Joys of walking holidays

Most people will agree that a ten to twenty minute walk in the air is a great way to clarify your thoughts and put your problems into perspective.

One aspect of walking that is under-appreciated is how much it can enhance your creativity. Studies have shown that spending as little as an hour a week in a natural area can have a positive influence on creativity says James A. Swan, PhD, author of Nature as Teacher and Healer. New ideas, thoughts and emotions often surface during a walk. Be sure to write these down immediately after your walk, or perhaps keep a small Dictaphone on you to record such thoughts. Walking gets you away from the crowds. Studies have shown that 80% of people stay within 300 yards of their vehicle, so by going that extra distance you will quickly get into quieter, less disturbed areas.

Sensory tuning to natures frequency

A lot of people enjoy listening to music, podcasts or audio books whilst walking, but I prefer to remain attuned to my natural surroundings.  Each to their own and I am not critical of the way you enjoy walking but I find that walking provides me with a way to sharpen my natural senses which is impossible to do in the city, or at least it is for me!  I try to use my senses to fully appreciate the countryside around me and learn to read nature and what lives in it before I tread on them.

walking bird song identificationI keep my ears and eyes open, hoping to spot animal tracks and listen to bird song, though I admit I am rubbish at identifying the latter, hence the need for practice.  Though, even I can spot the drumming of woodpeckers, the squawk of crows or seagulls/landgulls as we seem to be getting a lot of recently and the rustle of small creatures darting through the undergrowth, trying to get out of the way of my feet.

Do not forget smell.  As you walk, you will be hit with the aroma flowers and freshly mown grass, and as you pass through wooded areas, the rich smell of fungi, decaying wood and leaf mould.  All of these things, helping you to relax and attune with nature.

Walking with family and friends

A walk is a great way to share valuable time with family, friends and colleagues. Rather than always going out on your own, ask someone to join you. Next time you have a meeting why not take it outdoors? You may well find that the fresh air will help you think outside the box and inspire greater creativity.

Walking and hiking is an easy way to meet some wonderful people, perhaps even your next partner, and many clubs offer hikes especially for singles, dog owners and others.

For those seeking to blend a physical challenge with fun, orienteering is the ideal participation sport for young and old. Called a thinking sport, it involves a combination of map reading and decision-making skills. There are levels to suit all ages and skills, in addition to enjoying a great workout.

Walking holidays are becoming an increasingly popular mode of exploration. Rambling through the countryside gets one closer to its heart than any other mode of travel. Close your eyes awhile and imagine the scent of wild rosemary and sage assailing your nostrils as you brush past these herbs on a trail in France, or the coolness of a mossy glade in an Irish oak wood. Birds and other wildlife flit around you, while all the while you are absorbing information imparted by your guide on the local history and culture. Walking uphill to a castle or a town gives you a greater appreciation for what life might have been like there during the medieval period, or why that situation was chosen in the first place. And your reward? Arriving at a shady taverna for lunch, ordering a cool drink, then sitting and perusing the menu of fresh, locally produced foods. There are few better experiences.

Travel experiences like these are particularly suited to single or solitary travellers. As long as you are careful and do not take risks, it is a safe environment where you can share your experiences with people you might meet along the trail and take advantage of their local knowledge, let them be your own personal guide as you walk side by side for a while.  After all, you will learn so much more from a local who knows the area then you will from a guide book.

Prepare for Challenging Terrain

Preparing for outdoor holidays requires some forethought as far as items you will need. If walking is on your itinerary, selecting a good pair of boots is a worthwhile investment. Poor quality boots can make walking a less-than-pleasant outdoor travel experience. On the other hand, a good pair of boots can give you the comfort and support to successfully hike any trail.

A long hike places a lot of stress on your ankles and feet which is transmitted through your legs. It can eventually affect your entire body, particularly your back. Yes, blisters are a discomfort but poor quality boots can cause problems far worse. It is important to have a solid base providing the support your entire body needs.

Walking boots

salomon walking bootsA good boot gives your foot and ankle the proper amount of stiffness yet springiness it needs. Remember, you will be traveling over boulders and other rough surfaces at times and want to be able to press off the ground with confidence that your boots will provide the right amount of support. Otherwise, twisted ankles or sore feet are fairly guaranteed.

With hiking, comfort really isn’t a luxury. It is essential. You will need to be able to spend long hours walking, without producing chafing or blisters. The wrong boots can allow moisture to build-up or let in unbearable heat or cold. Take the time to find a pair of boots that feel terrific as soon as you put them on.

Choosing the right boots

Think about purchasing walking boots like searching for a hotel on your honeymoon. Don’t just settle for the cheapest hotel but rather aim for the best fit for you and your partner. When it comes to walking boots look for resort level quality for you feet. Once you are out on the trails, you and your feet will appreciate the choice and the extra money spent!

Keep in mind, though, that good walking boots are not daily-wear shoes. They will feel somewhat stiff and give very little around the ankle and outer sole. They are designed to feel as such.

If you are new to walking, there are specific things you will want to look for when purchasing boots. For instance, a gusseted tongue can help keep dirt and gravel from getting inside your boot. Also, look for water-resistant materials such as rubber or treated leather. Wet boots can cause serious foot problems. A common material today is Gore-Tex because of its quality thermal properties. Look around for it.

Best walking socks

walking socksWhen trying on boots, always test them using a sock that matches the thickness of the socks you plan to wear. Thick, cotton or cotton blend moisture-wicking socks are the perfect sock for hiking. Bring a pair along with you when boot shopping since you cannot get an accurate idea of the fit otherwise.

There are many manufactures of good quality boots. Do a little research online, read reviews and shop around. Experienced hikers can offer good advice as they have probably tried a few pairs throughout the years.

You may be interested in

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in other guides in our walking holiday series: