Ten Hiking Lessons I have Learned while Trekking the Planet–Part 2

Sandy writes about ten hiking lessons learned during the treks we have completed. Part 2 presents the second set of five lessons learned. Read Part 1 of this story here.

During the past 11 months we have finished nine treks on four continents, totaling 378 miles (605 kilometers). Here are the second set of things I have learned while hiking in all different conditions and environments around the world:

6. Watch your tent

Tent on Sweden's Kungsleden Trail

We stayed in tents during many of our treks. In Australia, Sweden and Jordan we used our own tent which meant we needed to put it up and take it down ourselves. To save space and weight we did not bring stakes but used rocks to hold the tent down. This worked in most cases but we encountered extreme weather conditions in Sweden’s Arctic Circle. It was very windy almost the entire time we trekked the Kungsleden trail. We had challenges each night in finding a place to pitch our tent that would shield us from the wind blasts.

SEE ALSO: To the Bitter End: Trekking on Lapland’s Kungsleden Trail

A couple of nights we had no choice but to set up our tent in open areas with constant wind. One night we thought that the tent would rip apart because the wind was blowing so hard. The next morning we began to pack up and take down the tent. I had just removed the rocks and turned my back when the tent went airborne and began to blow away! Darren and I ran after it and caught the tent at the bottom of a hill, right before it would have gone into a river. Needless to say we kept a much closer eye on the tent after that!

7. You cannot control the weather

Threatening weather in the Julian Alps

We have encountered a variety of weather conditions during our treks, ranging from snow flurries in Kyrgyzstan to scorching heat in Kenya. It has rained at some time on eight of the nine treks we have completed. Being prepared with rain gear and plastic pack liners has kept things dry.

Because we are on a schedule we have to continue to hike, even in the pouring rain. The only exception to this rule was when thunder and lightning accompanied the rainstorm that took place during our first day of trekking in the Julian Alps of Slovenia. Since we were scheduled to hike up an exposed mountain ridge that day, we had to make other plans and, instead, found a nearby hut to stay in that night.

SEE ALSO: Trekking the Julian Alps, European Style

The next day we completed the previous day’s planned hike and then continued on to the hut where we originally planned to stay that night, completing two days of trekking in one day. It made for a long day of hiking but felt good to be back on schedule after the weather setback.

8. Mountains will leave you breathless

Darren hiking to a pass in Nepal

A few of our treks have been at altitude. In Kyrgyzstan we hiked above 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), as we climbed to several saddles at elevations over 12,000 feet (3,659 meters). Trekking in Nepal provided the greatest attitude challenges. During our 12 day journey we climbed over 15 mountain passes of at least 11,811 feet (3,600 meters) in elevation. While hiking up to and down from these passes we gained and lost hundreds of feet in the process so it seemed like we were never on level ground while in Nepal.

SEE ALSO: The Challenge and Reward of Trekking in Nepal’s Mustang Region

Even as we were breathless while we hiked, we were treated to the most incredible views of the Himalayan Mountains. It definitely made the trek much more fulfilling.

9. Pole-Pole

Sandy trekking in Kenya

The Swahili word pole-pole means slow. When we were in Kenya, we heard our guide use the term “pole-pole”, meaning “slowly, slowly”. This was not just good advice for this trek but something to remember no matter the hiking situation.

SEE ALSO: A Walk on the Wild Side in the Maasai Mara

By taking it slowly, assessing the circumstances and determining the best plan of action, “pole-pole” turned out to be the right approach for situations ranging from sketchy trails to bad weather.

10. Trekking takes you to places you cannot otherwise visit

There are places you can only get to by hiking, so even though the day was long or trail was tough there was nothing better than arriving in a remote place of cultural significance or natural beauty and realizing that you made it there on your own two feet.

The remote beauty of hiking in Nepal

We have three more treks scheduled so I am actively using what I have learned on these nine completed hikes as I look forward to these future expeditions. Perhaps I will have more to add to this list when these three hikes are completed.

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8 comments on “Ten Hiking Lessons I have Learned while Trekking the Planet–Part 2
  1. Mister Perhaps says:

    Darren I don’t know how you did it and I don’t think you do either but you definitely hit all blue sevens in picking a wife. Because this absolutely doesn’t occur. All husbands have ONE story of camping with the little woman when they encountered bad weather. One! That’s it. They never go again. What an incredible trooper Sandy is. Missing from her explanation of high winds blowing tents away is the usual vitriolic tone that makes it clear that this is the last outdoor adventure for the Mrs.

    Pretty darn cool Darren. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. For instance, look around you. You should quickly notice a distinct absence of daughters. Oh I’m sure they had classes to attend and if they didn’t they would have quickly enrolled. But that’s my point, as tough and adventurous as they both may be, I seriously doubt they would handle chasing a tent in the middle of the night with the same aplomb as their mother. Mitch

    • Darren and Sandy says:

      Sandy is a indeed a trooper. The funny thing is the Lapland trek (where the tent incident occurred) was Sandy’s idea. Thanks for the post and making us both smile!

  2. Lauren Van Soye says:

    Mitch,

    This is daughter number one, happy to report that I will be receiving my degree from UCLA this spring. However, after time spent in Africa drinking only raw milk and blood and sleeping on a cow hide in a hut I helped build out of dung and reeds I myself macheted, I think I could handle a tent.

    Living vicariously through my parents,
    Lauren

  3. Kristen Van Soye says:

    Dear Mitch,

    This is daughter number two. I am a second year at UCI. I am studying the German language and was supported by my parents to travel to Frankfurt and take immersion language classes. So at the age of sixteen, I hopped on a plane and went to one of the largest cities in Germany by myself. If I can accomplish getting around on the German train systems, I think I could handle a tent.

    Travelling is better than text books,
    Kristen

  4. Mister Perhaps says:

    Yikes! I stand corrected.

  5. Mister Perhaps says:

    This morning I went to pour myself the first cup-a-joe, reached for the creme brulee’ creamer. It was empty. I didn’t trip. I just drunk it man style. It’s all about adapt and overcome. These kind of things are gonna happen. I welcome such challenges, they keep me sharp. Your serve Lauren.

  6. Lauren and Kristen Van Soye says:

    But in all seriousness, we think that what our parents are doing is awesome. They have faced things that would have been very challenging for both of us, despite the experience that we both have abroad.

    We are very grateful for the interest of followers like you. I’m sure it makes our parent’s trip worth while.

    Thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoyed our banter as we enjoyed yours 🙂

  7. Mister Perhaps says:

    That just warms my heart to know that all the Van Soye women share the same mental toughness. I am impressed. I have obviously spent far too much of my life in the company of prima donnas that would never consider venturing more than a mile away from a Starbucks or a Lancome counter. One of these days-but certainly not here-I’ll have to tell you girls the ingenious solution your dad and I came up with to solve our 10th grade dilemma: Getting girls to talk to us.
    Until next time
    Mitch