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Charlotte and Sven are long time walkers and have completed some incredible challenges along the way. There latest adventure was in Italy's Amalfi Coast where they discovered the wonders of the limoncello, admired some beautiful views and climbed many steps!
What is your walking history?
My husband, Sven, and I are walkers from WAYYY back! In 1995 we walked 1250 km of the Grand Randonnee Cinq from Hoek van Holland to Ribeauville, France. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the full 2500 km of the trail due to my feet developing stress fractures! Since then, we have trekked to Everest Base Camp and Kangchenjunga Base Camp in Nepal and more recently walked both Sherpa Expeditions’ self-guided Coast to Coast Walk and also Tuscany on Foot.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
Actually a girlfriend suggested we walk this trip. She was going to come with us but had an illness in her family and was unable to join us. We had never heard much about the Amalfi Coast but are so glad we took her advice and had this wonderful expedition!
How did you prepare?
We live on a small island where there are limited long distance trails. We walk our dog to the ferry terminal every day (around 3 km) and once a week we walk a 10 km trail. We also train on our stairs to the beach (Sven’s Grind) which has 57 steps down. We go up and down them 5 or 6 times daily.
What was your favourite destination?
Amalfi is a beautiful small town but very busy with cruise ship tourists. It does have a lovely walk up into the mountains behind, the ‘Valle dei Mulini’ – Valley of the Mills. It was a rainy day when we were there, but it was so peaceful and had such outstanding views. But, I think my favourite destination was Praiano. It is such an artistic community and it was very special to see the donkeys and their drivers delivering goods; just as they must have done for years.
Best Food & Drink
If you like something a little strong, the Limoncello is dee-lish! And you can never go wrong with a real Italian pizza! But the best food for the area is Caprese Salad – tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. YUM!
Our biggest surprise was the beauty of the entire area – such stunning views! We were also surprised by the number of ceramic factories and the beautiful work they do.
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
We found the ‘Pathway to the Gods’ challenging because we both have problems with vertigo. Although the path is fairly wide, the steepness of the dropoff to the water is a little daunting at times. We also were unprepared for 1,860 stairs down one day! In fact, every day, stairs are everywhere!
Do you have any other advice for travellers thinking about travelling on this trip?
Practice a LOT of walking up and down stairs!
As well as getting out for some fresh air if you can, there are so many things you can do in the comfort of your own homes whilst in lockdown. This could be the perfect time to slow down and appreciate those small pleasures in life that may have passed you by before.
Does reading always seems to go to the bottom of the list when life gets in the way, normally reserved for holidays and long journeys? Now you have some more free time, you can really get stuck in to a new book and get transported to anywhere in the world.
The Little Italian Bakery - Valentina Cebeni
The essence of Sardinia is perfectly captured and you can easily whisky ourself out of this world into a new one. This is a place where time has stood still for years on end, but where the secrets of the island have also been hidden in its past.
A Wedding in Provence, by Ellen Sussman
A fictional story of a couple holding their second marriage in Provence, France surrounded by their immediate family in a quaint inn set in the small town of Cassis. The bride’s two adult daughters bring a little drama to the situation and it all quickly unfolds from there.
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
This award-winning novel is Set in Ireland. The story follows two people from high school in their small town to university in Dublin, exploring their relationship as well as their own psyches.
Listening to podcasts
There are so many to choose from, but there are a few that are great to keep that hiking mindset alive and kicking! Anything from advice on training for a bucket list trip to real-life stories and hints for beginners.
A weekly podcast in which there is a speak with experienced thru hikers about their stories from the trails and strategies for a successful thru hike. Each episode is not only full of unique stories from the trail, but also comes with dedicated 'Gear Recommendations and Trail Wisdoms' page. Here you can see what gear each thru hiker used including shoes, socks, packs, sleep gear and more, the food they ate and can recommend for you, gadgets, apps, hacks and of course wisdoms learnt along the way.
The First 40 Miles
This is a podcast for people who are new to hiking and backpacking. If you are new to backpacking, or if you're hopelessly in love with someone who wants you to love backpacking, then this podcast is for you. We talk about the essentials, how to lighten your load, and how to make the most of your time on the trail.
