Have you ever wondered what taking a sabbatical from your everyday life could do for your mind and body? How about walking in nature for months at a time?
Structural engineer Alice Bond decided to take a year-long Sabbatical to walk 1300km across the Te Araroa South Island in New Zealand, camp on the Great Wall of China, and walk for 10 days along the Tokai Nature Trail in Japan.
Along with finding others who were along for the journey, Alice connected with herself in ways she never thought she could. Everything from planning to physical hardship has given her a wonderful outlook on life and an experience she will never forget.
A Change in Perspective
A year before her Sabbatical, Alice was in a life-changing car accident while in Norway with a few of her friends. After suffering through the accident and the anxieties that followed, she realized that she could not live her life in the past or future. That’s when she had a change in perspective and declared, “We need to just absolutely do what we want to do and make decisions based on today, not based on tomorrow”. This change led her and her partner Jasper to take a year off to focus on the present and experience the world for what it truly is.
The Search for Adventure
The first stop on their trip was Te Araroa South Island in New Zealand. At the time, there were still many unknowns about the trail, leading to it being a more interesting location for Alice and Jasper to start their journey. They decided to take the South Island stretch of the Te Araroa trail as opposed to the North since it was strictly wilderness The south portion has many changes in scenery and was remote from any towns or villages which was something very important for them in making their choice. Monotony was not in the itinerary.
Luckily, both Alice and Jasper found others facing the trail with them and, suddenly, the challenge ahead turned into a lifestyle. This new lifestyle consisted of waking up at 7 am to eat and begin down the trail. After hours of walking, they would reach the next mountain hut to rest, and walked again until 5 pm. To close out their day, they would spend the rest of their evening with their new friends. Then sleep at 9 pm, rinse, and repeat for the next 2 months.
Breaking Through the Fog
One of the many struggles Alice faced during her expedition in New Zealand was reaching a breaking point of both body and mind. Exhausted in the fogged trail, Alice found herself panicked and alone while Jasper was ahead of her. “I quickly realized, if I'm crying on the mountain in the fog, no one is going to hear me apart from myself, which was a bit of a revelation,” Alice remembers. “When I next came into the fog, I realized that I could handle that situation. It's just understanding that you're capable of so much more than you think you are.” Through that experience, Alice became more confident in herself and her ability to finish the trail. Two months and 1300km later, she reached the end of her journey in New Zealand. Next stop, Japan!
An Addicting Lifestyle
As a way to reward their accomplishments, Alice and Jasper flew to Japan to relax and indulge in cuisine. However, missing the wandering lifestyle, they decided to hike the Tokai Nature Trail in Kyoto. The hardship that they now faced while in Japan was new terrain and winter nights. The hike was short-lived compared to their plans and lasted 10 days, still not a small feat due to the conditions!
After their time in Japan, and a visit to South Korea, the couple travelled to China where they met up with some friends in Beijing. Again, missing the lifestyle they adopted in New Zealand, they camped on the Great Wall of China next to a military base. Camping while listening to the distant gunshots led to an interesting and entertaining experience for them.
Back to Working Life
After their year-long expedition, they were faced with returning to their previous routine. Alice had a strange experience getting back into her working life, but adjusted fairly quickly thanks to her supportive coworkers. Luckily for both Alice and Jasper, they realized they would like to change aspects of their lives and are making choices based on the life they both want. They are now making it a habit to be outdoors and leave the city more often. Next up for Alice and Jasper is to explore the Scottish wilderness, and Alice hopes to learn how to fly a paramotor!
Whether you have a year or even a weekend free, go out and explore new places and have an adventure. “It gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you're doing,” Alice says. “Get outside of your comfort zone a bit and just explore. I really can't recommend it enough!” You don’t need to have strict plans, just go out there and experience the world.
To learn more about the different adventures and challenges Alice and Jasper faced on their Sabbatical, listen to the podcast down below. And remember to have your own adventures!
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Follow Alice on Instagram @Alicebond0
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