One of the first things people ask me when they find out I’m thru-hiking the 3000km-long Te Araroa Trail, is why. Why would I want to hike day after day for five months, over mountains and through knee-deep mud, carrying a heavy pack?

I always struggle to answer them. Not because I don’t know why I want to do it, but because it is a combination of many different reasons. For me, hiking the TA isn’t just something I want to do, it has always felt like something that I need to do, and here are the reasons why:

Travel and Opportunity:

Three years ago, I set off on a five-month backpacking trip around Northland and the Bay of Plenty and discovered my passion for travelling. I packed my days full of hikes and activities and always left a place wanting more.

When in Northland, I did my first solo overnight hike and when I was sitting at a picnic table watching the sunset with a bunch of strangers, I came to the realisation that that was what I want my life to be about. Not to take or demand, but simply to experience. To be present, see and do as many different things as possible.

Since then I’ve made it my goal to live my life experiencing everything that this world has to offer, and when I found out about New Zealand’s own thru-hike, I knew it was an adventure that I couldn’t turn down.

The Te Araroa Trail offers the opportunity to see the best parts of NZ while meeting new people and seeing new things.

Inspiration and Freedom:

I found out about thru-hiking when I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed a few years ago and it inspired me to want to do something like it. I started researching thru-hikes and found out that New Zealand has its own from Cape Reinga down to Bluff. It felt like a calling, and I knew that until I completed it, it would sit in the back of my mind.

The TA offers freedom, which is a rare occurrence and something I have always aimed for. I often start to feel suffocated when I have been in one place for too long and don’t have the ability to drop everything and move.

Hiking a long-distance trail is my definition of freedom, going as far as I want, when I want. If I want to stop walking and camp somewhere for the night, I can. If I want to take an extra rest day, I can. I am carrying everything I need to survive on my back, there are no worries about rent or car warrants, there are no boundaries, no restrictions and no feeling suffocated.

Mental Wellbeing:

My whole life I’ve always had a vague sense of feeling lost, not fully fitting in anywhere and not knowing what or where I want to be in life, and after being diagnosed with a number of mental illnesses five years ago I lost all sense of self and purpose. It started to feel like I was in limbo, each day started bleeding into the next, and I was just waiting for something to come and shake it all up.

Then, two years ago I decided to face my illnesses and trauma head on, and with some help I have been on a healing journey and finally starting to feel like myself again. But I still lacked a sense of purpose. I wanted something that would mark the occasion and separate what felt like the start of my life from the past. And after defining my happy place as somewhere in nature, what better way to do that than by walking 3000km through the best parts of New Zealand.

The Te Araroa Trail gives me that sense of purpose, the goal is simple; get to Bluff (Or Cape Reinga if I decide to walk the other way). The past isn’t important, all that matters is how many kilometres until my next supermarket. If offers the chance to be free from the mundane routine of life, to be fully in control and to simply enjoy existing.