The Training for Trekking
This podcast is created to help hikers, trekkers and mountaineers prepare for their bucket list adventures. Rowan shares with you the simple training strategies to get you fit, strong and resilient to tackle anything the trail will throw at you, even during the current pandemic.
Cooking And Baking
Have you found a new found love for cooking and baking? You’re not the only ones! So, even if you can’t get to your favourite destinations right now, you can still whip up something native to the region instead and before you know, you’ll feel like you’re there!
French Coq Au Vin
A traditional French dish consisting of chicken braised with wine, bacon lardons and mushrooms. A red Burgundy wine is typically used, though many regions of France make variants using their local wines.
Find recipe here
Moussaka is an aubergine or potato-based dish, often including ground meat, traditionally minced lamb and topped with a creamy béchamel sauce. However, there are many local and regional variations.
Find recipe here
It’s almost impossible to think of the delicacies of Scotland without thinking of their famous shortbread. Perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, these sweet and crumbly treats will be sure to keep you going.
Find recipe here
Sometimes it’s nice to look forward to watching a nice film at the end of the day, and even better when it includes stunning scenery and cuisine from the places you have dreaming of visiting. Whether it is more hard-hitting or light-hearted, they’ll be sure to inspire your next adventure.
Starring Reese Witherspoon, this film is based on the true story of Cheryl Strayed on her path to recovery. Still reeling from her mother's death and recent divorce, she decides to hike alone along the Pacific Crest Trail with no previous experience.
Watch it here
A Walk In The Woods
This hilarious comedy stars Robert Redford as the bestselling travel writer Bill Bryson, who makes the improbable decision to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.
Watch it here
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star in ‘The Trip’ following them exploring fancy restaurants of northern England, ‘The Trip to Italy’ where the two go on a road trip in Italy from Piedmont to Capri, on the Amalfi coast, and ‘Thee Trip to Spain’ where they discover the joys of tapas in Spain. Their culinary adventures take them through Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, Rioja, Castile, La Mancha and Andalucia.
Watch The Trip here
, The Trip to Italy here
and The Trip to Spain here
In these times of social distancing, there are many ways to stay entertained. Whether that’s with your household over a good old board game or on a trans-generational Zoom call and taking things digital with an online quiz.
Would I Lie To You Board Game
A game of quick thinking that calls for a cool head and a poker face. Can you fool your opponents with an on-the-spot lie? Just like the TV show, some of the facts are true, some are not, it's all down to you to decide!
Find it here.
There is an abundance of online quizzes around, especially now, so the real question is which one to pick? If you would call yourself an expert traveller, why not test your knowledge with one or two from Traveller’s huge selection.
Find them here.
Puzzles can be great fun and really get you to concentrate, so much so you can find yourself in another world. When you’re not able to visit the places you want to, you can still recreate beautiful images of them!
At the moment, we are living vicariously through reliving old trips and seeing locations remotely. However, once we are safely able to travel again, we thought we would put together a selection of shorter 5 and 6 day trips to get you back in the swing of things.
Exploring the Cotswolds - 5 Days (3 Days Walking)
This trip is a fantastic discovery of the English countryside, coupled with the unrivalled hospitality of traditional, family run B&B’s and guesthouses. You will take in the amazing Cotswold landscape, with it’s unique mixture of parkland, cultivated fields with dry-stone walls of Jurassic limestone and patches of unspoilt woodland. The scenery blends with the structures creating a delightful fusion of natural and man-made beauty. With days of up to 20km, this is a relatively easy to moderate route with some hilly parts and a number of beautiful villages along the way.
Find out more about Exploring the Cotswolds here
Isle of Wight Cycle – 5 Days (3 Days Cycling)
The Isle of Wight was recently crowned as Holiday Destination of the Year in the Countryfile magazine awards 2020. A destination that is often overlooked, this is a place of outstanding natural beauty, from its beaches to ‘The Needles’, as well as some historical landmarks including Queen Victoria’s Osborne House, Quarr Abbey and the piers of Old Yarmouth Town. Enjoy this lovely, short break for cyclists who want an attractive sightseeing tour, with a mixture of town, country and time to explore. Expect between 4 to 5 hours of cycling per day, with the trip starting and ending in the seaside town of Ryde.
