November 20, 2019
Thru-Hiking New Zealand: Why You Should Spend More Time Alone
Salomon employee Jean Hacquart recently hiked the length of New Zealand from the northernmost point of the North Island to the southernmost point of the South Island, then bicycled back. Here, he offers advice on how to set up camp each night.
Two major changes happened in my traveling life since the last article was posted here.
I’ve reached Bluff, the southernmost point of New Zealand, by foot! That means I have finished hiking the length of New Zealand from North to South. And what a strange feeling to accomplish a thru-hike. For some, it’s a scream of joy, tears and hugs. For me, it’s a surprising lack of feelings. It feels like I’ve just finished a day hike. I know I will take time to fully understand that I’ve walked 3,000 km and climbed more than 80,000 meters in the last three months, but there is no time to overthink it now. I’m biking back to the starting line!
After a couple of rest days, I’ve started cycling on the 13th of February from south to north. No more backpack. Now, it’s bike-packing, which is a whole new world for a hiker like me. Everything feels strange. I’m even carrying something they call “butt butter” (no description necessary). So I’m learning to be a cyclist by doing short days, even if I’m moving much faster than before.
The one thing that hasn’t changed from my hiking to my cycling trip: I’m doing it with one of my closest friends—solitude. Even if it brings a lot of questions from the people I know and the ones I’ve met, it is for me an amazing tool, as long as it doesn’t turn to loneliness. Some call hiking the new yoga; they see it as a new way to meditate.
The only thing I know is this: it clears my mind, strengthens my creativity, boosts my self-confidence and even helps me in my relationships with others. And boy, I don’t know anything as powerful as walking alone on a crest early in the morning. All my thoughts pass through my head. There is no past and no future. Every inch of my body is focused on that precise moment. For those who are asking, I don’t need to share the moment with someone else. It’s a personal thing, but I much prefer having a story to tell when I’m back home and instead have this time for myself.
If you want to do the same, you don’t have to leave everything behind, quit your job and call your old auntie to keep watch of your lovely cat. No, a short walk in the park around the corner is more than enough to start with. The only thing you must not take is your smartphone. Be truly alone for an hour or two and the benefits will be immeasurable. Soon enough, you might realize it’s a drug with some interesting side effects, like talking to yourself—no, you’re not alone in doing this—or complete strangers. In both cases, you’ll discover beautiful things.
So go outside! And, yeah, call your aunt even if you don’t have a cat. Aunts always love phone calls.