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December 14th, 2020 | Guest Post: Dave Walker
Sunbathing on a faraway beach, a safari in Africa, a cruise over azure blue waters. There are so many ways to spend your holidays. But if you truly want to experience an area, one of the best ways to travel is on foot. There’s a beautiful quote by the British novelist Elizabeth von Arnim that captures exactly what I mean:
“Walking is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.”
More and more travellers are starting to realise the joys of walking. And walking holidays are becoming an increasingly popular choice. If you’re wondering if it’s for you, consider these 10 reasons to make your next holiday a walking holiday.
It seems such a basic activity that we hardly consider how good it actually is for us. Walking is one of the healthiest forms of exercise around. And also one of the most natural ones. Studies show that walking helps you stay at a healthy weight and can reduce cravings of sugary snacks. It can also ease joint pain and reduce the risk of various diseases by boosting your immune system. By walking you exercise many important muscle groups in your body, as well as strengthening your bones. And that's just walking on its own.
If you combine walking with being in nature, like you do when you're on a walking holiday, the positive effects are even more profound. For example, in a 2018 study done in Iceland, researchers found that walking in nature reduces stress in a big way. Also, being outdoors you're exposed to fresh air and natural sunlight, which both are known to boost your mood and have positive effects on your whole body.
As you're rambling through a landscape on foot there's just so much more you can spot and see. From wildlife, to beautiful panoramas, to secret hidden places that you'd simply rush by with any other form of travel. And it's not just the things you see. Because all your senses are more alive when you're really immersed in a landscape.
Imagine hearing the sounds of crickets as you're slowly walking over a path through a grassy field. Or the smell of pine-trees when you pass a conifer woodland. Or the feeling of a salty breeze as the wind gently blows over your skin on that beautiful coastal track. When you're walking all your senses come alive and you get to fully enjoy the destination you're at.
There's nothing like walking through a beautiful landscape to get your creative juices flowing. Take a camera, notebook or sketchpad on your walks and you'll be able to capture all kinds of beautiful places and ideas.
Many people intuitively know that walking makes them more creative and helps them solve problems. Beethoven for example liked to take long walks when he was composing. And recently there have been several studies showing that walking is not just good for your body, but also for your brain.
So if you're looking for creativity in your holiday, make it a walking holiday.
Besides a pair of comfortable walking shoes (which you probably already own) you don't need any special gear for a walking holiday. So there's no need to buy any new stuff.
And apart from getting there, on a walking holiday you do everything with your own two feet. This means that, as a walker, you're very quiet and slow compared to for example a car. With traffic noise being one of the most serious types of noise pollution, it's good to know you're not contributing to that, especially when you're visiting more sensitive areas like nature reserves. And of course you're also not creating any air-pollution while you're visiting the area.
So as someone travelling through an area on foot, your impact on the environment is relatively low.
It doesn't matter if you're an avid hiker or not, walking holidays are for everyone. If you like to walk 20 miles a day, great. But if you're normally less active, or shorter strolls are more of your thing, that's perfect too. You can be walking as much or as little as you like each day. And on top of that, you can set your own pace. After all this is a holiday, so you do it the way that suits you best.
Also, there are different types of walking holidays. For example, if you like to walk alone or with your partner or a friend, a self-guided walking holiday will be good for you. On the other hand, if you like walking with a group of people (and perhaps making new friends), a guided walking holiday may be your thing.
When you're home again from your travels, your friends and family are probably curious about where you went and how it was. Of course for most holidays you'll be able to come up with a (hopefully) nice story. For example if you've come back from a beach holiday, you might tell about how nice the hotel was, and how sunny the weather and how blue the sea. But most likely these will be more or less standard holiday reports.
Walking holidays are less standard however, and you see and experience so much more. You walk through new landscapes, perhaps climb hills or mountains to beautiful panoramas, or visit quaint little villages. And because you're moving around all the time, you experience an area much more fully. So you'll have much more interesting little things to tell when you're back again.
No matter where you live, it's very likely there are some beautiful places for hiking not too far away. If you combine a set of walks like this, and add some local accommodation like a family hotel or B&B, you'll very quickly have the makings of a walking holiday. Of course this all takes a little bit of research and planning. And if that's the kind of thing that would take out the fun of it for you, the good news is that you can find many ready-made walking holidays online. In Europe alone you'll be able to find many self-guided walking holidays.
And what's even better is that you can support small, local businesses with your holiday. That's because many walking holidays are run by locals with an intimate knowledge of the area they live in. Booking with such specialists helps you make the most from your travels.
Some of the best destinations on the planet you can only reach on foot. Walking takes you to these places where cars, trains and planes can't get to. For example, in the UK there are many footpaths through the most stunning landscapes. And no other vehicles are allowed there; you can only get there on foot. Similarly, throughout the world most nature reserves prohibit all forms of motorised transport. And very often even cycling is not allowed in such places (or just too tricky). So if you want to go there, your only option is to walk.
In addition to that, many destinations are simply impossible to reach other than hiking there. Think about some of the best mountain ranges or coastal paths. The tracks there are either too steep, narrow or tricky for anything else than walking. But these are the places that are still pristine, off the beaten track, and where you can experience nature in all her beauty.
In today's fast-paced world it's almost a luxury to be able to do things slowly. But that's exactly what you're doing on a walking holiday. You travel trough an area step by step, putting one foot in front of the other. And because it's inherently slow, many people find walking a calming, almost meditative form of travel.
And because you're going nice and slow, you really get to experience the place you're travelling in. You'll have all kinds of opportunities to interact with locals you meet along the way, or simply to talk with your travel companions.
You get a real feeling of accomplishment after walking consistently every day for, say, a week. Because you set out to do something, and then you did it. And that makes you feel good. You reached your goal (in a very pleasant way, while on holiday) of walking every day for a certain period. It's exciting to get this sense of achievement and you may even feel motivated or encouraged to make regular walks a part of your daily life.
People travel for all kinds of reasons: to expand their horizons, see new things, to learn, to relax, and even to challenge themselves. If you love to travel, you'll find that a walking holiday can tick many (if not all) of your boxes. Walking is a way of travelling slowly that's good for you in many ways. Physically, mentally and even spiritually. You'll find that after a walking holiday you come back home fitter and recharged with new energy. So go ahead and make your next holiday a walking holiday!
About the author:
Dave Walker is an enthusiastic hiker and author for walkingholidayinfo.com, a platform for small scale, local walking holiday businesses in Europe.
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We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.