Five things I learned in Romania this year

It’s been a while since I last wrote. My computer had a breakdown and so did I. One word: depression. I’m still crawling out of the hole, shedding the lethargy, fear, fatigue and what else one layer at a time. Thought I’d gather some courage and write one last – and belated – post before we jump into 2017. Don’t expect anything profound – these are just some of the things I learned during those four months in Romania that kept me going.

1. Take care of your feet

Basic as this may sound, your feet carry you around – so you need to take good care of them. After my first hike from Breb to the Creasta Cososului and Cavnic, my big toenails started to come off. So that was lesson one: cut your toenails before you set off, or they could cause you a lot of discomfort on a descent – and long after.

A few months into my adventure, the soles of my feet literally started showing cracks. Never thought something like a good greasy foot cream could become so indispensable.

Perhaps the most important thing concerning feet is to buy good socks. My SmartWool socks have saved me a lot of trouble. I used to wear thinner socks and would have blisters on day one. With two pairs of good thick SmartWool socks on me, I never did. They come at the cost but are definitely worth the investment!

2. Take care of your gut

During my first hikes I thought I could easily survive on oatmeal, nuts and raisins during the day and a rice or pasta based meal in the evening. But after a week on oatmeal and sweet stuff I could literally no longer see a raisin without wanting to throw up. I needed flavours, spices, nice chewy things. So I started bringing food that I really, really loved and started eating savoury stuff for breakfast (which saved me time because I essentially cooked an extra portion for dinner which I would eat in the morning). I realize not everyone may be as much as a flavour and texture addict as I am, but it can be really, really hard to keep going if your tummy and your palate aren’t satisfied.

Also, if you are out in the wild for longer stretches of time like I was, you may want to supplement your diet with probiotics. Even if you use vitamins, your gut could well get upset because you are off your normal diet and are probably consuming less fiber and more carbs than usual. Diarrhea isn’t your best friend in the mountains – dehydration certainly isn’t fun and could potentially be dangerous (yes, I’ve been through this – fortunately I had a very good friend looking after me at the time).

3. Stuff isn’t that important

Before I started on my adventure, I had this long, long packlist with every imaginable item on it. I had to leave a lot of it behind before I set off because it wouldn’t fit into my backpack, and then once I arrived in Romania I kept shedding things with every trip. Of course good gear is important, but I found out I needed very little. Good shoes, socks, thermal underwear, two breathable and fast drying t-shirts and a pair of zip-off trousers, a good tent, sleeping bag and mat will get you a long way. (Oh, and a powerdock to charge your phone and GPS watch with is pretty indispensable too.) But these things aren’t half as important as shelter, good food and people who love you. Stuff is cumbersome. And the more beauty I was surrounded with, the less stuff I felt I needed. I could even do without chocolate and wine for considerable stretches of time. Now that says something.

4. Don’t overdo it

Well, I did overdo it. I thought I started with an easy bit, but it wasn’t – it involved a 1000 metre climb, getting lost and overheated and carrying way too much luggage. Take it easy – start with an easy walk or two before you dive into the real stuff. Mountains weren’t made for people to climb. It’s a struggle and it’s hard. So you need to adapt and prepare yourself for it. It’s a very enjoyable and rewarding sort of struggle though. Oh, and rest when you feel you need it – not when you think you should. If you need a break after one hour, then you need a break. You’ll get there when you do. Live at your own chosen speed.

5. Nothing you do is useless…

… but do something. I’ve turned into a bit of a nihilist over the past few years. I keep asking myself what’s the use of what I do – of what everyone does. But diving into this Roamaniac adventure has taught me that nothing I do is useless. Not in the sense that I am saving the world or doing something very profound or inventing something exciting – but I am living life the way I want to, and every step I took, even if it was in the wrong direction (and it was many a time) brought me closer to myself and to the way I want to live. So yes, life is pretty useless – and a mountain is just a heap of rocks, and I am just walking the face of the earth – but I am also creating a life for myself and for others to get inspired by. It’s small, it’s humble, but it’s big and exciting too – because I’ve been given the chance to have to make a decision about literally every step in my life. I believe a large part of the essence of being human is being a creator (or a destroyer) – and create is what I want to do. Not things, but journeys which yield insights and joy and beauty and hopefully wisdom, in the long run.

Reading back, all of these insights seem rather simplistic to me. But apparently, these were things I had to learn. I’m looking forward to many more life lessons, and many more steps, big and small, in 2017.

Un an nou fericit!ย Happy new year!

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7 thoughts on “Five things I learned in Romania this year

  1. luc scheepers Reply

    Janneke, nice experience you had and stil gonna have in 2017. I’m also pratice for next summer to go hike in the Carpates and i trying many things also for my foot. I try sport tape but i still get blaren from and know i find a stick from compeed that is good for walking an hour and than you have to repeat. Also i wear everytime 2 pare of socks from smartwool, a thin liner pare and a thicker pare. Also every evening is put camphor spray on my heels to make them harder. Hope soon get good results. Let me wish you a very nice new year

  2. roamaniac Reply

    Thanks for the feedback Luc. ๐Ÿ™‚ Have you tried the moleskin (blarenpleisters) from Compeed? I use these to prevent blisters in sensitive places (heels, big toes). I just wear one pair of SmartWool socks at a time but the very thick ones, plus Hanwag shoes which have served me well over the past four years (but are now falling apart unfortunately). Another important thing is to make sure your feet are dry all the time, because moisture softens the skin – so if you get sweaty feet you should air them a bit during a break. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. luc scheepers Reply

      thx for answering. I neverput blisters before i have problems. For the moment i only have problems with my heels. I Always put feet power from care + To keep the feet dry and that helps a lot. I use as first layer the tin liner socks so i don’t have much wrijvng in the shoes. But i walk very much now because the shoes are almost new (100km walked) and that also can be a problem. i have shoes from meindl (type b), very good ones. The inside takes the shape from your feed once it take overe the tempature from your feed.
      Nice to speak about hiking here .

  3. Alasdair Plambeck Reply

    Good to see you writing again! I have learned versions of these lessons on my treks as well. The simplest lessons are sometimes the hardest to learn. The book Man’s Search for Meaning popped into my head from reading number 5, I’d recommend it if you haven’t already read it:

    โ€œUltimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.โ€
    โ€• Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

    1. roamaniac Reply

      Thank you Alisdair! Love that quote; will add that book to my reading list. Could be a good read for the next leg of my journey. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Also, concerning ‘simple lessons’: I am beginning to have the feeling that, if we live ‘ordinary’ lives i.e. go to uni, build a career etc, we may all too easily skip the basic life lessons because that sort of life doesn’t *seem* to require those lessons. I love living life one step at a time.

  4. Alasdair Plambeck Reply

    Maybe it is because cleverness and intellectualizing are often overvalued in those areas? I think actually that sort of life requires them more than ever. The more ability we have to change the world or at least the world of some the more responsibility we have to make sure we are doing it with integrity and in the interests of all and not to feed our own cravings or escape our own aversions. It’s a cliche but the more I travel and trek the more I realize how little I really need to be content and how much I can survive and make it through if I am forced to face it head on.

  5. […] about time I tried to lure you into visiting Romania again. For reasons outlined in my previous post...

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