If you love to travel, your cheapest option might just be long distance hiking. Aside from an initial purchase of gear just about all you will need is a food budget. If you plan correctly, you’ll be shopping mostly at grocery stores just like you do at home. I know what you’re thinking “wait, isn’t long distance hiking just walking?” The answer is “No, it’s far more than that!”
What is Long Distance Hiking?
There are many definitions, but one of the most common ways to define long distance hiking is any trip that is over 100 miles and travelled primarily on foot. The great thing about traveling using this method is that you can choose the type of trip that you want with almost infinite options. You can choose to follow country highways or urban streets. You have the choice of traveling marked footpaths through the country or the wilderness. For those intrepid souls who want to truly get away from it all, there is even back-country bushwhacking that will take you far from any signs of civilization.
Even when choosing a country or continent to travel in there is a myriad of options. Europe has a very extensive network of foot-paths that connect everything from castles in England to ruins in Greece. North America also has a large collection of national trails. Perhaps most famously, the Appalachian Trail. There are also trails that criss-cross Australia and New Zealand. South America also has a large network. The idea is that you can pick almost any destination and have a great long distance hiking trip that will allow you to explore the location and form actual relationships with the locals.
How cheap is Long Distance Hiking?
Long distance hiking is probably one of the cheapest form s of travel. You will have two large expenses: Your gear and initial travel. Your gear will include a backpack, a change of clothes, a way to purify water, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat, and, if you desire, trekking poles. There are many other options to add here, but those are the absolute necessities. You can get much of this gear used at yard sales or on craigslist but if neither of these options appeals to you, you can always look for special sales. Online shopping provides a great opportunity to compare prices and get the best deal when looking for new gear.
Your other big expense will be getting to and from your hike. If you’re really in the mood to just walk, you can head right out your front door and down the street. If you want to travel to more exotic locals such as Europe or Australia, you may have to fork out for plane tickets. Just like gear, however, plane tickets are now available and inexpensive through many internet sources that allow you to easily comparison shop.
Once you reach you’re the starting location of your hike, you’ll need to pick up food. This can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you like. Some people prefer to purchase freeze-dried gourmet hiking food. Others prefer to just throw a bag of raisins and peanuts into their pack for snacks with a quick rice dish for supper. The choice is up to you.
What are the Benefits of Long Distance Hiking?
Hiking allows you to see the world on a human scale. Unlike travel by train, plane or motor vehicle, travel by foot allows you to truly appreciate the areas that you travel through and puts the size of our world into perspective. A 500 mile trip that takes a month to make will cause you to appreciate every landform, especially those steep hills! Taking the time to see an area on foot will also allow you to interact more with the locals. Once they find out that you’re not an average tourist they’ll be more inclined to ask questions, point out the places that only residents would know about, and quite often they’ll even invite you to stay at their homes. Of course, you may have to tell them some of your travel stories in exchange.
Long distance hiking also has undeniable health benefits, both mental and physical. It can be quite relaxing to know that you’ll be going for a pleasant stroll tomorrow without having to worry about things like suitcases and bus schedules. Walking is also great exercise. Some estimate that the average long distance hiker burns up to 5,000 calories a day. With an energy output like that you can enjoy even the fattiest local cuisine and still not feel guilty about desert! Consider this against an alternative such as a cruise ship or spa-resort that will have all you can eat buffets and encourage lounging on a beach chair all day.
Is Long Distance Hiking for You?
Long distance hiking is not for everyone. It does involve strenuous, sometimes demanding, physical activity. The pace is also slower than most other forms of travel, so if you’re a jet-setter, hiking may not be for you. The best way to find out is to get out there and go for a walk. If you are able to go on a short weekend trip and find yourself dreaming of the next time you can get out and walk, long distance hiking may be the mode of travel for you.