It’s funny how life takes us on different paths as we grow. Many of us remember as kids, hearing those dreaded words from older family members: “right, let’s go for a walk”. What’s the point in a walk?, many of us thought, or it’s so borrrrring!, we’d exclaim. Then, suddenly, that grown up moment is upon us when we hear ourselves saying those exact same words. This epiphany comes to us at different ages and, of course, some people never have a walking wake-up moment, and each to their own. However, if you are at that rambling revelation moment, and you want to take it further, here are our tips for first time hikers, to keep the blisters at bay while also showing you that the walking world’s your oyster. And so not boring.
Suss out self-guided holidays
If you’re new to hiking, then you may also be new to the concept of self-guided walking holidays. We founded The Natural Adventure so that you can travel independently, or self-guided as we call it, while still knowing that you have a strong arm of support nearby. Whether that’s by advising and reassuring you before you travel, booking your beds for the night, organising your luggage transfers along the way, or choosing your trail for the day. In short, we do the boring legwork, so that you can do the beautiful bits. We have a team of adventure specialists waiting to answer any of your questions, and please know that when it comes to walking holidays, there really are no stupid questions.
Find your happy place
If you’re wanting to up your game from a Saturday stroll to a week of walking, remember that this is not a race to be the best rambler ever. We have a wonderful array of easy or moderate walking holidays where you can pace yourself. And, as they are self-guided and flexible, we can always build a rest day into your itinerary. You may be surprised by some of the places where you can have your first proper hiking holiday, Such as hiking on the Greek island of Aegina, walking along the stunning Curonian Spit in Lithuania, or even doing the last 100km of the Camino de Santiago over a relaxed 12 days. Our walking holidays fall into one of five difficulty grades, so you can easily choose one that suits your experience and comfort zones. The secret is simply this – find your happy place.
Choose your time carefully
One of our tips for first time hikers is to avoid peak season, as some of the iconic trails such as the Amalfi Coast or the last section of the Camino de Santiago can get pretty busy. This might, however, work better for newbies, because you’ll be encouraged along by the camaraderie of fellow walkers, but for most people, you may want to go at your own pace and just enjoy your space. Also, if you do want to book our most popular holidays during peak season, such as Italy’s Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre or the Jewels of the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, you often need to get your place a few months in advance, but these places are also stunning in the spring and autumn shoulder seasons.
Choose your country carefully
If you don’t know where to start, it helps to choose a country that has walking in its DNA. Where walking trails have been maintained and waymarked by generations of enthusiasts, and where you will never be too far from a fellow walker. Given that Germany gifted us many words that apply to the outdoors, rucksack being one and wanderlust another, you won’t be surprised to hear that their network of walking trails is nothing short of wunderbar. The same goes for Austria, and one of our excellent starter saunters, along the Lechweg Trail, goes through both of these countries. If you are planning a walking holiday with children, Austria’s Lake District, the Salzkammergut, is also an idyllic introduction. And Switzerland has the most superb hiking network, with a few that are easy on the calves, but still big on beauty, such as the Ticino Lakes and Valleys walking holiday. The French love a pretty promenade and, although famous for their superb Grandes Randonnées (GR) long-distance trails, their Bordeaux Wine Route and Golden Isles walking holidays are guaranteed to provide more than your fair share of joie de vivre.
Get trip fit
We’re leaving the boring bit, to use the inner child’s words, to the end. Who doesn’t want to be just transported to a Swedish archipelago or the historic hills of Puglia without having to mention the word ‘training’. The fact is that if you choose a walking holiday that is categorised as easy at The Natural Adventure, you don’t need to do too much training. You should, however, always be confident in your general health and if you have any heart, lung or joint issues, to contact a medical expert in advance. You can read our more detailed blog on How to prepare for a hiking holiday, but really your only mission now is to start exploring the world with your newfound love of walking, build on that love and make sure that it’s a keeper.
Get in gear
We can’t emphasise enough the importance of good boots. If you choose the right walking shoes or boots, they will be your friends for life. It’s worth it to go to an expert outdoor adventure store, try them on with socks, make sure they’re waterproof and wear them in slowly. We also recommend poles on walking holidays, accessories that used to only be associated with older people, but times are changing. They are amazing really, and you will find yourself able to walk for much longer than you thought if you use one or two poles. Start off with one until you get used to the idea of having one. We have much more detailed blogs on What to pack for a hiking trip, Our top hiking jackets and Hiking boot tips.
Say hi to the community
Walkers don’t often like to talk while on holiday, enjoying the peace and quiet they find in nature, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. They do like to talk about their experiences when they come back, however, and it’s a very supportive and encouraging community you are about to meet. We encourage all our customers to read the reviews and photos that come in from our fellow natural adventurers, all of which feature on each tour, but many of which shine brightly on our Instagram page.
We hope you have enjoyed this introduction to walking holidays and that our tips for first time hikers encourage you to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. For us, walking holidays are not only fun, but also about finding freedom. You experience freedom in nature, freedom from the norm, freedom from routine and freedom from crowds. And if we can do anything to help you find that, don’t hesitate to contact us.