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A long walk and a mystery solved
You'll have to dig into the archives of my old blog to find them, but I've written on the topic of my long walks + hikes a few times before. A few days ago I decided I was overdue for such a trek (a conversation with Lorri reminded me it had been some time since the last) so I set out to tackle a new milestone: 30 miles in one go. Now, had I been a little smarter about the whole thing, I’d have gone just a little bit further and knocked out a 50 kilometer walk instead! I have no excuse to have missed that opportunity given my many years of reliance on (and preference for) the metric system while working in science. Oh well…
Being honest, I wasn’t 100% sure when I set out that I could achieve this latest goal, particularly since I haven’t done hikes more than 10 miles in months and had never before walked more than marathon length (26.2 miles). In the end, it took me at little over 11 hours of actual walking plus a few rest/repair breaks to complete the 30.4 mile journey. I started at the front door of my house in the morning and ended at a restaurant in another town that evening, where I was very happy to meet my family, a few good friends, and there have a beer + some pizza (along with most of the appetizers we purchased, truth be told). They’re so lovely (and corny) that they even gave me a wee trophy and some flowers to celebrate my achievement. I was touched.
Anyhow, the point of the post here is not about the distance - it’s about the why. In that earlier blog post, “Unlocking life achievements”, I mused about the possible reasons why I was doing these walks. I don’t think those were bad ideas for sure. But thinking on it this morning, I realize that a reader comment on that earlier post - no longer online due to my change of blogging platform, but still living on in my email archive - was probably much more on the money:
“I think the reason this appeals to you is not terribly hard to guess at. It's an accomplishment just like the prior pursuits in life that have attracted you - most of which have been of an intellectual nature. Physical achievements are satisfying too! Maybe you're just having a minor epiphany about that.”
I’m pretty sure that astute reader was 100% right. The workplace provides us so many opportunities (and expectations) to set and achieve - and perhaps even exceed goals. In most companies, one’s annual compensation increase depends on such things, as do opportunities for promotions, special projects, bonuses, and other forms of recognition. I was certainly one who thrived on achievement and admittedly, doing what I could to rise about others’ expectations of me or above and beyond my peers. It wasn’t necessarily something I always did consciously, but I’m well aware it was a thing. And now retired and absent “a real job”, I guess I’m finding other opportunities to do the very same thing. At least this pursuit is a healthier one, right?
I still don’t know where this hiking and walking will lead me. I’m certainly overdue for some backpacking and this trek - while it did beat me up a bit and take my calves out of commission for a solid day, is proof I’m ready for some longer trips. Maybe that’s the next step? I continue to toy with the “romantic” idea of really long thru hikes as I’ve written about before. I have no idea whether any of that will manifest beyond my love of watching documentaries and reading content about others’ experiences. Who knows? For now I’m content having that be yet another open-ended question.
Some have asked me practical questions, like “how did I do it?” It’s pretty simple, actually. To spell it out, what it took was:
four protein bars
two 5-Hour Energy
one compelling audiobook
3L water (I ran out with a few miles to go)
some peanuts and almonds
A lot of sunblock and a hat
good foot care + some first aid supplies
a fair amount of determination and persistence
*no, not taken all at once!
Irrespective of the reasons why I did it, getting out and walking is certainly an overall positive experience. The scenery is lovely (see below) and I feel truly fortunate to live somewhere where I have such easy access to sights like these and more (I forgot to take pics until my teen texted me a reminder to do so!). True, back roads and the shoulders of high speed county highways aren’t necessarily perfect (nor wholly safe) environments for walking, but I like them just the same.
Do you enjoy doing these kinds of walks too? I’d love to hear from you. Mahalo 🙏
PS - For more information on my history of post-retirement long walks, in addition to what I linked above, check out the archived blog post “You are much stronger than you know” and a short YouTube video, “Financial Independence: Time Freedom + Less Planning Required”. I think the latter is particularly relevant given that I know I would never have conceived of spending an entire day just walking prior to retiring early. Spending days like I did here are a great example to me of the ultimate time freedom that retirement provides! I’m certainly so thankful to have the opportunity to experience this myself.