Find out more about the Isle of Wight Cycle here
James Herriot Way – 6 Days (4 Days Walking)
Sometimes described as ‘the best short walk in England’, this walk is designed to take in some of the countryside beloved by James Alfred Wight, the vet who wrote about his experiences in the Yorkshire Dales as James Herriot. It is a 80km circular route which winds its way through the contrasting dales of Swaledale, Apedale and Wensleydale which is a centre for rope and cheese-making. It is scattered with agricultural and industrial heritage, in amongst gorgeous river, waterfalls and attractive fells. It is an excellent introduction to long distance walking on longer trails such as the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast.
Find out more about the James Herriot Way here
Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps – 5 Days (3 Days Walking)
This is a truly spectacular centre based self-guided holiday, with wonderful alpine scenery, including dramatic lakes, gorges and glaciers, as well as breath-taking views of the iconic Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Meiringen is the perfect base for multiple day walks that can be made easy or hard depending on preference. It is a small market town with excellent shops and facilities, which is excellent in all seasons and remains relatively unspoiled. From the town it is possible to set out each day in a different direction using the incredible network of cable cars, postbuses and mountain railways. You can reach the high places quickly and easily without the necessity of long uphill climbs out of the valley.
Find out more about Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps here
In these scary and uncertain times, it has never been so important to keep a semblance of normality in our lives and part of that is staying fit, even if it is in the comfort of our own home whilst self-isolating! Who said that it can’t be just as fun as going to classes with friends or tackling new mountain trails? In accordance with the UK governments instructions, we are still allowed to go out for exercise (including a walk, run or cycle) once per day but if you are training for a long distance walk or cycle and this isn't quite enough, we are on hand to provide you with some advice on where to go for some active inspiration to add into your routine, from yoga to hiit workouts.
Yoga to help with flexibility and core strength
Yoga has long been thought of as an excellent way to reconnect with your body and feel grounded. However, there are other amazing health benefits such as improving your blood flow, flexibility, core strength and even pain relief, which all really help when it comes to training for a challenging walk. There are also many different types of yoga, so you can find what suits you and your needs.You can find lots of free yoga tutorials and classes online, but two of the best in our opinion are Yoga with Adriene and Cat Meffan. They both provide you with easy to follow sessions to fit in with your day, from 10 minutes to one hour, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro. If you want to give it a go, why not ease yourself in with 30 days of yoga with Adriene
Find Yoga with Adriene here
Find Cat Meffan here
Hiit workouts to help with stamina and building muscle
Hiit workouts AKA high-intensity interval training are all about raising your heart rate with quick and intense exercises, with a short break in between each one. They can also fit into your schedule, as they normally only last around 10 to 20 minutes. They are shorter than your average session in the gym because you use a lot of energy in a short period of time, meaning you need to spend less time exercising whilst still getting all the benefits of building up your stamina and strengthening you muscles. If you're thinking of giving it a go, we would recommend doing your workout in the morning to kick start your day and get your metabolism going. Two great places to find all you need in one place are Joe Wicks who has hundreds of different workouts available via his YouTube channel and Les Mills who have made all of their on demand videos free during the COVID-19 disruptions.
Get smart with home fitness apps
In these unprecedented times, social media and keeping connected has never felt so important, this is where fitness apps come in. There are a plethora online which can be a bit overwhelming, which is why we have done the hard work for you and found a couple of free apps that can help you with getting your daily activity in without having to leave the house. Daily Workouts is an app containing many different workouts, from five to 30 minutes with the added bonus of choosing which area of your physique you’d like to target, it couldn't more simple. Then we have Freeletics, this bodyweight training program helps with conditioning and endurance, including tutorial videos to help you with your exercises. Both are perfect for keeping up your fitness levels until you can get back in the great outdoors!
Download Freeletics here
Download Daily Workouts here
Maintaining a rational perspective with international travel
There’s no doubt that Coronavirus has caused disruption and inconvenience to individuals and to the authorities in affected areas, but I would like to reassure travellers with a calm and rational assessment of the facts.
