There are not many activities that can heal the mind, body, and soul. One such antidote to a stressful and sedentary life is walking. For a long time, philosophers such as Aristotle, Nietzsche and Rousseau preferred to reflect during their travels. The physiological benefits of being outdoors have become well known over the years. Hiking strengthens tendons and promotes blood flow, counteracting the existence of sedentary work. Shinrin-yoku, a unique Japanese practice of «forest baths» contribute lower stress levels, lower blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.
Taking a long walk soothes the soul by focusing on the present. Moving one leg in front of the other becomes a form of mantra, similar to the repetitive chanting of «om». A Stanford University study comparing people walking in urban environments with those who walked in nature found that the latter had decreased levels of anxiety and «rumination» – a recurring thought focused on negative emotions. This indicates that our perception of nature can influence the regulation of emotions, and suggests what to do to feel better.
Constant walks are the key to finding inner peace.
Through a long journey away from the busy world, you can achieve inner silence. Sometimes our mind enters the zone of contemplation while moving along familiar or mysterious terrain, for example, along a pilgrimage route.
Former National Geographic «Adventurer of the Year» Jennifer Farr Davis, who traveled long distances across six continents, said she experienced true peace of mind for the first time in her life by walking alone: «There was no one around, and there was no pressure to react, impress or talk to him. At first it was embarrassing and unfamiliar, but the more I got used to it, the more I realized that it was amazing».
Prepare for your trip – buy a pair of boots and be ready. After all, wherever in the world you are, most likely, there will be an interesting route within walking distance. Plus, you can always choose a route that suits your level, regardless of age and ability – from a smooth walk in the woods to a real endurance challenge – climbing the mountains.
Top 10 places to find inner harmony
- JORDAN TRAIL, JORDAN
A country-wide, sightseeing route from Umm Qaeda to the Red Sea via the Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum.
- CAMINO FRANCES, SPAIN
This is the most popular version of the world’s most famous pilgrimage route, which runs from the French Pyrenees to the center of Galicia.
- WEST COAST TRAIL, CANADA
Sidewalks and staircases lead tourists past primeval forest, thundering waterfalls and storm-beaten beaches on Vancouver Island.
- KAILASH KORA, TIBET
Erase all sins on this short but challenging high-altitude trail sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Jains.
- THREE CAPES TRACK, AUSTRALIA
Hear the surf breaking at the base of the sheer cliffs scattered around the edges of the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania.
- VIA DINARICA, WESTERN BALKANS
A wonderful path that combines old trails, shepherd’s paths and military roads, all for crossing the Dinaric Alps.
- WESTWEG, GERMANY
Swim along the way in the charming Black Forest on the north-south route from Pforzheim to Basel.
- JOHN MUIR TRAIL, USA
Follow in the footsteps of a true pioneer on this greatest trail of California’s mountain scenery.
- KUMANO KODO, JAPAN
Calm your mind as if you were a samurai on the sacred paths that run through the forests of the Kii Peninsula.
- W TREK, CHILE
The most famous route in Patagonia – is the many turquoise lakes, rolling pampas and thorny peaks that are the highlight of the region.