went and pushed myself harder than I should have. On top of all the walking I’d already done in London, coupled with the ridiculous 18 miles I did outside Cardiff, I developed a lovely case of runner’s knee when I got back home.
If you are not accustomed to walking long distances daily, maybe it’s time to practice for your trip abroad. Head outside every once in a while and go for a walk- you could break in your new shoes. Stretch and take care of your body. Walking is a normal part of many cultures but for some, this kind of activity will take some adjustment.
But it is well worth it. Going on foot is one of the best ways to just lose yourself in city streets and stumble upon things you would have otherwise missed. This mode of transport forces you to slow down and look at your surroundings, and maybe even see things in a whole new perspective- like, maybe it’s a good thing you were born in this century and not in a time when going on foot was the only option.
So, what should you look forward to? A whole lot of walking. It’s not necessarily a physically demanding exercise, but don’t underestimate your own curiosity.