Uncertainty about the virus in its early weeks has bred fear, which is being heightened by the barrage of news headlines and amplified by social media. The situation now is that it is rare to read balanced information.
World Expeditions Travel Group has been operating adventures across the globe for 45 years and, during that time, we have experienced and overcome many adversities. We have well-developed and tested risk strategies for these very occurrences.
Coronavirus outbreak is the latest challenge and we do not see any reason for travellers to panic. We advocate continuing with travel plans as we are doing with our own staff travel programme.
As with travel at any time, there are risks of infection from a virus. At no time are we able to guarantee you will not become ill during your travels with World Expeditions Travel Group or, indeed, in your daily life at home. Weighing up the risks of travel is a personal decision and we encourage you to investigate the facts to come to an informed decision about the risks.
According to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:
"Everyone should know the symptoms – for most people, it starts with a fever and a dry cough, not a runny nose. Most people will have mild disease and get better without needing any special care."
We develop robust risk strategies based on multiple sources, primarily:
We encourage you to visit both websites. With respect to corona virus, mainland China, Iran and 11 towns in Northern Italy and two pockets of South Korea remain the only four countries for which the FCO has increased the advisory to Advise against all but essential travel or Advise against all travel.
Johns Hopkins University in the US has a map with helpful facts
about global cases of the virus.
We make regular updates to the travel advisory section of our own website and I encourage you to check it
on our partner company World Expeditions.
I would also remind you that a typical World Expeditions Travel Group holiday is one in which you’ll be immersed in the natural landscape and generally off the beaten track, where the chance of catching any virus is far lower than in most urban environments.
I do advise departing travellers, including staff who are travelling both now and in the future, to take extra precautions in washing your hands regularly and following NHS guidelines related to COVID-19
In conclusion, I would like to assure you that your safety – and that of all our travellers - has always been at the core of everything we do. I acknowledge that any new health outbreak that is widely covered by the media will cause concern and I encourage you to maintain a rational perspective and continue with what you do daily and what you love to do on your holidays.
Spring is on its way, signalling the beginning of Europe’s flower festivals – from Madeira to Jersey. So, we have put together a round-up of all of the trips you can do which will tie in with these beautiful spectacles!
© Visit Portugal
PORTUGAL | Madeira Flower Festival 29 April - 5 May 2020
Madeira’s dazzling annual Flower Festival is a tribute to spring and features beautiful displays of tropical flowers. Launched in 1979, over the years it has become known for its Sunday parade, when hundreds of dancers accompanied by huge floral floats march through the streets of Funchal.
You can enjoy this festival during your Madeira Island Walking trip. Find out more information here
© Hampton Court Palace
UK | Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 6 - 12 July 2020
The world’s largest annual flower show takes place in the setting of one of London’s most historic royal palaces. Visit the famous Floral Marquee, explore the sensational Show Gardens and discover the sweet-smelling Festival of Roses and celebrate the year’s Iconic Horticultural Hero.
You can enjoy this festival during your Thames Path East trip. Find out more information here
© Jersey Battle of Flowers
CHANNEL ISLANDS | Jersey Battle of Flowers 13 -14 August 2020
First staged in 1902, the Jersey Battle of Flowers has since grown into one of Europe’s major floral extravaganzas. In addition to the traditional day parade, a night-time Moonlight Parade now also takes place, which sees the floats festooned in lights.
You can enjoy this festival during your Jersey: The Channel Island Way trip. Find out more information here
There are lots of exciting films coming out in the next few months that were filmed in and around some of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Whether you go to watch them or not, you can still enjoy the same views as your favourite film stars whilst getting active outdoors on a walking or cycling holiday! From all the way up in the Scottish Highlands, right down to the Dorset coast; there's sure to be something that ticks all your boxes.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (UK Release Date, August TBC)
The beloved, Beatrix Potter-created character is getting the CGI treatment one more time. The second feature adaptation of Peter Rabbit was partly filmed in the Lake District, an ode to the character’s creator, as Beatrix Potter had spent many holidays in the area.
