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A hiking trip can change your life. I know so because it changed mine. I believe it can change your life as well. Specifically, I did the Tour du Mont Blanc. But any long-distance hiking trip could be transformative. Here’s why:
As a weekend warrior, hiking in the mountains almost every weekend, I’ve always known that hiking was beneficial for me.
My weeks were full of long working days most often not returning home until after dark. I spent hour after hour hunched over my computer or trying to stay awake during seemingly endless meetings.
Invariably I would end up mapping out my hiking route instead of taking notes. I was always counting down the days until the weekend when I could be in the mountains again.
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Heading to the mountains have always been my solution for everything. When I need the answer to a problem I’m facing, the mountains almost always provide it.
This is supported by research which shows that hiking makes you an incredible 47% more creative, along with a host of other benefits.
The mountains are the perfect way to celebrate, seeming to cheer me on step by step. Nothing beats stress like a few deep breaths of crisp mountain air. It has an almost immediate calming effect – even before I’ve started hiking.
When a close family member was battling cancer, I spent most of my waking hours either crying or trying not to cry. The mountains provided a respite and felt like a warm hug from a close friend.
When Things Started to Go Wrong
Flash forward to two years after I’d moved to Germany. I’d just had surgery, was suffering the ill effects of medication that didn’t agree with me and left me feeling like a fat blob. I’d just found out that another operation was inevitable.
The news didn’t go over well. I started sleeping until noon, then watching back to back episodes of The Bachelor. Given my slovenly routine and disdain for leaving the house, I didn’t see the point in getting dressed.
My light flannel PJs were so comfortable, why should I bother? And was showering really necessary?
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On day eight of my slovenly routine, my partner at the time delicately suggested that maybe you’d feel better if you showered. I shouted at him that he didn’t understand and accused him of being unsupportive. His response? I’m sorry, but you stink. One thing you need to know if you’re with a German guy is that he’ll be honest – even when it’s brutal.
Being stinky wasn’t enough to take me from the depths of the rut I was in. My slovenliness went on for a month. I didn’t recognize myself physically or emotionally anymore. Something needed to change badly and soon.
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At this point, one of the lowest in my life, I once again, turned to the mountains for help. A study from Environmental Science & Technology, reports that outdoor exercise results in greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression, and increased energy. All the things I desperately needed.
But this time I wanted something epic. Something that I thought I could do but wasn’t totally sure. I wanted an adventure that would inspire awe in myself.
After searching in Google for epic long-distance hikes of the world and best hikes in the world, the Tour du Mont Blanc kept coming up. It was on every list. Words like epic, one of the world’s classic hikes, one of the world’s best hikes flashed on my computer screen.
I started booking my Tour du Mont Blanc hiking tour the very next day.
Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy, and Switzerland
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a beautiful 160 km long trek around Mont Blanc, the second highest peak in Europe and the highest peak in the Alps. It takes hikers through three countries; France, Italy, and Switzerland.
I knew almost immediately that it held the answers I was seeking. It would be my first long-distance trek over 50 km. Despite valid concerns from my doctor, I knew that I could do it. I HAD to do it.
Convincing my partner at the time wasn’t so easy; but I thought we were going to go to Italy for a relaxing vacation, he protested. Not being a fan of changing plans in general, and especially one which seemed like a lot of work for a holiday according to him.
I finally won him over by promising to shower every day. Yes, the hygiene situation was that bad.
I may not be able to control other things, but I could manage each step I took to complete the TMB.
And step-by-step I did complete it. When the going got tough, and my muscles ached, I would repeat to myself, Just take the next step. Sometimes I would repeat this mantra hundreds of times throughout the day.
It’s what got me through the tough sections. I practiced being grateful. Grateful that my body was able to undertake such a physical challenge. Grateful for being surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Thankful for some of the most spectacular mountain views I’ve ever seen.
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I was hiking with tears pouring down my face. But gradually over the next eight days, I found myself smiling, something I hadn’t done in months.
Then, I was grinning for no reason. On day six there were only smiles, no tears. I was grateful for the healing powers of nature and for being surrounded by the beauty of Mont Blanc.
I was on my way back to find the person that I’d lost through endless doctor appointments and medication that made me feel sub-human.
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The strength I gained from hiking the TMB, didn’t just stay on the mountain. Back at home when something wasn’t going as planned, I’d think, Just take the next step. It worked for you on the TMB; it will work for you in this situation too.
And it did. The TMB provided me with lasting strength that has transferred to many parts of my life. It changed my life, and I believe it can do the same for you.
It gave me strength at a time that I was feeling powerless. It gave me the confidence to attempt challenges that I had previously lacked the courage to take on.
Whatever problem you’re facing in your life, an epic hiking trip like the TMB, Haute Route, Alta Via 1, or the Via Dinarica may hold the answers that you’re so desperately seeking.
To this day I tell myself, If I can trek the TMB, I can do anything. I have the power to change my life in any way that I see fit to do so.
Even when you’re not in despair, hiking trips can offer a life tune-up. Maybe you’re trying to figure out your next career move, or whether to end a relationship. A long-distance hiking trip may help you find the answers.
Little did I know at the time that it would start an obsession. Ever since the TMB, I now do at least one long-distance hiking trip every year. So far that includes the Wicklow Way, West Highland Way, Everest Base Camp, the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites (which I can’t recommend enough), the Italian Riviera, the Jordan Trail and most recently a 6-day self-guided hike in La Gomera.
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There’s something incredibly powerful about taking the time to listen to what your inside voice has been trying to tell you all along, but you’ve been too busy to hear.
Nature is truly healing. If you or a loved one loves hiking, make sure to check out my post of the top gifts for hikers for some great ideas for everyone’s budget.
Hiking the TMB reinvigorated me. That’s why I’m so passionate about it, and long-distance hiking trips in general. It was life-changing for me, and I believe it could change your life as well.
Originally published in 2018, updated and republished in Aug 2021.