Hiking above Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park | Nick Groves
What can you possibly say about 2020 which does not involve a lot of expletives? It was certainly a year to remember. It is a known fact that the mere prospect of change does not sit well with many people and causes stress and anxiety, but 2020 saw us all change in many ways. We had to quickly adapt to a ‘new normal’, changing the way that we worked, socialised, travelled and engaged with people on a daily basis.
It was also a year that made us reflect. It made us all sit down and think about what was truly important in life. It was more about family, friends and health and much less about material things. It was more about being ok and less about what we owned. Minimalism became the fashion and materialism walked out the door. We took to discovering our own backyards. To disconnecting from the everyday and to learning how to stop and breathe again.
My annual holiday was always of the overseas kind, exploring new exotic locations and spending time with friends and family that tagged along with me. This year, alas it wasn’t to be. So after nearly 12 months with no break, I too decided to take to the NZ outdoors and discovered the art of a walking holiday.
I know. Walk and holiday often don’t tend to appear in the same sentence, (even I used to think that). But I can honestly say that having 2 weeks walking in the great outdoors was an experience that left me feeling relaxed and accomplished at the same time. For those that are a little sceptical, here is why I think walking holidays are a great idea.
1. It’s a healthy travel alternative
“Mauri tū Mauri ora” – “An active soul is a healthy soul”. Walking is good for the heart, the mind and the soul. It helps get your muscles moving, your lungs breathing fresh air, lightens your mood, improves your sleep and you end up fitter after your trip then when you first started even if you are indulging.
2. Walking is suitable for everyone
From those that are new to a walking holiday, through to those seeking their next challenge or ticking off their bucket list. No matter your fitness level or ability, there is a walk out there to suit everyone.
3. It makes New Zealand affordable
Budget plays a key role for most of us when travelling and walking is a way to see the country without breaking the bank. There are many self-guided walks that are budget friendly providing everything you need and nothing you don’t whilst being fully organised for you.
4. Freedom to choose the trip you want
Walking allows you to choose where you walk, when you walk and how you walk. Self-guided or guided walks exist around all regions of New Zealand, allowing you the freedom of choice and also the freedom to choose your own pace.
5. Exploring remote locations and off the beaten path trails
There is so much beauty to be discovered throughout Aotearoa, some whose names resonate with us, and some that are unknown, remote regions ready to be discovered and explored. In a time where it is all about distancing, there are still plenty of ‘untrodden trails’ and picture perfect landscapes to be walked in NZ.
6. Great for single travellers
Not all our friends, family or partners want to go walking with us. Some of them would rather stay at home than embrace the great outdoors. A guided walk is great for single travellers. You can join a guided departure knowing that you are walking with a group of like-minded travellers and potentially walking away with a new group of friends at the end of it.
7. Allows you to reconnect and reflect
Our lives have become all too busy. Filled day to day with jobs, activities, lists and leaving us feeling like we must achieve everything and so much more. In the chaos that is life, we forget our own selves. We forget to take a breath and enjoy the moment. Walking allows us to reconnect – to ourselves, to nature and to being in that moment and reflect on where we are at and where we might be going.
8. Provides a more in-depth experience
We all know that feeling of arriving at an unknown destination and sometimes thinking, ‘now what’. The best way to find and explore your surrounds is on foot. A walking trip is no different. It will take you to where often most other modes of transport cannot access. Exploring regions only reached on foot and giving you the chance of a more in-depth experience and exploration of an area, than simply driving through it or skimming past it. You become more involved with the area, the people in it and the quirky little items of interest that you find along the way.
9. It naturally provides social distancing
In a world that completely changed overnight and fear of being ‘too close’ became the normal, a walk allows for natural social distancing allowing you to maintain a distance between your fellow walkers (if you’re in a group) or between other walkers if you are self-guided. Sometimes, you will be the only one out there on the track.
10. Allows you to throw time out the window
Walking is the perfect place to take your watch off. You have all day to walk, so why do you need a schedule or a watch to tell you what the time is. Take it off. Throw time out the window and just live in the moment. Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty and just enjoy the sounds surrounding you and the beat of your own rhythm.
I discovered that these legs were made for walking and it is something I vow to do more of in 2021. Getting out into nature, listening to the sounds, appreciating the little things and truly allowing myself to disconnect from life and reconnect to myself was the best New Year’s resolution I could make for 2021. Will you join me?