Immerse yourself into the world of Peter Rabbit on the NEW The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District trip, where you will travel through the timeless landscapes of Beatrix Potter in northern England.
Find out more about The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District trip here
No Time To Die (UK Release Date, November TBC)
Daniel Craig stars for a fifth and final time as the fictional spy in the upcoming, the twenty-fifth in total, instalment in the James Bond franchise. The (former) MI6 agent spy enjoys life in Jamaica at the beginning of the film, however his retirement turns out to be short lived.
No Time to Die was filmed in various locations including Norway and Italy, as well as the Scottish Highlands, whose spectacular Lochs and Bens you can admire up close in our self-guided cycling trip.
Find out more about the Lochs and Bens trip here
© Helmsley Walled Garden
The Secret Garden (UK Release Date, 14 August)
The children’s classic is getting the big screen treatment in a new film starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters. The scenes at the secret garden (locked, according to the story, by Mr Craven) were shot at the five-acre Helmsley Walled Garden near the North York Moors, where the Cleveland Way starts.
The Cleveland Way walk begins at Helmsley, so you can start your trip by taking a peek at the ‘new’ secret garden before you venture all the way over to the beautifully picturesque Robin Hood’s Bay.
Find out more about The Cleveland Way trip here
Ammonite (UK Release Date, TBC)
The latest project by acclaimed writer-director Francis Lee sees Kate Winslet starring as Mary Anning, the ‘unsung hero of fossil discovery’, whose worked concentrated on Britain’s rugged southern coastline. Co-starring Saoirse Ronan, the film was shot extensively on location in Dorset and Surrey.
As you walk along the Jurassic Coast on the Dorset and Wessex Trails, you will find yourself immersed in the truly wonderful world of Mary Anning.
Find out more about The Dorset and Wessex Trails trip here
Post updated on 18 March, 2020.
The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast
Get ready for a special 142 mile ride from the harbour at Whitehaven on the Irish Sea to the Abbey and castle at Tynemouth on the shores of the North Sea. Taking a different route to the Coast to Coast walk, it serves as a brilliant way to see northern England and how the landscape changes as you cycle along. There is so much to see, including the Cumbrian Lakes and Fells, the bleak Pennines, beautiful Dales, towns and villages of all sizes. You should also have some time to enjoy the gorgeous tea shops, traditional pubs and interesting historical and industrial sites along the way.
Find out more about The Cyclist’s Coast to Coast here
Cornish Cycle Tour
This bike tour takes you on a journey through a varying landscape of Cornwall, filled with inland heaths and downs, rolling hills and tumbling coastlines. There are also sheltered coves and beautiful rivers, castles and gardens to visit along the way. With the daily rides being around 30 miles (50km), this allows plenty of time to see Cornwall the way that you want to.
Find out more about the Cornish Cycle Tour here
Cotswolds by Bike
This trip is a great introduction to cycling in the English countryside. A week of marvellous rides will take you through one of the most beautiful and historic parts of England. Honey coloured stone villages, wooded valleys and Roman roads are the background to famous gardens, a Roman villa and welcoming inns. The tour starts and ends in elegant Cheltenham, riding through the Cotswold Water Park and past the Chedworth Roman Villa then on the final day you will visit the historic 15th century Snowshill Manor and enjoy the wonderful views from Broadway Tower.
Find out more about Cotswolds by Bike here
Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany
Prepare yourself for a thrilling ride through the landscapes of the Val d’Orcia in southern Tuscany. Pedal through vibrant fields of sunflowers and past rolling hills covered with vineyards to the heart of the Brunello wine district and cheer with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile when you arrive at Montepulciano. Joining in the serene medieval town of Buonconvento and from the hot spring hamlet of Bagno Vignoni to the heavenly Renaissance city of Pienza, the itinerary is dotted with captivating palaces, Romanesque churches and, of course, prestigious wineries!
Find out more about Cycling the Wine Regions of Tuscany here
Lochs and Bens Cycle
The Scottish Highlands have long been a favoured destination for those keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. During this week long trip, you will take the backroads and country paths, visiting charming historic towns with ancient castles and monuments such as Dunkeld, and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead, and Killin.
