By Albert Villaroya
If you don’t like something, change it. Sometimes it might be the problem itself, or it can be the way we look at it. It can be as simple as striking up a conversation on the train, exploring a forest, walking to work instead of riding the bus or, yes, even hiking across the whole world. It’s your choice what ‘change’ means to you.
Me before I changed it.
I come from the small village of Sant Cugat, near Barcelona, and from the outside it seemed as though I had everything someone my age dreamed of – a house, friends, family and a loving girlfriend. But my life was a rush – be it university, work, training – with no time to be present.
Reading became a central part of my life, from Nietzsche to Kant, Hegel and even Shakespeare. They helped me realise I wasn’t living life the way I really wanted to; I wasn’t making new connections. I was only doing what was expected of me, and this disconnection was overwhelming. I knew something had to change but didn’t know where to start when my life was seemingly going in the opposite direction.
Me after I changed it.
Now, I live in Chamonix, France, known for its enormous mountain ranges. Here, I’m just a guy in love with nature, wanting to explore the world no matter how.
My first step to change was just that, a small step. At just 18, travel and nature consumed me. I planned a two-week cycling vacation across the Pyrenees with just me, myself and I. This adventurous approach seemed incredible at the time, but within the year I’d already forgotten most of the details and I felt empty – I hadn’t met my goal to push myself as far as mind and body could go.
So, a year later I decided to go all in – a decision that would change my life forever. I set my sights on cycling the whole of Africa’s beaches. An ambitious project that didn’t make it to fruition, in part due to my mother’s protective instinct. Instead, I let South America entice me and flew over with the idea of hiking home. I didn’t know it at the time, but all those hours with myself where exactly what I needed. Instead of focussing on the distance I set a simple goal to meet as many people as possible, learn new cultures and develop a healthier me.
My crazy idea.
This led me to the craziest idea – I would hike the world in a ‘Walking World Tour’. I wanted to complete all the big ranges of the world by running, hiking, scrambling and, if the conditions of the mountain allowed it, to go up and to climb.
I-like-to-move-it!! What started as a project just for me, ended up inspiring the outdoor footwear brand, Merrell, and instigated a collaboration. Together we’ve tackled a country known for its dense jungles and remote mountains – Madagascar. But to my joy, I made amazing connections with the locals on my way – something I’d longed for.
With my friend, Ravelinho, I hiked great mountains, and I enjoyed every moment with my guides Eme and Kenji who regale visitors with stories and tours of their country. But my favourite experience was dancing around a fire with the locals, listening to their music and connecting each one in their own way. It’s a stronger connection than any person you drink with in a pub or even work with every day.
Do you train a lot? Uhm… YES!
There are two key aspects to training; physical and mental.
For the physical, I start with a climb or bouldering session before work. Then in the afternoon, I tackle an uphill run of vertical kilometres, sprint series and long runs to improve my fitness. On days I am free, I take on more challenging mountains in Switzerland or the Alps.
However, more importantly for me is the psychological aspect. I live a simple life in the van, and whilst I’m alone I am never lonely. For me, it’s about the people I meet and how I can learn from each of them. Mentally, you need to be prepared for anything – climb the peak, camp or descend. Life or death situations can be nerve-wracking and I need to be prepared.
This all seems pretty extreme Albert, is it realistic for someone else?
Nature and human connection are my whole life. Yes, I live in an incredible mountain range, but even someone from Central London can feel like this. It can be complicated and less accessible but it all starts with one positive change – a Sunday walk, a regular trip to the countryside or beach. Just enjoy the freedom.
Share it with your loved ones, or the people you meet and I promise you will feel a change. The city, the tubes, the stress don’t give us a moment to breathe and enjoy what’s around us. It creates an emptiness, but nature can heal it, it can help you gain a perspective. It just takes that first small step – hit the trail and let nature change you. Did you feel it? ‘That’ is the power of change!
Are you ready to take your first step?