Whilst studying abroad in Thessaloniki, Greece, I was fortunate enough to meet a very intriguing traveller. This man, originally from France, had walked the world, literally, through Africa, Australia, the Himalayas, and into the Arctic. I was hooked immediately and filled with questions: “What do you mean you walked around the world?” “All that way; are you mad!?” “How long did it take you?”
The stories he told over many glasses of wine were fascinating. He talked of the people he had met, hospitality he had been shown, and the perspective of seeing the world on the ground as you walked by.
I began to want to travel by using my body, and ended up walking through the state of South Australia and understanding for myself the beauty of slowing down and taking time to really absorb a new place. Not to mention the peace of mind I felt knowing that I was not harming the environment.
It is no secret that aeroplane travel is not the best for the environment. In 2012 alone 689 million tonnes of CO2 were released into the atmosphere from air travel. For an eco-conscious gal, it is always on my mind that jumping on a plane has a harmful effect on the environment. Fortunately, on-foot and cycling holidays are becoming more popular as cheap and eco-conscious ways of travelling and seeing the world.
Below are the tips that any adventurous or eco-conscious gal needs to know before embarking on a walking or cycling holiday:
The flexibility you gain by cycling or walking is incredibly freeing. You are not bound by the bus routes and can choose any road or track that you find. Depending on how adventurous you want to be, you can also go off the beaten track altogether and go bush through forests and woods.
This sort of travelling is not going to be fast, so you need to be prepared to either not travel a great distance or to have a lot of time on your side. The beauty of this, however, is that you get the experience of soaking up places on a much more personal level.
Making sure that you stay safe whilst walking or cycling as a woman is really important. Try to stick to well-frequented roads and tracks, and consider carrying your mobile phone with a local sim card so you can call for help if you need it. Make sure you take a first-aid kit as well for any injuries or emergency situations. A good idea is to create a blog that you update to let people at home know where you are; they can track your location for peace of mind.
You have the freedom to change your plans at the last moment and go where you want. This can have a downside, however. Many women find that their bodies change a little when travelling; your period can become a little tricky and spontaneous. Always make sure you pack enough feminine hygiene products and anything else you might need. Getting stuck a few days’ walk from the nearest town with a surprise monthly visitor is not something any girl wants.
If you happen to be crossing country borders, make sure that you are prepared with the necessary visas and documentation and that you have done your research. Crossing borders on foot can be more complicated in some regions of the world. Also make sure that you know where the borders are so that you don’t accidentally walk into another country by mistake.
A major bonus of this method of travelling is that it is relatively cost-effective and almost free. Once you have a bike or some good, sturdy hiking shoes, your travel costs are almost non-existent. Your accommodation and food will be the main costs, but if you camp, stay in hostels, or couchsurf, then your costs will remain low.
Travelling by foot or by bicycle may be much slower paced than air travel, but it opens up a whole new way of seeing the world through slow moving eyes. It is also one way of lowering your travelling carbon emissions and helping to protect our planet.