Walking is becoming trendy. It’s not just a case of putting one foot in front of the other—it’s where you put your feet that matters.
Bushwalkers and hikers have long enjoyed the benefits of exchanging the frantic speed of modern life for the slower, but arguably harder, pace up an unmade mountain track or along a windblown cliff. The view from the top is always worth the burning calves.
A few hours spent at walking pace, surrounded by nature, is a soothing way to regain a sense of perspective—to allow your mind to wander, think, reflect and pray.
Perhaps that’s one reason the great long distance walks of the world are becoming so popular—they offer a reason to get your feet back on the ground.
One of the best-known walks is El Camino de Santiago—the Way of St James—which has been walked by millions of pilgrims since the 12th century. Often referred to as simply The Way, the Spanish part of El Camino de Santiago runs 800 km from the Roncesvalles Pass through Puente la Reina, La Rioja, Burgos, Leon and finally crossing Galicia to Santiago de Compostela to the tomb of St James.
No wonder it’s seen as a journey of the soul—it’s powerful to walk the same path so many have trod over the centuries. Mind you, if its solitude you’re after, this may not be the walk for you.
The amusingly-named website walkopedia is a useful resource for researching long-distance walks around the world.
Its top 100 include exotic locations such as Mount Kailash Kora, a 53-km pilgrimage around Tibet’s most sacred mountain; Tasmania’s strenuous 65-km Overland track; Hadrian’s Wall Path, 135 km across northern England; and the half-day trek through Lebanon’s Q’adisha Valley, which was a refuge for Christian monks for centuries, with its cliff-faces mined with monasteries, churches and cells.
Then, of course, there is the 96-km Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea. More than 600 Australian soldiers were killed and some 1680 wounded during the Kokoda Campaign, perhaps the most significant battle fought by Australians in World War II.
This arduous trek through deep gorges, narrow crests and jungle looks much the same today as it did in 1942. There are almost no facilities, and trenches and rusted weapons can still be seen along the track. Those who follow in the steps of those Aussie soldiers no doubt find it a moving experience to connect with a defining moment in our nation’s history.
Our lives are a little like these walks. The terrain can be rocky at times and level at others; there are mountain-top moments and days when we travel through very deep valleys.
Taking time to reflect and renew ourselves not only helps to keep us steady on our paths, but serves to remind us how our paths intersect with others. Micah chapter 6, verse 8 has a simple, lovely reminder of our part in the world. ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
Take some time out; the world is at your feet.