During my presentations I get asked a lot of practical questions. Here are some of the most common:
How many miles did you walk?
Almost exactly one thousand. I tracked our daily distances with a GPS, and we hit that mark precisely as we arrived in the middle of the bridge over the Tiber river in Rome.
How long did it take? How much did you walk each day?
Seventy days. With one day off each week, that makes for a total of sixty walking days and about 17 miles each day we were on the trail. We started more modestly, around 13-14; toward the end we were regularly walking more than 20 miles daily. Our longest day was about 25 miles. We did not walk fast, just long hours. With our increasing miles and decreasing daylight of October, by the end we were walking pretty much from sunup to sundown.
That sounds like a lot. How did you manage?
We trained for about 4 months leading up to the trek, taking 2-4 hour (6+ miles) walks twice weekly, with a longer hike most weekends, gradually increasing the weight of our packs. If we had a bit more time and flexibility, and could have started out more gradually, the training would not have been necessary. The human body is made for walking, and these distances are well within the capacity of most reasonably healthy people.
What route did you take?
We tried as best as possible to follow the itinerary indicated by the best Luther scholarship. A great deal of those historical roads are now buried and paved over, so we followed the more circuitous scenic routes for pilgrims and walkers. In Germany we followed the Camino de Santiago (or Jakobsweg); in Italy, the Via Francigena. These hit pretty much all the waypoints we were able to identify.
What kind of shoes did you wear?
The ideal trekking shoe?
Crocs. Yes the cheap foam clogs. They are lightweight, comfortable, easily washed, and dry almost instantly after being wetted. A single pair lasted me the entire distance, and many hundreds of miles afterwards. If only they were more attractive, it is all I would ever wear traveling. Sarah wore sandals, slightly more robust, but equally shocking to most of the people we met along the way.
What about the rest of your clothing?
Hiking pants and button up shirt, two t-shirts, two pairs of socks and underwear, tights, a fleece, a windbreaker, a sunhat, and an umbrella for the rain. That’s it. Most everything was synthetic, which dries quickly–important as every night we washed something.
Did you camp out?
Once, though we carried ultra-lightweight camping gear as far as Milan. We also carried a stove, pot, and fuel, which I would not consider necessary. Wild camping is not permitted in most of Germany; much of our path through Italy was alongside private property. There are nicely spaced towns with inns and B&Bs and pilgrims’ hostels in most places. We realized quickly that in order to keep up with our work as well as the hike, we needed regular access to workspace and electricity.
How much did your packs weigh?
About 15 pounds, without food and water. With my computer, camera and accessories I was carrying a fair bit more than anybody would now have to–today’s smartphones being a stand-in for all of that. If I were to go today, I’d try to make sure it was under 10.
Did you ever get injured or sick? What about blisters?
We each got one cold. Instead of resting, we walked ten or more miles and were better almost immediately. Sarah got exactly one blister. Our feet were sore from time to time, but nothing ever held us up.