Find out more about the Lochs and Bens Cycle here
Scottish Highlands Cycle
This is a truly stunning cycle route from Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, along the shores of Loch Ness to Fort William. En route, you may be lucky enough to spot the wildlife of the region including red deer, stag or golden eagle. It also wouldn’t be a trip to the highlands without a day in Fort William to rest or ascend Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain!
Find out more about the Scottish Highlands Cycle here
Isle of Wight Cycle
This is a lovely short break for cyclists who want a beautiful sightseeing tour, in an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty no less, with a good mixture of town and country. The ride starts in the old seaside town of Ryde, passes through Cowes, famous for its regattas then tracks inland through the estuary around Newport to the old town of Yarmouth. And, if the weather is on your side, you can follow the Tennyson Trail to Brighstone, then onto the ship wreck capital of the island, Chale. Followed by the scenic coastal stretch back into Ryde.
Find out more about the Isle of Wight Cycle here
Exploring Tuscan Hilltop Towns
The Tuscan landscape of the Val d’Orcia will open your eyes to its natural beauty. This walk takes you along steep valleys, dense forests, rivers and the legendary “badlands” eroded clay slopes. Walk by quintessential farmhouses nestled amidst olive groves, vineyards and fig trees on your way to the hot spring hamlet of Bagno Vignoni and the Renaissance city of Pienza. On this week long exploration, you will visit palaces, Romanesque churches, thermal baths, and wineries serving the divine local red “Brunello”.
Find out more about Exploring Tuscan Hilltop Towns here
Walk from Chipping Campden to Bath through a patchwork of rolling hills dotted with picture-postcard villages. The Cotswolds is one of the most quintessentially English parts of the country, with a wealth of castles, manor houses, abbeys and Roman villas.
Find out more about the Cotswolds Way here
Highlights of the Dolomites
The Dolomites are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. Although not exceptionally high – the highest peak is Marmolada at 3,342m – they are amongst the most striking of all European mountains, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey and rising in steep spires of fantastic form. Panoramas unfold with each turn of the paths and crossing of the passes and there are also opportunities (for the not-so-faint-hearted!) to stand on a couple of summits and peer down almost vertical rock faces to the valleys far below.
Find out more about Highlights of the Dolomites here
Thames Path East
This is the shorter 'Half' of the Thames Path National Trail and the transition between fresh water and tidal sections of the Thames from Teddington Lock. There is an amazing amount of history and mixed scenery along this walk such as Hampton Court Palace and Syon Park, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London, plus many wildlife reserves. If you want to see England’s capital from a different perspective, this is a great one for you!
Find out more about Thames Path East here
Cycle the Wine Regions of Tuscany
A brand new itinerary dotted with prestigious wineries! Pedal through fields of sunflowers and past rolling hills covered with vineyards to the heart of the Brunello wine district and cheer with a glass of the famous local Vino Nobile at Montepulciano.
Find out more about Cycling the Wine Regions of Tuscany here
The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District
From the historic town of Ulverston to the ‘Great Border City’ of Carlisle: cross through the heart of the Lake District as you walk the full 74-mile length of the well-established path, providing a complete south-to-north crossing of the county.
Find out more about The Cumbria Way: Crossing the Lake District here
Julie and Rich are from California and first started their walking journey in 2008. Since then, they have been on many walking trips and have definitely got the bug for it. Read on if you want to find out about their favourite adventures and and biggest surprises along the way!
What is your walking history?
In 2008, thanks to the guidance of Sherpa Expeditions, we put our “boots on the ground” for our first, very long walk, the Coast to Coast
across England. Though we had been hikers and, generally, spend a lot of time outdoors, as most folks in California do, we had not done a long-distance walk. The 192 mile walk from St. Bee’s to Robin’s Hood Bay couldn’t have been a better choice.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
The UK is a perfect place to walk, in particular because of the attitude of the country towards walking across what, in the US, would be private land. There is both a respect for the land and a willingness to share access to it. At the time we did the walk we managed about 15 miles per day; now it would be less! The terrain was varied, from deep muck and bogs to gravel trails; the weather a mix of everything from rain to drizzle to sun. We learned the importance of having all tools available to make one’s way when dense fog made using certain tools impossible. Nothing like a paper map when all else fails. We also learned that the trails as described in the notes and even maps can change after the information has been shared by Sherpa. Flexibility and adaptability are key, though they can be learned on the way!!
