6 things I learned on my first long distance hike
A bit of a hiking novice, I began working in the finance department of an adventure holiday company in 2016, and being suddenly surrounded by outdoors enthusiasts it got me thinking; perhaps I should try out a hiking trip. I was feeling inspired to try out a "proper" long distance trail, and Macs Adventure helped me fulfil my desire to trek around Sweden with little more than the essentials, a camera and a mind open to new experiences! These are 6 of the things I learned on the Kungsleden, my first long distance hike:
Waterproof Your Feet!
Most people are wise to the fact that appropriate footwear essential when hiking. So, being a smart guy myself, I got myself some decent walking shoes. However, getting walking boots, and prioritising good waterproofing would have been a better idea. Dry feet and ankle support - two luxuries I won’t be giving up next time.
Sturdy Waterproof Boots - An Essential!
Into a Trance…
About 3 hours into the day’s trek when the small talk died out, and I became focused on the walk alone, a wave of calm took hold of me. I found myself thinking profoundly and metaphorically about the awe-inspiring scenes around me rather than any worry or indeed any thought about my life at home. Walking puts you into a trance-like state.
One of the many trance inducing sights
Living without artificial light makes you sleep 100 times better.
With no power lines for 20km in any direction and a phone that quickly became nothing more than an extra 200g of weight due to a lack of signal and 12-hour battery life, artificial light became somewhat of a rarity. With nothing but candle light and a warm fire preventing me from walking into walls, 9 pm quickly felt like 3 am. Giving in to my natural body clock allowed me to consistently wake up feeling re-energised, happy and ready to trek rather than my usual groggy, irritated self (prepared to throw my alarm clock off the wall).
Beers and Cards in the dark - Photo courtesy of www.mikaelnyman.com
But nothing wakes you up like showering in barely-below freezing water!
On the subject of sleepiness and fatigue, after a long day’s trek thoughts of a well-deserved lie down were a top priority on my to-do list. Of course not before a wash. Imagine skydiving after having just finished off six double espressos and an entire crate of red bull, and you’re probably not even close to how charged and awake you become when you jump into the ice cold water for much-needed bath. There is heated water in the saunas thanks to the stove, but where’s the fun in that?
The biggest bath I've ever been in
You’ll meet many people on your wavelength
I haven’t managed to successfully learn any other languages (yet), so it was to my convenience that everyone I met and spoke to could speak excellent English, and much to my amazement some European walkers understood my Scottish accent better than the English walkers! However, regardless of language, the connection I felt with everyone I met was far more than merely small talk and friendly manner. I really could relate to these walkers at that point in time as we were all sharing the same scenery and goals. We were all there for the same reason.
My friend Prajeet whom I met along the way
The natural world can open your mind
A moment that will always be a highlight of my life was sitting under the sky at 1 am shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers wrapped in sleeping bags (and several layers of clothes), staring up above waiting for the lights. When I was met with the beams of transcendent green light a sense of achievement and content overwhelmed me. The natural world is vast and extraordinary. And there is so much to see. On my first hike, I was lucky enough to see a fraction of a percentage of what the world has to offer. But that was enough to make me feel intense well being and take away memories I’ll never forget.
My colourful jacket and I staring into the wild green yonder
I walked the Kungsleden in Sweden with Macs Adventure. You can find out all about taking on the Kungsleden on our website.
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