Why should you go on a Pilgrimage

This guest post was written by Rebecca Brown, an avid traveller from Ireland.

 

Do people even go on pilgrimages today? Really? In the age of the Internet and all that?

Odds are, we are further from God (if there is a God) than we have ever been. And I’m not trying to belittle your belief system, I have one of my own too. However, I never imagined myself as the kind of person to go on an actual pilgrimage. In the sense that I will be walking the same road hundreds of thousands of people have walked since the Middle Ages, a road where people died, and which they traversed to feel closer to their deity. Turns out, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Admittedly, before we took the trip last year, I visited my mother’s homeland (she was born in Eastern Europe). Seeing where she came from felt like a spiritual homecoming, and that’s putting it mildly and overemphasizing it at the same time. When my husband suggested the Camino de Santiago, I was on the fence to say the least. However, he talked me into it, and the five weeks we spent walking across France and Spain were some of the best of our lives. That’s where the inspiration for this piece has come from, and all the people whose faces I am not likely to forget, but who will remain anonymous in the next page or two.

In a nutshell, here is why you should be going on a pilgrimage:

You are either rather young, or rather old

I know it sounds idiotic, but it’s true – we’ve met many young people out looking for adventure. They were in it for the walk, for the miles, for the nights by the campfire, for getting soaked in the middle of nowhere and chasing after a bus, (knowing that riding it is not the true Camino way, but nevertheless caring more about being dry than a true pilgrim). Not all were believers, and not all wanted to come, but I met one of them at Santiago de Compostela, who said it was the best vacation of her life.

On the other hand, we met an older gentleman from York. He has been walking a different Camino each year for five years. He told me he needed the time to spend in his own head, and that nothing can get your brain working like moving your legs. He’d been a top level executive for ten years, and now that he was one no longer, he wanted the time and the space to reflect on those years, the failures and the big wins. No better way to see yourself more clearly than to walk five hundred miles, he said. I’m thinking he’s probably right.

You (don’t) believe in God

Of course, there are those who take pilgrimages to feel closer to God, even today. There are also those who don’t quite believe, but would like to. The devout are some of the most interesting people to talk to on the Camino – they are calm, collected, and they can absolutely motivate you when you are about to chuck your shoes in the ditch and fly home. There are amazing heartfelt conversations to be had while you walk along. You may often find yourself questioning your own views of the world, and I don’t just mean your spiritual beliefs.

You want a challenge

This is admittedly me. I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally – and see if I could do it. Turns out I can, even if I did want to quit three times. Let me warn you, there will be blisters. There will be rain and wind. There will be annoying people bugging you, but you can’t avoid them anyway. But you will have time to think, you will have time to breathe (I can’t stress this enough) and you will have the incentive to open your heart just a bit more. By the way, I am a terrible cynic in my everyday life, but something about the Camino has changed me. I have not only traveled from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela, I have learned more about life and people in those 800 kilometers than I thought I could.

If this short rant has sold the Camino the Santiago to you as well, here are some of my expert tips:

  • Choose a reliable tour operator. We went with Follow the Camino, based on a recommendation, and we were never once sorry.
  • Choose even more reliable shoes. I finally bought these Hanwag Trek Light ones, and they were great – after I paired them with the right socks.
  • Choose the most reliable socks. The socks are the most important part of your gear, don’t underestimate them for a second.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Upping your water intake will help you feel and walk better, no question about it.
  • Leave the prejudice behind. Simply enjoy the walk and the air and the company. That’s what you’re there for.

Have you ever walked the Camino de Santiago? Would you like to, and if yes, what are your reasons? If these eight hundred plus words have not sold you the idea of trekking eight hundred kilometers, let me know why you are still unconvinced!

 

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6 Iconic Hikes You Should Do Before You Die

I’ve come to realize a long time ago that hiking from a fun and healthy hobby quickly transforms into a lifestyle and once you get into it, there’s no turning back. For many people, hiking seems like too much work, when in reality it helps you understand that our everyday lives seriously need a pause button from time to time and this is one of the best ways to hit it.

Throughout the years, as my passion for hiking and trekking grew, I found myself exploring new exciting trails all over the world and a bucket list started to form. I’ve had the pleasure to witness the wild beauty that numerous hikes around the planet have to offer but somehow, the list of places I want to see only grows. Here are six of the most memorable hikes that every formidable hiker should conquer if they get the chance to do it.

1.     Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

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You’ve seen it everywhere – on posters, movies, and commercials, but still, witnessing the vastness of Grand Canyon isn’t something anyone can describe, you have to live it. Even if you’re quite new in the world of hiking, there are trails in the canyon you can try out without any fear you’ll overestimate yourself – Bright Angel Point Trail that only takes about half an hour is a good example. If you’re in for more of a challenge, then give Widforss Trail a shot and be prepared to be amazed at the variety of scenery you’ll come across. This round trip trail is 10 mi. long and it takes about six hours to explore it fully, but you will definitely have stories to tell after you come back. Don’t forget to bring your camera because one thing’s for certain – Grand Canyon has nothing if not mesmerizing views and you will definitely want to capture that.

2.     Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

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I strongly believe that traveling to Africa is a life-altering experience, not just because the culture and life are so different there, but because the spirit of this continent seeps into your bones. When you become confident enough and decide to get to the highest peak of Africa, know that you will need 7-9 days for the climb, depending on which route you take, as well as your stamina and fitness. While Kilimanjaro is known as a “walk-up mountain”, you still need plenty of time to get used to different climates and ecosystems you’ll go through on your way to Uhuru Peak. You will see everything from rainforests and moorland to cultivated land and snow as you reach the summit. Wild animals, never-ending skies and pilgrimage-like feeling of the hike will stay with you long after you return to civilization.

