I am a long distance hiker, and indeed a short distance one as well. I have published articles for several magazines – Country Walking, Trail, Outdoor Enthusiast, The Great Outdoors and Adventure Travel. My books include The Journey in Between, an account of my 1,000 mile hike on El Camino de Santiago, The Last Englishman about my 2,650 mile adventure on The Pacific Crest Trail. My latest book and Appalachian Trail memoir, Balancing on Blue, was released in 2015.
Over the last few years I have hiked around 10,000 miles including three trips on El Camino de Santiago (some 2,500 miles), The Pacific Crest Trail, The Appalachian Trail and several national walking routes in this country, The South Downs Way, North Downs Way, West Highland Way and Cape Wrath Trail to name just a few.
What is it about the outdoors? There is something about being out there that amazes me. Human beings have spent the vast proportion of their existence in the wild, the vast proportion. Towns and cities are a creation we invented only recently. Our bodies and minds are still becoming used to them, we are not actually meant to be there. This is why I, the friends I walk with, run with and most of the people I meet revel in the experience.
It’s the same for a solitary canoeist paddling around Newfoundland. The same for a climber setting foot on top of Everest. A person in a hang glider soaring over the Pyrenees experiences this feeling too, as does a sailor rounding Cape Horn. Yes, it’s about the adventure, the challenge. It is, however, primarily because our bodies realise that that is where we were nurtured, where we spent our infancy, and where we were raised.
We are meant to be out there. It’s embedded in us, it’s comforting and it’s natural. This is why it feels so right.
You can hear an interview with David Lintern and I shortly after I returned from the Appalachian Trail here:
Born in the south of England and having lived on the edge of a small village, the countryside was my playground. Fond memories of Summers spent mucking around in the woods with my mates still stay with me. There were no mobile phones or iPads then, we made our own entertainment.
At 16 I tried my first long walk, taking on the South Downs Way, a 100 mile route through the heart of the Sussex downland and quintessential English rolling countryside. Biking took over during my twenties and I still take the occasional ride but my heart lies in walking. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is the appeal because it’s uncomplicated. I’ve never been one to require an in depth understanding of something to appreciate it, the simpler the better. Walking is the simplest and oldest form of travel. It is designed to get us from one point to another with the minimum of fuss and at a pace that allows us to notice our environment which we would normally miss.
We live in a world where we feel the desire to make everything quicker in order to free up more time, which we then fill with something worthless. When it all gets too meaningless for me (which is often) I feel the need to escape. To be part of the great outdoors, with all my belongings strapped to my back, to be able to camp wherever takes my fancy and to have no decisions to make other than where and when to sleep and eat clarifies, simplifies and puts the world in perspective.
The pages on this website detail my walks and other adventures. Come with me and enjoy a little clarification . . .
(Photo: Josh Myers)