The Adventure of Long Distance Hiking
Trekking by foot over distances that require days, weeks, and sometimes even months sounds crazy, right? Especially, when this could be done in a fraction of the time by car. However, there are in fact people devoted to this long distance hiking style known as “thru-hiking”. Now, you might be asking yourself, “why would anyone do that?” It goes without doubt, that this unconventional form of traveling was made popular by movies and novels such as Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
Many individuals also take on such a feat because of how rewarding it is. Pushing the body and mind to their limits makes you become a stronger and more confident person. Not to mention, you experience so many unforgettable things when thru-hiking. After all, every day is a new place and new adventure. As a bonus, long distance hiking is eco-friendly, given it doesn’t produce CO2 emissions like a plane or car would.
With that, we are happy to show in this article the following details about long distance hiking: How much time thru-hiking takes, challenges that you may face, and suggestions for how to plan your trip. Are you ready for a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Then, let’s go and read on!
How Long are the Hikes?
There is no standard length for long-distance trekking – you can spend a few days, a couple of weeks, or even months on your trip. If you really wanted to, you could spend an entire year, but it’s up to you.
Perhaps you can walk 30 kilometers in a day. This would be the same as completing Germany’s 169-kilometer Rennsteig in six days. If you have the time and stamina, it is possible to tackle the northern royal trail, Kungsleden, in Sweden. Depending on your fitness level, you should plan about a month to complete this 440-kilometer long trail.
Do 440-kilometer trails already sound long to you? Think again! The Camino del Norte trail in Spain is 815 kilometers long. But the one that takes the icing on the cake, is Europe’s E4. This trail is Europe’s longest hiking trail and runs from Portugal to Cyprus over a course of 10,450 kilometers!
The length of your thru-hike depends entirely on you. What are your time constraints? Do you know how long you want to spend hiking? How athletic are you? How long are you willing to spend without your usual day-to-day comforts? What route do you want to cover and which countries do you want to see on your hike? Of course, budget is also another factor here too. After all, you also need to cover basic needs along the way
Traveling Alone or Together?
Finding a trekking partner for such an unusual and time-consuming adventure may be a little challenging. Though, if you don’t want to go alone but have no one to share your adventure with, then luckily there is another option – the internet. Here, you will most definitely be able to find a hiking buddy. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be traveling with this person for a long time, so make sure you feel comfortable with them.
There are a couple of reasons to travel with others. The first, is that it is safer. Moreover, you can split your baggage, making it a lighter load for everyone because there will be items that you won’t need multiple of. Plus, if you’re traveling with someone you trust, then one tent would suffice. Ultimately, when hiking over such great distances, you’ll be thankful for anything that makes your backpack lighter.
That being said, trekking alone also has its own advantages. While it may initially feel lonesome, it is a great way to discover many things about yourself. Additionally, you prove to yourself daily how much you can do on your own. On top of that, traveling alone motivates you to interact and connect with other travelers. Hiking a well-known route means that you will run into some of the best people ever, and perhaps even create long-lasting friendships. Another great thing about traveling alone is you that don’t have to match your pace to anyone else’s.
For our female identifying travelers, it’s important to note that many more women are now also taking on such long-distance hiking adventures. In doing so, they prove wrong the cliché that it’s far too dangerous for women to travel alone, or that women can’t make the distance on their own. In short, many people’s stories online prove that you can be adventurous and travel solo, regardless of the gender you identify with.
Challenges of Long Distance Hiking
With every adventure, there’s always a chance something could go wrong. For example, poor or missing trail infrastructure, bad weather, loneliness, lack of water, injuries, such as a broken ankle, theft, and so on. All of these misfortunes and others could make you doubt whether a long-distance hike is too difficult or dangerous.
It’s essential that you feel safe and comfortable with your trip. But remember that in life, we don’t always know what could happen next. So maybe start with a small hike and gradually increase the difficulty and length. That way, you can learn from your experiences and avoid rushing into thru-hiking.
With long-distance hiking, you will learn how to push past your limits. This is because you step outside your comfort zone repeatedly, allowing you to grow as a person and become more courageous. Don’t worry about feeling a bit worried when you face new challenges along the way. It’s completely normal. Just remember to not let your feelings get the better of you. Simply remind yourself why you’re going on the trek, what is important to you, and what you are willing to take risks for.
While long-distance hiking is not for everyone, if the thought of such an adventure excites you and makes your heart race, then go for it. In the end, what only matters is your drive to complete the hike.
Preparations for Thru-hiking
Good preparation is the be-all and end-all of avoiding unwelcomed complications. You shouldn’t just choose the path you want to take and estimate the time you will need, with that hope that your estimation is correct. Instead, if you have little or no hiking experience, you should go on shorter hikes beforehand. Ideally, this is done with the weight of your backpack that you will have for your long-distance route. This way, you will be able to plan more accurately what you can or cannot do and what you may or may not need.
You also need to think about what means of transport you will use to get to your starting point and how to get back home from the end point. This way, you can book any necessary tickets in advance. Of course, you should give your budget some flexibility by assuming it will cost more than you plan. It is always better to have money leftover than to find yourself out of money mid-trek. This would be an unfortunate way to unexpectedly end your trip.
It is also important to check visa requirements and if you need certain vaccinations for the countries you wish to trek in. Of course, depending on how long you’re going to be away from home, you should designate someone you trust to take care of your mail, plants, pets, etc. Consider subletting your apartment during this time too to save money. After all, you need to sleep somewhere during your travels, as tent camping may not always be permitted. With that in mind, paying for an accommodation should also be considered in the budget.
Your hiking equipment must also be well planned. Prepare for all weather conditions for the season you are trekking, but do not take too much clothing with you. You will also need to determine what documents you should have readily accessible with you. Learning a few words and phrases in the language of the countries you’re visiting is also not a bad idea. Not everyone speaks English, so it would be wise to prepare yourself for expressing your basic needs with the locals.
Although you shouldn’t approach your trip pessimistically, it’s a good idea to sit down and brainstorm all the possible ways things could go wrong. You don’t need to unsettle yourself in this process, but simply be prepared for as many scenarios as possible. Doing this will leave you feeling more assured. It will also help turn your nervousness into curiosity and excitement for the adventure ahead. Finally, inform yourself as needed on the political situation and the customs of the countries you’re visiting in order to have the best trip possible.
Long-distance hiking is an adventure! This challenge will push you beyond your limits and help you grow. There’s no questioning how exhausting it is nor how much discipline, motivation, and perseverance you will need, but it is definitely worth it!
You can hike many routes in a few days. Though, there are also routes that require several months. It’s up to you to decide which of the many long-distance trails you will hike. If you don’t want to go on your own but no one in your inner circle has the time, money, or motivation, then take to the internet for a suitable hiking buddy.
You will most likely encounter some challenges on your journey. Some are worse than others, and not knowing what could happen is certainly nerve-wracking. However, with the right preparation, these problems will be quite manageable.
To know if a thru-hike is right for you, you just have to listen to your gut. Don’t let others tell you it’s too hard. It is not something most have experienced, so the idea of hiking such a length will probably leave many skeptical. But this is your life, so just do what feels right!