Walking, a subversive gesture  (Erling Kagge)

In this page I illustrate and tell, with my usual language, the photographic one, some interesting excursions that I was lucky enough to take, both along the paths of our mountains and around Italy and the world. What I don't want to do is provide technical information and advice on routes and hiking. Travel times, gradients, equipment and so on, are boring things that interest me relatively, and then I don't have the skills and I'm nobody to do it, it would be a useless and superficial thing that would be added to the myriad of other similar publications, that are already found everywhere. I like to go exploring, without predetermined routes, without timetables, without counting the steps or recording the GPS coordinates. I prefer to let the places tell themselves, with only the language of beauty and suggestion, I conceive hiking more as a poetic and interior journey, as a spiritual search and contact with the natural world, the world of simple things, and not than a sporting activity, and I try to tell it in pictures, from the point of view of the emotional and inner impact. A sandwich and a little water in the backpack, camera, two good boots and a great desire to walk, these are the essential things, without ever forgetting to always respect your limits and your fears. Of course, if you want to get on K2, the situation will be a little different ... 

Having established that I do not like to dispense advice, I myself love going on an adventure first, without having too many programs or roadmaps to respect, however, it is necessary to always be aware of one's limits, one's preparation and environmental conditions, in short, be always beware and never underestimate the Mountain: it is a divinity, and you must approach it with due respect, armed only with love and curiosity and leaving presumption, competition and challenges at home.

In Nature you are at your home, but have to move on tiptoe, with discretion and respect, as if you were a guest.

I can tell you about my "method" to decide how and where to go: first of all arm yourself with curiosity, and be aware that often a beautiful day depends on us, on how we are prepared, the world itself appears more or less beautiful, more or less interesting, depending on the spirit in which we observe it. Often what we are looking for is within us, outside we only have to find correspondences. And in any case it is always advisable to start with a "low profile", if we have too many expectations, we risk being disappointed, indeed we will almost certainly be. We must always have an open and receptive attitude, and find beauty even in small things, even on a gray, rainy, sunless day, let yourself be guided by intuition and instinct, like a hunter following the tracks of his prey. , or as a detective looking for clues if you like, at least that's how I move.

Without prejudice to these basic premises, there are three main ways to decide where to go: the maps, the photos and the case, often a mix of these elements.

Usually I let myself be influenced by some beautiful photos seen around, the internet in this regard is an inexhaustible mine, so I study the area, to see what else interesting can be there, finally if I am convinced, I decide to go to see: it can be a walk, a trek or a week's vacation.

Other times, however, I let myself be influenced by maps, and I try to create routes by studying some charts, going up and down mountains and valleys simply by swiping my finger on the map, looking for particular places such as lakes, rivers, waterfalls, rock formations, castles perched or remote villages. Toponymy also often helps to inflame the imagination: reading about places with suggestive names such as "Prato delle Femmine", "Groppo della Donna", "Pietra del Fuoco" or "Vallone dell'Inferno" does not make you the desire of going for explore also to you ? Of course, today maps may seem objects that are perhaps a little old-fashioned, perhaps a little awkward to unfold and fold, especially if there is wind or rain, but I love them and I collect them, and the tactile pleasure of handling them will never be replaced by no mobile phone or tablet: make yourself a nice library of maps and guides, books and travel magazines, they will be your treasure maps, because sometimes it is also nice to travel comfortably in an armchair, with the imagination! When I go to a new place, I always try to find a map, it is also useful once at home, to give a name to the places visited and to have an overview, oriented in space.

Another way to explore, which with me has often proved very fruitful, is to be guided by instinct and curiosity, looking around, out of the window, when moving by car, train or other means: often the most beautiful and exciting discoveries are made by chance, they are not studied at the table. This happened to me above all with streams, but it also applies to castles, streets, villages and mountains: many times I have seen streams along the road that seemed interesting to me, so I decided to return to follow their course, without having the most faint idea where they would take me. Sometimes they quickly become impractical and you don't get anywhere (even if in reality "nowhere" does not exist, there is always a "place"), other times this method has allowed me to discover truly unique and almost unknown environments, and above all solitary and wild as I like them, where I can get lost and find myself, where the wild within me comes to the surface, where I can feel the primordial and being part of it.

Then with time and experience, everyone builds a whole series of "places of the heart" where to find a safe refuge in case of spiritual or emotional emergencies, or simply when you want to go without fail to offer a nice gift to your soul.

Walking is always an experience that is not only physical, it is also and above all an activity that involves thought and emotions, indeed to tell the truth this distinction between body and soul should not exist! Walking surrounded by the suggestive forms of nature, temporarily set aside the daily tribulations, thought has the opportunity to take different paths, we can see things and life from another point of view and perceive in ourselves things that elsewhere, busy, distracted and hasty , we are unable to perceive: as Federica, a dear friend of mine said some time ago, during an excursion "I don't just walk through the woods, I make a journey inside myself".

Walking, or moving and traveling using only our legs as a motor and our feet as support, is a unique and rewarding experience, at every step we feel direct contact with Mother Earth, we perceive her vibrations, breath, scent. , sound, is an "immersive" way of experiencing the journey, which involves all our senses and our instincts, as opposed to other means that isolate us from the world itself, distorting our perceptions, if not completely canceling them. Walking is an ancient, ancestral gesture, which brings us back to our origins, our means of transport have evolved over time, but our legs, our feet, have always remained the same, the same as those of our ancestors, it is a gesture ancient but at the same time modern and irreplaceable, eternal, like the need to travel and explore, a return to simplicity and essentiality, a return to ourselves, to the rhythm of our steps, marked by our breath and our beats.

To err in myself deeper and deeper, this is my only goal; the cadence of my steps, this is my chronometer; to approach the spirit of Mother Nature with respect and enchantment for the mysteries that appear before my eyes, this is the prize to be earned; knowing something more about my travel companions (when they are there), about the places I have seen, about the people who live there or have inhabited it, these are my stops; and go home in the evening with a big "thank you" in the heart for the beautiful day spent.

It seems incredible, yet on every journey there are always things that surprise me and make me think; even retracing the same path several times, the other day for example, while walking in the woods, I stopped to photograph a tiny insect on a flower, and this was enough to make me reflect on the infinite myriad of life forms, at times small, very small, and wondering what role they play in the universe, wondering if those tiny life forms are aware of the so long distant stars that are in the sky and if they are aware of their role in this great design. What about us instead? Are we aware that all this is interconnected? And does this awareness help or hinder us? All this is simply magical and fascinating, and a tiny detail is enough to make us understand how little or nothing we know about the life and our role in this universe.

In all this photography helps me a lot, because it is a stimulus, perhaps also a sort of "justification", but in any case a stimulus to investigate, to look more carefully, to collect and preserve precious experiences, vital emotions, by walking.