By Nora Wotton
I’ve done four long distance, multi-week walks, so I often get asked, Why? You think that after the first time, I’d have a good answer, but I can’t say that I do. I’m really not sure why I like doing these relatively arduous walks. They’re hard.
I’ve pretty well always carried all of my belongings on my back on these hikes, so my pack gets heavy, my feet get blisters, and the hills (both up and down) are hard on my knees. The first walk I did was Offa’s Dyke in Great Britain, and I hardly saw a soul other than my walking partner, so on that occasion at least, it wasn’t about meeting new people, and it rained for at least a part of every day, so it wasn’t the weather. But it was a challenge, and it’s really beautiful over there. And the people I met at the bed and breakfasts were lovely – kind and interesting. And the food – yum.
On the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the accommodations were generally basic hostels, so that certainly wasn’t the draw, but I met many, many amazing people, the scenery was beautiful, and the coffee was great. The Camino LePuy in France gave me the challenge of speaking French most of the time since most of the other hikers were from France. Instead of learning about many cultures as I did from the pilgrims in Spain, I learned a lot about French culture which is amazing. And the food!! It’s a good thing I walked 25 to 34 km every day – there was amazing food at the gites where I always got the demi-pension if I could. On the Island Walk, I knew the land, I walked with friends, and thought it would be less interesting than walking in Europe, as I was never more than 150km from home. In reality, I still met lots of interesting people and was surprised by the new things I saw on my home turf.
Of course I didn’t know any of this before I left on my hikes. I researched the Camino a lot before I left home, but the reality is difficult to imagine from reading about other people’s experiences. In writing this, I think I’ve come to the realization that I like multi-week walks for a lot of reasons – the physical and mental challenges, the people I meet and get to know, the beautiful scenery, and the adventure of doing something new and unknown.