The numbers are in and we are maniacs. My husband and I walked over 83 miles and climbed the equivalent of 167 flights of stairs on vacation. In 11 days. What does this mean?
What it means is that we’ve figured out our idea of fun, and it includes a lot of walking. If we want to see the world for a week or two at a time, then we have to stay in the game the rest of the year.
There are two types of trips that we tend to go on. One is the urban type, like staying on the Las Vegas Strip or walking from Waterloo to Kensington Palace. The other is the wilderness expedition. It doesn’t seem at all obvious, but both kinds of travel add up to a lot of miles on foot, a surprising amount of elevation gain, and often, a backpack weighing anywhere from ten to fifty pounds.
There isn’t much that is interesting to see, in our opinion, from the inside of a car, the inside of a hotel room, or a lounge chair.
Traveling revolves around value. Frankly it can be very annoying and expensive to go anywhere, and every time I go through airport security I swear off it, “and this time I mean it.” That’s why it’s important to make sure that you’re doing as much of your favorite stuff as possible, and spending as little time and money on anything else as you can manage.
For us, we don’t see the point of doing certain things on a trip. Those include, but are not limited to:
Watching movies that we can see at home
Going to a shopping mall
Looking at souvenirs, none of which are locally made
Eating at American chain restaurants
Carrying around more than maybe 16 ounces of extra luggage
Trying on and rejecting various outfits
We also aren’t really fans of dance clubs and we don’t drink.
What we really like to do is to SEE EVERYTHING. Parks, museums, architecture tours, public art, archaeological sites, all cover a lot of ground. Many of them are impossible to see without going up and down a lot of stairs. Our second-biggest day of stair-climbing was done in just six hours in Edinburgh.
We weren’t like this when we first got together. We both drank a lot of cola and we hadn’t yet been camping together. That was also before we lost 100 pounds between us.
Walking everywhere used to be really hard on my hubby because he had a childhood foot injury that caused nerve damage. After about two miles of walking he would be done. He’d be walking with a limp and really struggling. I had an easier time walking, but I still had chronic pain issues and my fitness level (and pain threshold) was very low. We would just be too tired.
I never would have thought, after being together for thirteen years and aging a wee little bit, that we would be covering so much more ground now than we could when we were both still in our thirties.
Walking a lot toughens your feet. That part is obvious. What isn’t so obvious is that getting fitter can reverse what felt like permanent and total damage in other parts of the body.
My dislocated hip and dislocated rib, fixed.
His herniated disks, no longer a problem.
Knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, geez we really are middle-aged... All the problems we used to be able to list off are fading into history.
All of this has been encouraging to us, partly because of course it’s better not to be in cruising pain from the moment you start the day. It’s also encouraging because the more we travel and the more active we are, the more ability we seem to be buying ourselves.
I won’t lie, there were a couple of points during the trip when my feet were so sore that I wanted to ask for a piggyback ride. Daddy carry me. My boots weren’t really designed for twelve miles on concrete. It got easier day by day, though, and the other thing that happened was that the waistband on my pants loosened up.
The human body was designed for walking. When we say “hunter-gatherer” what we’re really saying is “walks all day every day.” I think of my pioneer ancestors walking thirty miles a day next to their covered wagons, some of them probably barefoot and certainly not wearing modern athletic shoes. Before 1950 or thereabouts, most people both urban and rural probably put in ten-mile days routinely and never thought twice about it.
We meet a lot of people on the road, and some of them are considerably older than we are. I think we both saw someone who caught our attention on this trip. Mine was an American woman of about sixty, who was in much better shape than I am and looked like she could easily do a handspring into the pool. I couldn’t take my eyes off her shoulders. I knew I wanted to be as fit as she is when I reach her age. My husband’s was a Scottish grandfather playing soccer on the village green. His calves were indistinguishable from a young man’s even though he had to be over seventy. He was executing footwork that his grade-schooler grandkids couldn’t do, probably because he had been kicking a football every day for, oh, at least sixty-five years. Will we do the same?
We’d like to visit every country in the world, and at the rate we’re going, we would have to start doing about twenty a year if we want to catch up. We’ve talked about how sad it would be if we finally had the money and leisure but lacked the strength or the energy. We still have time today to keep walking and keep climbing stairs, huffing side by side as we plan our next trip.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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