I leave for Spain in one week (!) and I had planned to discontinue walking this last week: would give my feet a rest, do something else for exercise, etc., but it appears that I am UNABLE TO STOP WALKING!! Yesterday I picked up a 1/2 size smaller shoe at REI (who, bless them, will take back anything, anytime if its not right!) so my "plan" was to take a short walk in the new shoes to compare them to the other pair & decide which fit better. I decided not to take my pack & thought I would walk for about one hour. But I found myself saying " I'll just go a bit further" (like the alcoholic who keeps telling themselves: "just one more beer."). It was this incredible night: comparatively cool (currently 88 degrees at 11:30 pm), full moon, lots of sprinklers turned on to cool my walk & I just did not want to stop walking. I walked for nearly 3 & 1/2 hours and can now say with assurance that this shoe fits better.
Last summer, my walking was about getting ready for the Camino. It started out feeling a bit like torture (especially the hills), but this summer has been all about the incredible pleasure of walking. I have always liked walking & have had countless walks around Town Lake with friends, etc., but now walking feels totally different for me since going on the Camino last year. For one thing, there is nothing both legal and safe that reliably provides such an elevation in mood or peace of mind. It's not just walking: its the walking without a plan, without a time limit, listening to music (more about that shortly) and just wandering. I especially like walking at night because I don't have to hurry, don't have to get to work and can feel, for a while, free of all responsibility. For me, walking with music is a significant part of the overall experience. Early on, I used to listen to podcasts or books, but that requires paying attention and walking for me now is all about letting my attention wander, and for the time that I am walking, not having to focus on anything at all (other than not getting run over). There was a brief crisis tonight when my headphones suddenly ceased working & I had a moment of imagined withdrawal, but (like any addict) I had a secret stash of old, tangled headphones that would do in a pinch.
I don't think that this addiction is going to break. I found myself wondering tonight if it would be possible to do a ferry plus walking trip through the Greek Isles next September (as I have told myself I don't want to be one of those people who walk the Camino de Santiago every year until they are 85!)...so I am already planning my next walking trip.
So if you are feeling a bit inspired (or just wonder how nuts you have to be to do this in the Texas summer) here are some of my hints and recommendations: 1) get walking sticks ("bastones": gracias a Sergio); 2) get comfortable walking shoes & thick socks & a fanny pack to carry water & other supplies; 3) freeze your drinks & drink them as they thaw--trust me, they stay cold for hours that way; 4) get a headlamp because you will want to walk either before sunrise or after sunset--its the only time that is bearable; and 5) put all your favorite music on your ipod. If you are actually interested in the training aspect, I highly recommend the two following apps for your iPhone (or other smartphone): "Map my Walk" (for those of us who get lost & want to know how far they have walked and be able to find their way home in the dark) and "Digifit" which is used with a heart rate monitor and a gadget that plugs into your iPhone. If you are like I used to be & think of walking as something for the elderly, not really "exercise", it may help to see that, after 3+ hours of walking, you have (if you are me) burned about 1400 calories (that's without a backpack!).
So I freely admit to being an addict & had it not been for the Camino, I never would have discovered this almost free (after the cost of shoes & walking sticks) and completely legal mode of reaching a calm euphoria. I should point out the downside however: its midnight and I have virtually no interest in going to sleep. However, since my "discovery" of walking, I sleep more deeply and better than anytime since I was an adolescent, so I don't really care if I miss a few hours of sleep. Well worth it.