THE ZEN OF LONG-DISTANCE WALKING

tired pilgrim

Last month, I walked 335 kilometers in 16 days, covering a good chunk of the historic, pilgrims’ trail that winds through France and eventually all the way to Santiago de Compestella in Spain. Our party of four was booked into small hotels along the way. The deal also provided breakfast and dinner at these hotels, and transportation of our main luggage to the next day’s destination. Amazingly, I survived the marathon trek without blisters or serious aches and pains, beyond immense fatigue and extremely tired feet at the end of the day. Basically, I loved it. This coot is made for walking. For those thinking they might want to try something similar, I offer the following, aka “The Zen of Long-Distance Walking”:

  1. No gain without pain. No pain without gain.
  1. Always useful to remember: each step, no matter how painful, brings you one step closer to your destination, however distant. And a wonderful, hot shower.
  1. The ability of a wracked, tired body to heal overnight is a daily miracle.
  1. Make tracks in the fresh, glorious morning air, absolutely the best time to walk.
  1. Life on the road goes like this: 9 am to 1 pm, divine; 1 pm to 3 pm, tired but happy; 3 pm to 5 pm, who’s idea was this?
  1. The last few kilometres of any day’s walk are always toughest. Will we never get there?
  1. A path that goes down must eventually go up.
  1. Walking poles are recommended. They are certainly better than speeding Serbians.
  1. Bad jokes are not recommended.

10. Surface is everything. Pavement, rocks bad. Dirt, soft gravel good.

11. Short steps are better than long strides.

12. Whining, groaning, cursing availeth ye nought.

13. On a hot day, under a relentless sun, shade is priceless.

14. If the forest seems a little dark, it may mean you forgot to take off your sunglasses.

15. When going down a steep, treacherous slope, don’t look up.

16. Any glimpse of the charming, beautiful blue tit (chickadee) cheers the soul.

17. Walking reduces daily existence to its basics: rising at dawn, simple breakfast, walk, simple lunch, walk, shower, hot dinner, deep, blissful sleep.

18. Nunnery food is best avoided.

19. On the open road, being one with nature, one with the world, yields few deep thoughts. But small pleasures are myriad: the smell of a forest, the vivid greens of the rolling countryside, towering white clouds in a vast sky, sun-lit patches of moss covering ancient stone walls, the million-euro taste of local bread and cheese, and on and on.

20. When the walking is good, there’s no life like it. One is reminded of Scrooge on Christmas morning: “I don’t deserve to be so happy.”

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