By Pieter De Wit
I can’t wait to get out and enjoy a well-deserved holiday! As a personal trainer, I have barely worked in the last few months because the gyms closed down. But being locked up and socially disconnected from family and friends is making me cry out for an escape.
Hence the question rises where I should go when the worst of the pandemic is over? Where will it be safe enough, and what can I afford in financially tricky times? There is a trip that was on my list before the lockdown, and it could still be my perfect getaway: the Tour Du Mont Blanc.
Tour Du Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain (4807m) in the European Alps. It stretches along the French-Italian border and reaches into Switzerland, but the summit is in French territory. It is possible, but very challenging, to climb to the top as an amateur, but the more popular way to enjoy the scenery is to do the so-called Tour Du Mont Blanc, hiking around the mountain in eight to eleven days.
If I hike between four to eight hours daily, in the end, I’ll have conquered more than 10.000 height meters. The highest point on the route is Col de la Croix du Bonhomme (2.433 m).
I haven’t saved a lot during the lockdown. Despite the help of our government, my bank account looks more like a deep valley than on a mountain top! Thankfully, the Tour Du Mont Blanc is not very expensive. The price really depends on how you get there, whether you take a guide, where you sleep etc. But as my girlfriend and I are pretty adventurous, we always organise our travels ourselves and enjoy basic accommodation.
While taking a holiday, many tourists often spend a significant part of their budget on fine dining and extra entertainment. However, besides one or two nice french wines, we just hike all day enjoying the beautiful scenery for free.
Luckily, I live in the Netherlands and can take the train to Chamonix to start the hike. Flying has a huge impact on the environment, and I try to avoid it where possible. Taking slower transport might seem like a burden, but the time taken getting to my destination gives me a chance to release stress, and on arrival makes me appreciate the gift of travelling a lot more.
When I travel, I prefer to indulge in natural scenery. After being locked down in my apartment for months, I really can’t wait to breath fresh air and recharge mentally and physically. Spending time in nature is like pressing a great reset button and lets me see my daily struggles from a new perspective. I start to live in the present, release stress and realise in a positive way, that nothing really matters.
When hiking the Tour Du Mont Blanc, I will get to enjoy diverse landscapes, and if I’m lucky, encounter some of the local wildlife.
Active Stress Busting
The same is true for being active. I continued exercising during the lockdown. The endorphins of running and working out are the only drugs I ever need. During the last few months, I was not able to work, couldn’t save money, was socially isolated and felt very uncertain about my professional and personal future.
I tend to overthink things, trying to figure out what is best for me. But sometimes my head can’t take it all in, and I need to let go of my worries and start moving. Exercising diminishes stress and gives me mental clarity, it recharges and brings me into contact with who I really am. I am excited about the physical challenge of hiking for these reasons.
After practising social distancing for so long, I really need to engage in social contact! But I don’t want to visit crowded cities, jam-packed bars, or populous tourist places. Every year thousands of people hike the Tour Du Mont Blanc, but if you avoid starting on a Saturday and go counterclockwise, the number of fellow hikers will be less and slowly disappear in the massive landscape.
You can walk by yourself all day or join other hikers you meet, and in the nighttime, you’ll have the option to socialise in the huts.
Nature has always provided me with whatever I need, giving me answers to what I should eat and how I should move to stay happy and healthy. I know that going for a ten-day hike in the mountains will give me the mental and physical refreshment required after the tumultuous COVID-19 months.
It all makes me wonder though, why we are experiencing a global pandemic caused by a virus coming from nature. If Mother Nature is really the answer to all our problems, what is she trying to tell us? I think it is a sign we need to reconsider our lifestyles and make more conscious decisions on how we want to live, for our own health and happiness and the health of the planet. I hope I soon have the time to figure it all out when I hike the Tour Du Mont Blanc!