- Middle East
A love letter to a long-distance trail
Bex Band, Love Her Wild founder and extreme hiking enthusiast, relates the story of her most memorable trek
We’ve all had times in our life when we’ve felt stuck. Perhaps from working in a job we don’t like and feeling as if we are moving further and further away from our dreams. Or, worse still, lost. Not even sure what our dreams are anymore!
That was me aged 27. Dissatisfied, ground down and desperately seeking change. I found myself living in London, having tried a number of jobs while suffering from bouts of depression.
There are lots of ways to spark a change in your life. Some people turn to books and courses or try a different career. Others move to a new city or sign up for counselling. I chose to hike a long-distance trail. I had very little hiking and camping experience. I was unfit, inexperienced and knew of no one who had done anything as seemingly mad as throwing on a heavy backpack and heading out into the wilderness. I had no way of knowing if I would make it, or if it would turn out to be a terrible mistake, but one thing was certain: I knew it would elicit change.
The world has many long-distance trails – from the popular Pacific Crest Trail in the US to the rugged South West Coast Path in the UK – but the hike I chose was the Israel National Trail. My husband was originally from the country and I was eager to see more of its vivid landscapes and learn more about his home. The 1,015km route snakes the length of the country passing the Sea of Galilee, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea before cutting straight through the vast and dangerous Negev desert.
Reaching the desert was simultaneously exciting and petrifying
After convincing my husband to join me, and packing down our lives in London, we booked our flights. We collected all the gear we would need and vowed to train and get fit for the hike (although we became excellent at coming up with excuses not to). It was just nine months between making the decision to go and boarding the plane.
Before I knew it, I was in Israel and on the trail, anxious and very, very hot. While I’d never before pushed my body to its physical limit as I did on this expedition, the mental battles with myself not to quit were even more exhausting. But it was worth it.
Reaching the desert was simultaneously exciting and petrifying. Our efforts were rewarded with spectacular views across various craters (Makhtesh Ramon, Makhtesh Gadol and Makhtesh Katan were particularly enchanting) and renewed by cached water bottles – Yanir Yagel, a southern Israeli helps hikers cross the country by burying water at predesignated spots, and it was always a relief to find them waiting at the end of a long, hot day of climbing up and over mountains and winding through wadis.
By the time we clambered over our last hill on the Israel National Trail 54 days later, before running fully clothed into the Red Sea, I’d found the change I’d been looking for.
The real transformation though, the one that mattered most, had been internal. During the hike, I was so focused on walking, eating and sleeping that it provided me with a wonderful clarity. It took me out of the turmoil of thoughts in my mind and moved me physically into my body, making me live in the moment with my surroundings. Spending time in nature was quiet, non-judgemental, beautiful and calm. Away from it all, on a dusty long-distance trail, I was able to strip back all the baggage and finally find the change that needed to happen. Coming back home to myself!
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