A Long Walk
Ever since I started doing Parkour a bit more than 6 years ago, I loved setting myself challenges, both physical and mental ones. Whether I try to climb a thousand steps up a hill in quadrupedal or train barefoot in subzero temperatures.
Challenges with a high probability to fail are the ones that excite me the most, as it wouldn’t be fun if I knew that it was going to be easy.
So at the end of last year, I felt that I wanted to do something bigger than what I have done before. I just couldn’t figure out what. At that time I was reading a lot of books about great adventurers, such as Ranulph Fiennes’ “To the Ends of the Earth” or Aron Ralston’s “127 Hours”, both of which exemplify the capability of human willpower. In addition to that, Alastair Humphrey’s blog and books on him cycling around the world awoke my enthusiasm for adventure.
One blogpost in particular that had a big impact on my decision making was this one, an incredibly inspirational piece of writing, about how daunting it is to break out of the ordinary life and commit to something new.
Since then, I have spent a lot of time reading up on various outdoor adventures, from crossing the antarctic, to rowing oceans and simply sleeping on a hill.
But what did I come up with in the end? The idea is to walk through as many countries as I can over the period of one month. Initially I just wanted to see how far I would manage to get, but then I found out that there is a world record standing at ten countries. My ambition and urge to push myself awoke and I began to find a route that would take me across the borders of at least eleven countries. Eventually I found one, starting in the far south of the Netherlands, through my home country Switzerland and all the way down to the Adriatic sea in Croatia. This route will take me through eleven countries in total, covering a distance of more than 1200 kilometres.
Struggling with Weight
Wait what? 1200km in 30 days? That’s almost a marathon each day. Considering that I spend ten hours every day sitting in an office chair, that is an awful lot of walking.
It was and has since been intimidating to think about that fact, so I try to focus my thoughts on more practical information, such as where I will set up my camp every night. To me it would feel a bit like cheating if I were to sleep in nice and comfy beds throughout the way, so I will pack my tent, sleeping bag and camping stove with me, hopefully providing the proper atmosphere for this kind of undertaking.
With this decision the problem of backpack weight came up, as the equipment I own is more sturdier and heavier than most ultralight gear out there. I had to choose between less weight for easier walking, or more weight for more comfort while camping. Having a daily routine consisting of 50% walking, it is easy to know which approach to pick.
Now, after throwing out most of the unnecessary stuff (I say most, because I still could get rid of a couple of items and don’t feel miserable) my backpack weighs a bit more than 10kg, which is acceptable in light of the fact that it contains everything I need to live on the road.
All about commitment
Of all the people I told about my plans, nearly everyone thought I was crazy. They couldn’t understand how I prefered walking a thousand kilometres to lying on the beach. And honestly, sometimes I couldn’t either. I could spend my summer travelling to places I always dreamt of, exploring new countries or revisiting my favourite ones. However, challenges are all about commitment. And that means that stepping back isn’t an option, no matter how unpleasant it becomes. Perseverance and determination are probably two of the most valuable characteristics one should have when facing challenges, be they mental or physical. Hopefully I will be able to push myself further than my summer walk requires.
Hope and Homes for Children
Though this whole world record attempt is not only about me. In March this year, I attended the Night of adventure, an event organized by Alastair Humphreys and Hope and Homes for Children, with adventurers speaking about themselves and their endeavours. It was an amazing event, full of gripping talks and opportunities to have a chat with those that have achieved what many attendants dream of. Hope and Homes for Children is a charity organization working with children, helping them to grow up in a caring family environment. They also work together with adventurers that run fundraising programs for them. And now I am one of them. I am glad to say that I am running a fundraising page on Just Giving to support their cause. If you like what they’re doing, please head over to their website, go to the fundraising page and become involved in helping children without a real family. It doesn’t take much to help, already a few dollars can make a difference.