As on any (long) trip, I prefer to go alone or with one (good) friend. There’s just so many things you will miss out on if you travel with a group. You have more time to look around instead of being social (or awkward), you can make decisions easier and there are less people to deal with in general. Also, I’ve found that being alone encourages your social skills, and you’re more likely to meet new people. Last but not least, I loooove to reflect when I walk (or cycle for that matter) which is easier done alone. What have I been doing with my life for the past few months or years? What do I want to achieve next year? Am I really enjoying my job, friend or relationship back home? You can get as philosophical or practical as you want. This is where a notepad and pen come in handy. It isn’t a surprise that the Holland Walk idea came to me on my walk from Seattle to Vancouver.
Geocaching: finding hidden treasures
When you’ve found a place to stay, weather it’s a campsite, a couchsurfer’s home or a hostel or guest house, it’s time to explore the area. I have found that an easy (and fun) way to find cool things nearby is by searching for Geocaches.
The concept of Geocaching is simple. Anybody can hide a “cache”, which is a container of any kind (film container, tupperware box ranging from nano-size to actual treasure chest size). Other will have to find this cache through the GPS coordinates provided and the additional hint. If you’ve found a cache, a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil is provided to write your name for proof. Sometimes you might find other items inside too, but these are usually for kids (little toys, stickers etc.).
Many geocaches are places near a historical or otherwise interesting spot, and the cache’s description usually explains what makes this spot worth a visit.
To participate in this world wide game all you need is to create an account and own a device that can handle GPS coordinates, like a smartphone or GPS device. Geocaching built apps to make it even easier. After you have done so you can view a map which shows all the geocaches in the area. There are several different types of geocaches, some for which you have to solve a riddle, others are a collection of caches linked in a multi-cache trail. All caches have ratings for difficulty (1 to 5 stars) and terrain (1 to 5 stars). I’m a fan of the nice-and-simple traditional caches, for which you just have to go to the GPS location and investigate the area.
If you’d like to know more about Geocaching, including a couple of secret Geocaches, check out this article on my blog.
Couchsurfing is a community of over 10 million members in 200,000 cities — and every country — around the world. Couchsurfing connects travelers and locals who meet offline to share cultures, hospitality and adventures – whether on the road or in their hometowns. Also, it’s completely free and safe.
As an experienced couchsurfer (“surfed” 80 couches and hosted 20 people at my place) I can really vouch for this way of traveling, as I shared several amazing experiences with other people from this community.
In case you have found a couchsurfer to stay at during your Holland Walk, it’s time to get a bit social. Ask him or her about the things to see or do in the area. Sometimes you will even get invited to hang out with his or her friends, or go to a bar together. Don’t let the blisters hold you back; it’s good to get your mind off walking from time to time.
To participate you can become a member on the website and search for a city/village along the route to see if there are people you can stay at. If you have found someone who can potentially host you it’s time to send a “CouchRequest”. I recommend sending couchrequests 2 weeks before your trip to make sure the person actually reads your request. Typically you write a couchrequest with a little bit about yourself, the reason of your trip and a paragraph or so explaining why they should host you (what do you have in common? What can you offer them in return for the stay? Be creative here, this is usually the make-or-break-point of your request).
Don’t worry, you won’t be sleeping on a couch all of the time. I’ve slept in king-size beds, in barns, guest houses, on the floor, in the host’s bed, practically anywhere you can think of. Most of the time you can just go with the flow. Tell them about your day, the things you’ve seen or done and why you are doing this trip in the first place. Make them comfortable hosting you and make it a sharing experience, you might even make a new friend! I know I have, I’m still in touch with dozens of couchsurfers from all around the world and I wouldn’t know a better way to travel.
Other things to see or do
The routes are planned in a way that there are also a few “touristy” things (or at least thing I would want to see when visiting Holland as a foreigner) to see along the way. Find out more.