How did you prepare?
Our preparation for that trip was intense as we had no idea what to expect. We walked every weekend for six months and did back to back long walks across San Francisco in order to get a sense of what walking daily might be like. In the end, our preparation paid off but, as I will note further on, such intense training is probably not required (since 2008, with a walking trip almost every year, our regimen has become considerably more limited and we rely on our daily exercise to keep us ready. Of course, readiness is affected by age and that has increased since our first walk!)
Also, in addition to building stamina and strength, there is planning for what one should pack. Although Sherpa and other companies provide lists, determining what and how much you will need and how you will limit it to one 20 kilo bag takes work. Over the years we have scaled back our tendency to “overpack”, learning that things can be purchased on route. One critical factor is how one can wash clothes and, more importantly, dry them!! On some of our trips there were clothes lines and the ability to wash in large sinks but, for the most part, one relies on hotel or B&B small sinks and decorating the room with laundry to dry, using hair dryers in emergency, and the heat racks that are for towels but work well for socks too! There are places that will not allow you to do laundry in your room but they are few and far between.
What was your favourite destination?
It has been 11 years since that first long walk. During that period we walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the islands of Kerry and Beara in Ireland, the Via Fracigina in Italy, the Dordogne
in France. There were also treks in Nepal and a bicycle trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. This year we just returned from walking across Scotland on the John Muir Way
. Although it has not always been the case, we have sought walks that were destination based, the Coast to Coast walks being the pinnacle of that kind of walking. There is a great deal of satisfaction in walking across a country, most particularly the chance to immerse ourselves in the variation of the lands, the economies, the cultures, the history as we cross.
What has been the most challenging aspect?
Each walk we have taken has challenged us in different ways. On our first walk the challenge was simply to persevere, to walk daily, rain or shine, through rabbit holes, peaty soil and getting lots in the fog. Walking in Italy, from hill town to hill town in Tuscany, challenged us to walk UP hill at the end of every day !! And the hills were steep and long. Whew! And walking the John Muir Way in Scotland challenged us because there were unexpected obstacles and diversions that added to the length of our days when, as you might have guessed, our energy was flagging.
Best food & drink?
Each walk has had different culinary offerings the best of which were found in France and Italy. The other walks, including our most recent walk, seemed to have the same menu during a good part of the trip. The variations came when we came to a bigger town or city (like Edinburgh) when we could enjoy cuisines from around the world. As walkers, a hearty breakfast is critical and, though the delicious food found in Italy and France made for lovely dinners, the breakfasts were largely something sweet and coffee, so sometimes we found ourselves supplementing with local cheese and fruit. We also brought an array of protein bars to carry us through the energy gap. England and Scotland win the prize for a substantial breakfast albeit one filled with not such healthy sausages, pudding, hash browns as well as eggs, beans, bacon, tomatoes. It should be noted that in the UK one could get a vegan, vegetarian, lactose free or gluten free meal everywhere too, if required.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of these walking trips, from our first to our most recent, is the level of detail in which we immersed ourselves as we walked. The myriad questions about what we are seeing made for a very stimulating experience in every case. And, although not an entire surprise, indeed a great pleasure, is the kindness of strangers. We have been rescued from bad judgments, bad weather, bad signage and fatigued bodies by so many folks whether we could speak the same language or not. The best example of the kind of help we received was during our Coast to Coast walk when, upon arriving in a tiny village, it appeared our supposed host was in crisis and had locked his inn. At a loss for what to do, we were approached by a local woman who invited us to stay with her for the night and she arranged for dinner as well. What’s not to like about that!
Obviously I could write on and on but, if you take away nothing else from what I have written, know that long walks, supported by having your luggage carried, your lodging taken care of, and your routes provided, is the best way to see the world step by step!!