Long distance walking is growing in population. As the likes of you and me realize that getting outdoors is good for our health, minds and actually a pretty decent way to spend a holiday, the allure of walking each day becomes ever more attractive. It’s likely that thousands of new walkers will try their first long-distance route this year, and most will be hooked, only to finish with plans for their next adventure. But be warned, long-distance routes are not for the totally inexperienced walker. Miles under your feet are helpful, so if you are planning on walking your very first long-distance trail, this is what you need to know:
It’s Ok, you don’t need to camp
Some prefer to camp, its perhaps more authentic and hardcore to camp in their minds, or perhaps it’s only a challenge when one has 20kg strapped to your back. That’s OK for some, but for everyone else, there’s hostels and B&Bs. Make use of the many soft beds and hot breakfasts which are usually well spaced on the routes. You will appreciate it on wet days and have somewhere to ‘live’ each night which isn’t a damp tent really takes the stress away. Top tip, call each accommodation 24 hours prior to your arrival. Your hosts will be loaded with local knowledge and will advise on places to stop for lunch or a handy shortcut to their property.
It’s OK, you don’t need to carry your own bags
Just like intrepid explorers traveling in the Himalayas don’t carry their bags, neither should you. Luggage transfer exists on many trails, and where it doesn’t it’s likely a local taxi firm and your accommodations can help to move your bag each day. No pride is lost for having your bags carried, it helps to avoid injury and gives you space to steal all the soaps, shampoos and the kettle each day (joking)
Create a schedule
Don’t just walk. Plan ahead and break your walk into sections so you know where to stop for a brew, for lunch, for that viewpoint market on the map, and for the toilet if going in the bushes doesn’t suit. With a schedule, you will be able to determine when you may get to your accommodation and it will break up the more monotonous parts of a walk.
Say hello to strangers
It’s common etiquette in the UK to greet every single stranger who walks past you or overtakes you. Say hello, you never know they may be sharing the same B&B as you. Enjoy the sense of comradeship you find on walks and get to know the people around you. You’ll be surprised how interesting everyone is.
Look after your feet
Your feet should not be rubbing like that, and if they do, you have the wrong boots. That’s my opinion at least, although its often hard to determine whether your boots are right until you wear them in anger. Regardless, look after your feet on your walk. Apply Compeed to them should you start to feel rubbing, rather than when that rubbing turns into a blister. Once you have blisters your enjoyment of the walk will seriously deteriorate. Good quality socks are also essential. Cheap socks don’t breathe well and cause your feet to sweat, resulting in blisters. Make sure your boots are fitted by a reputable outdoor store, and please, please but from the store who fits them rather than using their service only go online to save a few pounds.
There will be points where you want to go home
You will get hard days, that’s OK and part of the package. Just keep your head down and burn through these experiences. A good view and a great nights sleep will help you to keep on going.
Don’t book above your ability
I know you can walk 15 miles without feeling it too much on a weekend. But there’s a difference in walking 15 miles, with a 7 day rest, and walking 15 miles for 7 days straight. Take a few miles away and you will thank yourself for it.
You don’t need sponsorship
Sponsorship is a great way to drum up support for a chosen charity. But for your long distance walk its also not essential. Be accountable only to yourself, not those who have donated to your walk.
Listen to your body, listen to your mind
If you need to stop, then stop. If you need a lie in, then have one. If you want to stop that fab looking coffee shop, or spend a little more time in a town then do just that. During the summer months, you have the flexibility to do just these things to enjoy yourself and take your time.