The GR5: to hike or not to hike

 To hike or not to hike

that’s the question

whether it’s smart to go on a long distance hike while you’re autistic and can’t fully support yourself

or it’s better to put your dreams away and accept you won’t be able to do it?


Hi, my name is Lonit and I will be one of your trek bloggers for 2024. I will be attempting to hike the gr5 with my most amazing friend (I will be introducing her to you later). And like you could have guessed from the intro, I’m autistic. And you can wonder: “Why would someone with support needs even think of going on a thru-hike…”. And I need to give it to you, that’s an excellent question. 

Hiking and autism

Well, there are a lot of reasons. For one I really love hiking. Not only hiking but I really really love nature too. I even did my bachelor studies about it. But it’s more than loving it. I need it. In a world where everything is overstimulating for a lot of neurotypical people, let alone for someone with autism things can be hard. All the noise of cars, motorcycles, machines, people talking over each other, electronics that are buzzing, and a lot more. And that’s only the sounds, then there are overwhelming smells everywhere I go and nauseating  visual aspects like lights flashing by. To conclude, we live in a very stimulating world, and I for one can’t really deal with it. That is, unless I’m in nature. Nature calms me down, gives me energy and lets me process all the stimuli the world fires at me.

La Grande Traversée de La Forêt du Pays de Chimay (GTFPC)

My best friend

I always dreamed of backpacking but never dared to. This was the case until I met my best friend. And I think this is the time I introduce her to you. She is the kind of friend that never lets you down, she’s alway there for me. We have a lot in common, she loves to hike, but also likes a day chilling on the couch. But most of all she loves being with me everywhere I go.

Let me introduce you to my therapy dog: Appie. She is trained to keep my meltdowns and panic attacks at bay, she wakes me up when I have nightmares, she keeps me from dissociating and she pulls me away to a quiet place when everything gets too much. Appie is my walking confidence. I met her three years ago, and by meating her a world opened up for me. Where I couldn’t go out on my own before, I now could go walking, go to friends by myself, go to some public places, just be a little bit more independent (not to say I now can do everything alone, I still need a lot of support and there are some places that I need other people to assist me, but more on that in an other blog), and of course finally, go backpacking .

Appie with her backpack

Why thru-hiking 

Well, now you know how my backpacking journey started. But why thru-hiking? Just a warning, this is the emotional and hard part of my story. Well, it started when my step mom got sick. At the beginning it didn’t look that bad. Yes she had cancer, yes it was metastasized, but it was totally treatable. Full of motivation the treatment started. But it didn’t work. So on to the next treatment, and after that the next, and the next. Nothing seemed to work and they found more and more metastases. Her health deteriorated quickly, till the point she was very weak and slept a lot. The doctors said she probably wouldn’t make it to christmas.

It was a very hard period. My step mom was one of my biggest supporters, she was not only a mom but also one of my best friends. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. Throughout the year I could keep myself distracted by (assisted) working, but what to do next summer… I couldn’t think of being home the whole summer without her being there. So I decided I needed to find a way to go away. At that, I also needed distraction while she was sleeping or not doing great. So I found that planning a thru-hike was the perfect way to escape into another safer world. A world full of dreams of being in nature.  


The gr5

And last but not least, why the gr5. There are a lot of beautiful trails in europe. And I doubted for a long time. Never having done something like this before, I decided I wanted a trail that went through the lands surrounding Belgium (where I live). Staying close to Belgium I hoped my fear of the unknown would lessen a bit. And also if something would go wrong my parents would be able to come and get me in a relative short timespan.

The first route I looked at was the sintpieterspad. But it was only 3 weeks, and I wanted to be gone for longer. Then the camino the santiago came on my radar. But the camino is very popular. And I was just too scared of all the people on the trail and needing to be social. With my autism comes in my case selective mutism, so you can imagine the idea of talking to a lot of people is very stressful. I hope to do the camino one day but I am not ready for it.

And then the gr5 crossed my way. In Belgium we have a show on tv called the GR5. I saw it and it was clear. This is what I was going to attempt. It has beautiful nature, is popular enough that you won’t be lost if something goes wrong, but not popular enough to be overpopulated. It starts in the Netherlands where I can understand the language, goes then into the comfortable Belgium after which my courage will be tested in France. Where I won’t be able to understand the language that well (I c an understand and write a little bit french but not a lot). 

GR5 from Relais Vosges-Alsace

Now you know me and the story of how it all started. How I hope to be able to do it with the support I need, you can find together with me and Appie, by following this blog.

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Comments 10

  • Michael C Turner : Mar 9th

    BELIEVE IN YOUR DREAMS…Go for it, if it doesn’t work out you’ll know you had the confidence to try. If you complete it, which I think you can…that’s a huge triumph to carry you forward. If you don’t try you’ll never know and will regret it. Happy trails

    • Lonit : Mar 9th

      Thank you! Trying is the important part!

  • Don Kreis : Mar 9th

    I say go for it. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I’ve read about the GR5 and it sounds like great thru-hike. I’m going to follow your posts so I can read about your adventures on the trail. I wish you the best and safe travels.

    • Lonit : Mar 10th

      Thank you very much!

  • Dee Nerem : Mar 9th

    My name is Dee, and I am from the US and I specialize in all things Autism. I’ll follow along on your journey, and know you will have a support person in me. Way to go.

    • Lonit : Mar 10th

      Thank you so much! that is very kind!

  • Terri Fantasia : Mar 10th

    I am so excited for you! You got this! I can’t wait to follow your journey. 🙂

  • Christine Dupont : Mar 10th

    Hoi dag Lonit,ik bericht je in het Nederlands,lijkt voor mij wat makkelijker.Ga je weg en volg je hart,ik wens je een goede tocht en lees je graag…gogo xxx


    Hi Lonit. I’m from Australia and I’m looking forward to following your journey, you’ve got this, mate! Have fun!

  • Desmet : Mar 20th

    Hi Lonit, i’m sure your stepmom (as your big supporter and believer) would be tremendously proud of you going on this adventure.
    And if here is a way that she can follow you on this journey… she will!!
    You go!!


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