You know, I sometimes wonder why on earth I keep going on these darned long-distance walks. I've never found a pair of boots or socks that doesn't give me blisters, I've been soaked to the skin more times than I can remember, and my ideal state is sitting in a nice, quiet country pub, sipping real ale and enjoying the warm glow of a real fire. But something drives me to do stupid things like walking up volcanoes or crossing entire countries by foot, and this is a slightly pointless attempt to explain why I love to walk.
Probably the biggest motivation is that walking builds up a store of memories that I just love having in my head. I don't tend to talk about my walking to anyone except other walkers – I want to keep my friends, after all – but having all those pictures in my head is like having a fascinating book in tow, wherever I am. Sitting at the bus stop, waiting for the bus? Don't get bored; just picture the fluorescent blues and greens of Tongariro. Waiting for a friend to turn up at the pub? Don't get wound up, just remember the farmers cultivating their rice round the feet of those mysterious stone megaliths of the Bada Valley. Getting a bit tired of that long bus journey? Well, it was nothing compared to the slow progress through Britain on the way from Land's End to John o'Groats. Yes, having a happy store of walking memories is a great comfort.
There's also the immense satisfaction of completing a journey, especially one that's challenging and physically tough. I don't much like exercise, but walking in the great outdoors is a good way to con myself that I'm enjoying quality leisure time, rather than exercise. The only problem is that most long-distance walks contain a certain amount of hard slog, but by that stage it's too late; it might be easy to give up on the step machine and go home from the gym early, but if you're in the middle of the desert and you lose interest, then you'll die. That's a great motivator, and it has the pleasant side effect of giving you great leg muscles.
But basically, I walk because I like walking. You never know what's around the next corner, and you never know what memories are waiting to happen, and although it might hurt sometimes, walking is a wonderful opportunity for thinking, meditating and getting away from the stresses of life. I often spend entire days plodding along, trying to work out what it is about walking that makes me keep coming back for more. I still haven't really worked it out, but perhaps that's the point.