I was suffering. I was barely five hours into my month-long trek along Turkey’s Lycian Way, but I was suffering all the same. Most of it was the twenty-three kilos I was lugging up in the form of my fully packed backpack. Camping gear, clothes, five day’s worth of food, three litres of water, a collection of other necessities and my tools of the trade, a lightweight laptop and camera, were weighing me down a good deal.
What weighed me down more than any amount of supplies was a lack of physical preparation and a nagging feeling of unease that had been on the back of my mind ever since I said goodbye to my cosy life in the Netherlands a week earlier. I quit my rent, quit my job as a bartender and said goodbye to my loved ones and friends. All to pursue this dream I have of travelling the world full-time as an outdoor travel blogger.
Was the doubt I felt due to this sudden change in my life? Was the combination of physical challenge and the uncertainty of this new lifestyle a bit too much? I’ve always had a tendency to forego physical training for these big hikes, instead letting the trail train me as I go. This means I usually have a hard time in the first week, and a well-trained (if slightly underfed) body after I finish the trail. This time it was different, though.
This was no mere hiking trip where I could enjoy life wandering around in some vagabond fantasy for a few weeks before having to return to my everyday life. I was now permanently living life ‘on the road’. With the added pressure of finding income to support this lifestyle through selling articles to various outlets, and the responsibility of having to do taxes every three months or face a government fine (Hurray for registering a business in the Netherlands). At first I decided that these things must be the source of the unease that was taking some of the joy out of my wandering.
The demands of the trail occupied most of my mind the following days. So much that even without realising it, I began to feel better. In spite of the trail becoming much more challenging than those pitiful slopes I thought challenging on my first day. I climbed over loose rocks seemingly dumped on what was already a tough cliffside stairwell, only to plummet down straight after when the trail decided a cliff was an appropriate way down to the next valley. I hit my head on low hanging olive branches, I nearly twisted my ankles on multiple occasions and got an impressive sunburn on my already impressively sized forehead.
Despite these minor grievances with the trail, I actually started to feel better than I had felt in a long time. My easy life in the Netherlands had made me soft. These challenges on the trail were not only toughening me up physically, but by having to focus on immediate concerns my mind was restructuring itself as well.
From time to time my thoughts would come back to my earlier doubts and fears, only to dismiss them with some new, positive solution. Selling my articles? Easy! I already had a few outlines for new material anyway! Those taxes? How much work would that actually be? Watch out for that loose rock!
I realised after a few days what changes I was going through. Part of it felt like welcoming an old friend back into my life. After months of no exercise and no real challenges I felt a part of me re-emerging out of my daily hiking routine, the part of me that hiked the length of the Scottish highlands, that came up with this crazy new lifestyle in the first place.
And isn’t that why we hike, or exercise for that matter? The human mind needs a challenge to reach its full potential. Without it, we grow weak, succumb to negativity and become complacent in our unfulfilling lives.
Humans grow from challenges like a tree from good soil. And though it is rocky, dry and terribly uneven, this Lycian soil is nourishing me more every passing day.