I guess you could say I’m one of those people that learn things the hard way.
In early 2013 I found myself alone in the Otway forest of Australia. There I was, with no cellphone reception, struggling up a cliff with a mans 65 pound pack cutting deep into my shoulders, wearing old running shoes that were a size too small! Talk about up a creek without a paddle. This is when I realized I probably should have planned ahead.
Somehow I managed to complete this spur-of-the-moment 60-mile trek down the Great Ocean Road as a virgin long distance walker. I lost half my toenails, suffered from bleeding blisters, injured my right sciatic nerve, severely bruised both shoulders, encountered deadly animals and ran out of food. Sounds fun, right?
Call me stupid, it’s ok… because in retrospect, it was extremely foolish. I paid for it with months of osteopathic treatment. But hey, I lived to tell the tale and pass along some “trial and error” solo survival tips.
I am a big advocate of spontaneous travel. However, planning is crucial when there’s risk of injury or danger. Take the time to research your adventure. Study detailed maps of the terrain, mountain ranges, climate, water sources, etc. Print important information and bring it along. Extreme activity can lead to a foggy brain, so back up is suggested. Join forums and groups and gather insider’s secrets on how much food to bring and so on. Also, buy the right gear for your sex, size and body type. I can’t stress this enough. Proper equipment can boost your trip immensely. Last but not least, never forget duct tap, rash ointment, feminine product (intense exercise can cause hormone fluctuation so always be prepared), good socks and a whistle. Just take my word on this one.
I don’t know what I would have done without a little help from fellow hikers along the way. Plus, social interaction is uplifting when exploring alone. On the Great Ocean Road walk a large group took me under their wing and saved my trip, providing me with desperately needed food on my final day. You will find that most long distance walkers are the spirited and helpful type. Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance. Accept support, whether it’s peroxide for a scratch or a cup of hot chocolate and a friendly conversation.
There are times during intense travel when you run into hairy situations. I nearly stepped on a venomous tiger snake in Australia, and overcame by remaining calm. Practice deep abdominal breathing and don’t let your frustrations get the best of you. Panicking will never solve a problem. Breathe through your troubles and fears until they pass.
There is nothing like bleeding blisters to lower your morale, so you have to focus on the brighter things. Distract yourself by observing or photographing your surroundings. Traveling unaccompanied can get lonely, so listen to music or even sing! This might sound silly, but have you ever been upset while singing? If you get caught, so what! You will probably just brighten the day of the person who caught you. The beauty of the human mind is the ability to choose one thought over another. Utilize this power when your thoughts head south. Remember, your body will do anything your mind tells it to. So turn that frown, upside down. It’s all in the head.
Keep fuel in your tank. Endurance walking is not about calorie counting! Don’t stress your
waistline when you’re burning thousands of calories daily! I wear my Polar heart rate monitor during most long distance escapades and burn between 3,000-5,000 calories a day! So try to eat every couple of hours. This will also give you an excuse to kick your boots up and take a break. Our hunter-gather days ended 12,000 years ago, so avoid scouting out berries to survive!
In the end, it’s the struggles that make the best stories and most cherished memories… but take my advice and keep them to a minimum. I have since fine-tuned my long distance trekking by following my own advice. Successfully venturing over mountains ranges in Norway, valleys of Patagonia and completing the El Camino De Santiago in Spain, with much greater ease.