Practicalities

Time

Time, or he lack of it, is the big story.  I completely underestimated how long the walking would take.  My time estimates were based on 60 days at an average 17 mile day, which at four miles an hour (my normal walking pace) is only four or five hours walking; plenty of time left each day to write, code, meet people.  Add to that an extra 30 days left free for moving the van, revisiting places along the route, giving talks, etc., and it seemed like a leisurely schedule with time to read, reflect, and generally be a scholarly wanderer.

Of course, I was entirely wrong.  The ramblers all told me 17 miles a day was too far and 10 would be a better target, but then I would need to plan in another month and anyway, ten miles a day, those ramblers clearly were lazy slow-coaches!  But, they were entirely right.  When I walk on Tiree it is on road or beach, the fastest surfaces, I know where I am going, and I don’t stop very few minutes to take a photo or chat to someone.  On rough ground, trying to work out which way to go, avoid the worst of the mud or sheep dropping, and averaging 250-350 photos a day (a photo every 100 yards), my average walking speed is two miles an hour.  My average 4–5 hour day is now a 8–10 hour day.

Added to this is about an hour a day ‘tending technology’ (making us everything is charged, copying files around, etc.), and, when I get time, writing daily logs, which are typically between two and three thousand words per day, so several hours solid writing.

Finally, when using public transport daily to get to and form walk start/end pis, this can add anything form half and hour to two hours per trip – that is up to four hours per day at very worst.

This does not leave long for chatting to people, reading, thinking, let alone coding!

The impact of this time pressure hits everything else.  In retrospect I should have allowed at least 50% more time.

Preparation

As I was trying to do more of my ‘normal’ work in the months leading up to the walk, in order to offset the missing months.  However, this then meant little time for preparation for the walk: physically (practice walks take a lot of time); logistically (e.g. some things only ordered to arrive days before the walk commenced, few, no prior plan for accommodation beyond the first few weeks); technologically (e.g. Skype training on biosensors in the last week, not having time to learn to use GPS devices); and in terms of community connections (although, there wouldn’t have been time for more than I’ve been managing).

Sometimes, this increases the spontaneity, but often simply increases time pressure and stress as trying (and sometimes failing) to do things on the move that I should

Accommodation and Transport

This has been a combination of B&B with occasional visits to move the van (Offa’s Dyke and Lleyn Peninsula) or camping in van and using public transport to get around (North Wales, Anglesey and West Wales).

This was largely determined by the patterns of available pubic transport.  In North Wales trains and busses run largely along the coast making it possible to use the fixed location and travel each day model; whereas Offa’s Dyke public transport, where it exists, is largely cutting across the dyke.

When B&B-ing for more than a single night, I have had bags sent on.  This was because early on it became obvious that I would not manage to cover the miles with a full pack.  This had the advantage that a significant amount of technology can be available each night (e.g. both Mac and PC laptops)

Costs

The B&B-ing sections work out very expensive.  Single room costs are often only marginally less than a two-person room and cheaper B&Bs do not appear on internet searches, baggage transfers can cost anything from £15 to £35.   Most B&Bs do not allow take-aways, so evening meals tend to be ‘eating out’ and correspondingly expensive.  Fially, the van still has to be parked somewhere, often a caravan oark, so costing the same as if it were being used.  All togegr this is typically more than £100 a night.

When using the camper van as fixed base, the up-front costs are typically £25 for the camping and more often take-away food (no time for home cooking).  However, there are then transport costs, and if this involves taxis, in difficult to reach places, this can be anything from £25 to £50.  However, overall averaging around £50.

If walking is supposed to be a pastime for the masses this is very bad news.  However, there are particular factors here, in particular, the weight and volume of technology and other academic materials (the library!), multiply costs.  Also only evening meal and some transport costs would rise if there were two people instead of one.   Taxis, baggage transfers would be the same for two and accommodation marginally higher.

This said, I still believe cost is a major barrier to walking tourism, and why radical solutions such as MorphPod are exciting.

Logistics

Moving the van, baggage and me to the right pkace at the right time, juggling timetables, B&B availability etc., is a constant problem both in planning and execution.  This is made more difficulty by the poor connectivity and takes precious time.

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