3.     Mount Fuji, Japan

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Here’s a mountain that has inspired artists from all over the world and today it remains an incredibly famous site only 60 miles from Tokyo. This mountain is made up of three active volcanoes and surrounded by five lakes, and as you approach it, you can’t help but feel the awe. If you’ve got thirst for Japanese culture and hiking, then taking on Fuji is the best “killing two birds with one stone” moment. You can climb this sacred mountain only during July and August every year unless you want to face harsh and unwelcoming weather conditions that can easily threaten your life. Don’t take this hike for granted though, as there are some quite demanding parts, no matter which course you take. Make sure to come prepared, with plenty of hiking food and equipment, though you’ll have plenty of stops along the way, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4.     Mont Blanc in the Alps, France and Switzerland

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They say that Mont Blanc is one of the deadliest mountains in the world and many wholeheartedly agree with this notion. There’s an unyielding allure to places that are notorious for taking lives and King of the Alps is definitely one of those spots, which is why you need to be very, very prepared before you head out into this adventure. The weather is treacherous even during the hiking season from June to September, and you need to be prepared when it comes to hiking and climbing gear. Your fitness levels and agility will also be tested because the White Mountain with its peak at almost 16,000 feet will challenge you in every way possible, but the hikes that lead you through Italy, France and Switzerland will show you the sights and astonishing beauty that can’t be found anywhere else.

5.     Mount Elbrus, Russia

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The Russian Caucasus Mountains hide the highest peak of Europe in their little-explored areas and if you want to reach it, you have to hike and climb your way through Mount Elbrus first. This inactive volcano has been the dream of many ambitious hikers for decades, though more because of the glory of conquering the tallest mountain of the Old Continent. The hike in itself isn’t very difficult, especially because there’s a cable car system that works very well and will take you to 12,500 feet. From there you can take the Standard Route that is quickest and most secure and will take you to the southern slopes of Elbrus, all the way to the top. If you want to explore Elbrus and give it your best to get to the very top, going anytime from May to September is the wisest decision.

6.     Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

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Iceland has been tucked away on the edge of the world map for a very long time, but more and more tourists discover its unexpected and completely unique beauty all the time. Laugavegur Trail is one of the most popular things to in Iceland, which is why hikers from all over the world come here. This scenic trail has it all, including ice caves, hot springs and a lavish waterfall at the end of your hiking experience as a reward. Very few places on Earth have such astounding variety of landscapes on such a small distance, which is why Laugavegur is so attractive even to non-hikers. You can either camp out or book accommodation, which is quite affordable, but no matter what you decide, while you’re exploring Laugavegur Trail, you will feel like you’re in another world.

There are many other iconic hikes to talk about and only a book would suffice to write about them, but this list is a good start. Depending on your preferences and hiking experience, you can pick and choose where you want to go and make memories. The sky is not the limit, and that is never as clear as the moment you get to a mountain’s peak and reach for the clouds. – Tyler Michaelson

 

Tyler is a man of adventure. Loves spending time outside, and “luring” others to do so as well. Besides that, his main hobbies are writing, working out, photography and movie nights. He is also one of the main contributors to prosurvivalist.com.

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Top 3 Routes to Suit Every Biker’s Needs

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Whether you have recently retired and decided to live out your childhood dream, or you’ve always wanted to go on a longer adventure but never had the time – the biker culture can win the hearts and minds of everyone. However, it’s not enough to simply own a bike – much of your experience as a biker will come from the routes you take and the way you perceive them. But how do you know which ones to take?

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The slow and classic

Some people ride their bikes to clear their mind and think through whatever issues they have at that moment. For those kinds of people, the long Route 66, the mother of all roads, is a perfect choice. The long straight road will leave you plenty of time and space to relax and enjoy the ride. Stop by the local diners and talk to the locals about the place, or take a moment to enjoy the feeling of timelessness and tranquility that comes with this open road. It’s a great road for traveling alone or in good company, just make sure not to rush through it without taking it all in.

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The scenic
However, if you are looking for something more soothing for the eyes, with a picture-perfect view around every corner, then why not hit the Transalpine road? It’s not as peaceful, since there are plenty of 180-degree turns at every corner, but the sights are breathtaking and you will find yourself lost in its wonders. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the magnificent Stelvio for a bit of a challenge, and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Stretching through the mountains from France to Italy, it’s a great road for riders who want a bit of thrill, while still having enough time to enjoy the beauty of the scenery around them.

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The adrenalin-packed
Lastly, if you are someone who likes to go on paths that pack your body full of adrenaline and get all of your senses involved in every turn, then you might want to check out the German Nordschleife, nicknamed the green hell by the F1 racer Jackie Stewart. It’s known to be one of the trickiest and most demanding race circuits in the world, so if you want an adventure – look no further. It was built around the historic castle of Nurburg. It stretches 12.8 miles and it has over 1000 feet of elevation range. If you start feeling lightheaded, you might want to take a break, because this ride will definitely get you feeling all kinds of dizzy.

Rules for every biker

While on the road, your bike is your lifeline, so you must make sure that everything is in top shape before setting off. Also, make sure you are well stocked on everything else: off road riding gear, water, essential spare parts, and anything else you might need for your trip because you never know when you are going to need it. If you are traveling in a group, you might not have to double up, so make a plan about who should be bringing what. Having a safe bike and all the essential items is crucial to having a safe and memorable journey.

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There truly is nothing like an open road and the feeling of freedom it evokes. There is always something new to see around the corner, and it doesn’t get much better than experiencing it all on your bike. No matter which route (or routes) you choose, there is no ranking and there is no competition. Pick the one that interests you the most and you can be sure that the trip will be forever remembered and the road forever marked by your tires.

 

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