How I Went From Hating To Loving Hiking
Just wanted to give a brief glimpse of how my attitude towards hiking changed over the years!
All my life I have lived in cities, growing up in Amsterdam, studying in Utrecht, semester abroad in Kyoto (Japan) and research in Christchurch (New Zealand). Growing up as a nerdy only child of a single mom in a predominantly (at the time) immigrant neighbourhood, I always felt a little left out and had a preference to stay indoors. My mom in contrast loved the (idea of) outdoor life, so she dragged me on many hikes and outdoor holidays. I hated hiking as a kid though. The forest just seemed a bit boring, the walks would take too long and I genuinely hated mountains (the ascending mostly). Eventually I did learn to love being in nature, doing any kind of watersports and exploring countries. But hiking? No thank you.
Where I finally realised that I loved hiking
My epiphany came in one of the most beautiful countries to hike in: New Zealand. As mentioned before, when I was 25 I was living there for 3 months to do my (cultural anthropological) research and was trying to meet and getting to know more locals. As a way of doing that, I decided to join a few clubs and do some volunteer work. One of the clubs was the local hiking club, since it was easy to join for someone without many skills and they had trips every weekend that people were free to join. The first mountain I climbed was very, very hard, but the view was beautiful. I joined a few more outings with the club, but was still not crazy enthusiastic about it.
That all changed when I decided to go away by myself for a weekend to a national park. It was a beautiful wooden cabin lodge on the edge of a forest and slightly out of boredom and also to admire the surroundings, I decided to do a small hike. There was a small roundabout hike and during that hike I realised I loved it. I loved hiking by myself, not having to keep up with other people, stopping whenever and how long I wanted, admiring nature’s details and taking in the ambiance.
Just before or after this epiphany I watched the movie The Way (definitely recommend!) and born was the urge to undertake this new adventure: to hike the Camino from my home in Amsterdam to Santiago de Compostella in the north of Spain. Why? Well, the idea just appealed to me so much: the combination of not needing any vehicle or transport, but still going very far. To walk this trail with so much history, seeing all the small villages you would never come across, experiencing different cultures. I am also a solitary person, in the sense that I love and need time on my own, but I do also love to meet all kinds of different people. This trip seemed to combine all my needs. Besides that, I had and have no particular ideas about how my life should look like, especially work wise. I tend to focus on certain plans of adventure I have and not worry too much about everything else in my life (which drives my mom mad).
Unfortunately I kept postponing my hike until I would finish my Master thesis. Spoiler alert, I never have finished it… I would even go so far as to rent out my room for 4 months, so I could walk the Camino. But since I still did not finish my thesis, I lived with my mom for 2 months and the other 2 months I lived in a campervan on a camping on the edge of Amsterdam. That was definitely one of the weirdest periods of my life living there on that camping, but it was really nice to live so basic. It just gave me small epiphanies of how little you need. For example: the showers worked with coins, which provided 3 minutes of water. In the beginning I could not believe how anyone could do all the washing in so little time, but at the end I got so used to it, that the one time when the coin got stuck and the timer got turned of I did not even want to shower any longer!
Anyways…. In 2015 I finally made the decision to stop my Masters and start the Camino. For 5.5 months I walked over endless roads, through tiny villages and bigger towns, through polders, forests, hills, mountains and beaches. It was a time of boredom, elation, struggle and happiness. A bad knee injury forced me to take a 3 month break in between, but in retrospect I think that was also one of the better things that happened. It forced me to hike my own hike more when I started again, it helped me skip the hot summer months (I can not handle heat very well) and it made me enjoy the second part of the trip even more. There is so much more to say about my Camino, that I will do a separate blog on that 🙂
All in all it means that I am both an experienced and a not experienced long distance hiker.
Sure, I have walked 3500 km (2175 miles) in 166 days from my home in Amsterdam to the North of Spain, but I have not once camped out; every night I had a bed and indoor plumbing. But my ever growing love of (long distance) hiking means that I want to keep pushing myself, to find new and greater personal challenges, but most of all I want to keep enjoying myself. To go back to living in the moment again, accepting the things as they come, finding the beauty in the little moments. Just 3 more months to go!
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