For the last few years I’ve been a keen traveller and lucky enough to have the means to do so (If you are interested in my travel adventures, check out the travel blog The Amateur Adventurer.) The first thing we always do in a new place is set off on foot to explore our surroundings.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise and one of the best ways to get around when oyu are on holidays. Not only do you get to see places you wouldn’t otherwise see if you took public transportation or part of a group in a van, but you’ll burn a whole a lot more calories (to offset the calories in those colourful drinks with the little umbrellas in them). And you just never know where walking will take you; you might see something that requires further exploring thus increasing your number of steps.
I would add one caution – be aware of your surroundings and maybe do a little research before hand. A little stroll I took in Johannesburg was met with open-mouth disbelief that I was still standing in front of my South African friends in one piece when I got back. Always safety first.
To know just how many steps you are getting, and if you are close to your daily step goal or not, wear a pedometer, or one of the newer accelerometers, from the time you get up until you go to bed. Many people establish a goal of 10,000 steps per day. While this number may seem daunting at first, it is not that hard to attain if you count each step you take all day long. See my review of the tracker I currently use – the FitBit Alta.
If your room or the places you visit are above ground floor, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. The steps all count and it uses different muscles than walking on flat surfaces.
And speaking of stairs – I’ve travelled extensively through Asia, The Middle East and North Africa… and I’m totally convinced that all the good stuff to see is at the top of a really, really big flight of stairs. The Monastery at Petra – up 800 stairs carved into a mountain side, Doi Suthep Temple in Thailand at the top of 300 steep steps, Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii, a mere 3922 stairs (now closed to the public) and my favourite – the stairs in Yellow Mountain China – two numerous to even count all throughout the mountai range. The view tends to make the pain worth it plus all that goodness of burning off extra calories.
If you want a really good workout, try walking on the beach, if you are close to one. Regardless if you are walking in soft or wet sand, it will kick your butt! If the beach is clean and free of debris, consider walking barefoot. It uses different muscles than walking wearing footwear. A recent charity walk of 27.5kms racked up just over 40,000 steps on sandy goodness (lets ignore the fact I couldn’t walk the next day!) But I got to see parts of the coast I’d nevr seen before.
Along that same line, trail walking (in footwear) also uses different muscles because of the unevenness of the trail and having to step over or around rocks and boulders. Be sure you have ankle support, like high-top shoes or hiking boots so that you don’t sprain an ankle.
If you do have to take public transportation, get off a stop or two from the stop closest to your venue and walk in the rest of the way. Same on the return trip.
The great thing about walking while you are on holidays is that it doesn’t seem like fitness training at all. With all the new sights and sounds encountered while exploring on foot, you most likely won’t realize just how many steps you are getting until you look at your step counter.
You might even want to consider a specific walking holiday – we came across a number of walking groups while in Europe. Our next big trip is to walk the Camino De Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 800kms of trekking from the French Alps to the Spanish Coast. I can feel the calories burning in anticipation!
Overall sightseeing on foot adds so much to your trip – you see some great sights, you don’t really notice the exercise and you can lose the guilt over that extra dumpling or coctail at dinner 🙂