“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that has recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Blake Dyason.

I have always known that hiking and walking are beneficial. However, after attending the World Trails Conference in Santiago de Compostela in Spain recently, my mind opened even more to the power of walking.

Santiago de Compostela is an incredibly beautiful city in the north-west of Spain that attracts over 300 000 tourists a year through the famous Camino Trail.

The Camino Trail is based on the historical walk of pilgrims who made their way from other regions in Spain, Italy and Portugal on foot to the now-iconic cathedral in the centre of Santiago de Compostela.

This cathedral took over 200 years to build with a complex layer of architecture that included Roman, Gothic and castle-like features, highlighting the depth of history.

For hundreds of years pilgrims have walked days, weeks and even months to get to Santiago de Compostela and today hundreds of thousands of tourists follow this route every year.

Why is walking attracting people from around the world and what are the benefits? The obvious benefits of walking are:

Physical health
We all know the benefits of exercise and doing long walks or multi-day walks really enhance the cardio and other physical benefits.

Mental health
With endless studies showcasing the mental health benefits to walking we know that walking is similar to meditating. It allows our brain to filter and process, it releases stress and stimulates creative and problem solving thought process. This is why everything seems simpler when we walk. We think of business ideas, or solutions to challenges while walking (or running!)

Loneliness has been recognised as one of the greatest global challenges. Walking allows us to connect with people and builds closer connections between people. Walking also breaks down barriers, connecting people of all ages, religions, race and backgrounds – bringing us back to being more caring and understanding.

Environmental health
Walking connects people to communities and nature. We have lost contact with nature in many aspects of our lives, but without nature we have nothing. Nature is the heartbeat of our planet and existence. Walking makes us conscious of our footprint. Walking trails can act as conservation corridors, giving nature and wildlife the opportunity to roam and migrate while building a healthy relationship between humans and nature.

Economic health
Trails have the ability to attract local and international tourism, just like the Camino that now contributes to 11% of the Spanish Galicia Tourism income.

I had the privilege of listening to government officials, national part managers, trail builders and tourism departments from all over the world as they shared how trails can build their economy, connect communities, drive peace and equality, and create jobs.

Walking is a vital part to our futures, personally and economically. When in doubt go for a walk. I look forward to seeing you out there.