How to plan a great hike

Posted on July 23rd, 2014

It’s kind of funny being asked to explain something that comes as second nature to you. “Um, you just do it,” comes the reply from the nuclear scientist who splits atoms for a living.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 10.04.09 AMBut given I’m so often hike-bragging (hagging?) all over social media under the pretense of encouraging more people to hike on their weekends and vacations (in lieu of shopping), I feel it’s my responsibility to actually break things down for those who are wanting to give it a go, some of you for the first time. Anyone doubting the incredible benefits of hiking it’s worth my flagging:

*Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent.

* Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories (if calorie counting is your caper).

* Hiking can lower blood pressure by four to 10 points, and reduce the danger of heart disease, diabetes and strokes for those at high-risk.

* Another study found that long distance hiking trips may improve antioxidative capacity in cancer patients.

* And this bit of boffinism shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal.

In a semblance of order, here’s how I do it:

I make it all about the hike.

Some people travel to a city or region for a museum, or the café scene, or for the wineries. From there they experience other things (great food, sights, smells). When you really want to give hiking a go, go to where the best hike is and build in other experiences from there. It’s not a bad formula to adhere to. Great hiking scenery generally attracts great food and culture and other experiences. And like-minded people.

I use hiking as the raison d’etre of my travelling. That and eating.

Research your hike thus:

Google: “Best hikes in [insert name of area]”. If you’re really happy to travel anywhere in the world for a rippin’ hike, check Read more

Being creative can be a lonely path

Posted on July 18th, 2014

I loved reading about this new study into the connection between creativity and mental illness. It effectively found that creativity has little correlation with genius. While there is a connection with a highish IQ  (the “average” creative has an IQ around 120), the real nexus is with a touch of madness. But more specifically (and interestingly), a particular ability to see things others don’t.

Image via

Image via

The author’s final conclusion on the Thing that denotes creativity is this:

“Creative people are better at recognising relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see.”

He goes on to say that this ability to see things differently can be a very lonely experience…which, in turn, he feels, explains the mental illness nexus.

A quote from his own writing on the subject:

“When you work at the cutting edge, you are likely to bleed.”

It would appear mad to go to the cutting edge if it were only painful. But here comes my favourite bit, the bit that made me Read more

Beautiful brave men

Posted on July 16th, 2014

A little tale. One day, a few months back, I found myself in Somerset killing time after a three-day hike across moors and dells. I visited an antique fair where ladies with purple hair sold things that smelled of mothballs and the shoppers looked like a crooked-toothed host from Antiques Roadshow. It was perfectly quaint.

I just chatted a bit. A lady heard my accent and said, “I’ve saved this for you.” She grabbed my arm and dragged me to her pile of plastic boxes behind her stall of war memorabilia. “I promised I’d offer this to the next Australian I meet,” she said handing me this tatty little book…

Padre Gault's Stunt Book

Padre Gault’s Stunt Book

Padre Gault was an Australian Methodist minister who wandered the trenches in World War I providing guidance and solace. His Stunt Book was a collection of wisdoms and witticisms geared at providing solace to soldiers. I accepted the book, and paid her a few pounds for it and have been reflecting on it, sharing it with friends, since.

My favourite bits are where Padre asks the soldiers a question about life. The responses are so raw. He asks them about the sky:

“Why don’t they keep the moon for a dark night?” – Anon

And being a man:

“If the Australian soldier could attain a moral standard equivalent to his fighting abilities, it would approach closely to Read more