How trekking across New Zealand changed my life
The search for simplicity and meaning took travel writer Laura Waters on a five-month journey that helped her reset, reassess and reinvigorate her life.
Last year I walked 3000 km from one end of New Zealand to the other. Hiking along remote beaches, dense forests, volcanic desert, crossing hundreds of rivers and climbing many high alpine mountain ranges was both spectacular and life changing.
I had been on the lookout for a challenge for a while when I discovered Te Araroa, a new long distance hiking trail. It could not have come at a better time. I had been suffering anxiety and depression for nearly a year but within a month of being on the trail, my symptoms were largely gone. Instead, they were replaced by a lightness of being, the likes of which I’d never experienced before.
Life is very simple when you hike. There’s no better wake up call than the sound of birdsong or the gentle filter of sunlight through a tent. After breakfast and repacking, I walked eight hours or more, for six days a week.
A journey like this teaches you a thing or two about life. Key for me was that I don’t actually need much to be blissfully happy. I’ve never felt better than on the trail with just one outfit and twelve kilos of belongings. Equally important was that I’m capable of more than I think. So often we let fear limit our potential. The trail was full of challenges but I came to realise that few things are as bad in reality as I imagined them to be.
“Life is very simple when you hike. There’s no better wake up call than the sound of birdsong or the gentle filter of sunlight through a tent.”
On the trail your body works hard, releasing feel-good endorphins. You become very present. It’s like a meditation – meals are savoured, views are appreciated, rest is enjoyed. Free from outside influences such as media, advertising and a community that might influence your identity, you are truly free to discover who you are and what you want in life.
Any time spent in the outdoors is good, but the longer you’re out there, the more chance you give yourself of reaping its benefits – of escaping the ‘noise’ of modern living, and tuning your nervous system to the calm energy of nature.
After the hike I quit my corporate job and now aim to live simply – hiking and writing to share my experiences and inspire others to follow their own dreams and opt for a simpler life connected with nature. I write a blog, travel articles and I’m creating a book about my New Zealand journey.
Follow more of Laura’s adventures at soultrekkers.com.au