Of wanderlust and long-distance walking

The topic of "life lists" came up at my knitting group yesterday, and I realized that inasmuch as I have a life list, it's more of a travel list than anything else. Yes, I suppose I'd like to go bungee jumping or hang gliding or skydiving at least once, but I don't think my life will be incomplete if I don't check those particular experiences off. And there are a lot of things I'd like to learn — it would be lovely to revive my Italian, and maybe learn another dead language or two just for the hell of it, and I'd really like to learn to play the cello at some point in the nearish future — but really, a lot of my non-career-related personal goals boil down to "travel through a bunch of interesting places, preferably on foot." I don't particularly care about climbing X, Y, and Z famous mountains; I just want to go off on an epically long walk.

Blame it on John Keats. I read a couple of biographies of him at an impressionable age, and decided early on that I wanted to recreate his and Charles Brown's 1818 walking tour of northern England, Scotland, and Ireland (documented with gorgeous photographs in Carol Kyros Walker's Walking North with Keats, another book I came across when I was in the middle of my early Keats phase). Lately the long-walk impulse has returned, in spades. Some months ago I read an article on the Camino de Santiago, which convinced me that a long-distance hike across the northern end of Spain should be high on the Things To Do Before I Die list. (Give me my scallop-shell of quiet!) And then there's been the planning for my travels in Scotland and England this summer, which won't be long enough for any really extended walks, but will at least allow me to spend a couple of days in the Lake District tracing Keatsian and Wordsworthian and Coleridgean footsteps.

Then I found the National Trust Book of Long Walks in England, Scotland, and Wales on an expedition to the Book Barn a few weeks ago, which gave me even more British itineraries to dream about. (The length of the Welsh border! Hadrian's Wall! As much of the Scottish Highlands as I can possibly tramp across!) I've just put in an interlibrary loan request for John Hillaby's Journey Through Britain, which narrates an even longer walk, from Land's End to John O' Groats. I don't think I'll ever have the time to do something like that, but at the very least, I can read about it.

And that's just a couple of countries in Europe. There's a whole world out there. Readers, do any of you share the long-walk wanderlust? And if so, where would you go, if you had the funds and the time?

3 Responses to “Of wanderlust and long-distance walking”

  1. dale says:

    Oh yes. Camino de Santiago, and the fell-walks Coleridge wrote so amazingly about. The Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Retracing Richard Holmes’ retracing of Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in France. Some epic walk in New Zealand.

  2. interesting post! I don’t think I’ll ever have the time to do something like that, but at the very least.

  3. susan says:

    I’ve always wanted to go on some long walks in the Lake District or the Cotswolds. This is unlikely to come to pass on any family trips for the foreseeable future due to medical issues in the family, but I sure enjoy dreaming about them.