How I got hooked on self-guided walking holidays

I wish I could remember how I first learned about self-guided walking holidays. The year was 2000. I was 26 years old, and my fiancé was 27. We had recently moved from Chicago to New York City for him to start his ER medical residency and for me to work as a strategy manager at a fashion dot-com start-up within a larger company. 

We were working gruelling hours. Our first chance to take a vacation was in the early fall of that year. Since both of us were avid hikers – and I was a Francophile planning the trip – I somehow stumbled upon a self-guided walking holiday through Haute Provence with Sherpa Expeditions, now known as Walkers' Britain

Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

So, given the trip fulfilled both my requirements – hiking and France, I naturally booked it and bought our plane tickets for Paris that continued to Nice. 

Little did I know then, and as an avid traveller who would eventually spend a year backpacking around the world, that this inn-to-inn walking trip style would become my favourite. And a type of trip that my now husband and I would come back to repeatedly. 

In front of GR4 signage in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

Why did I love self-guided holidays? 

From the moment we left Nice, taking a bus out of the city (the trains were on strike) and winding through the pretty rolling hills in the late afternoon light to our destination at St. Andre-les-Alpes, we could feel the stress and the noise of work and the city fall away. 

The proprietors of our first inn were welcoming and fed us a satisfying meal of steak and mushrooms paired with a cheese plate and wine. We fell asleep that evening full, with quiet country night sounds to lull us. 

In the morning, after an ample breakfast, we followed our route notes and hit the trail. 

We loved the feeling of only having to shoulder our day packs and puzzle out the path ahead, knowing our luggage would continue to the next inn without us. 

Eating a snack in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

Over our week, as we repeated each day – a new lovely quaint inn, a vigorous beautiful walk to a pretty village, delicious meals of high-quality locally-sourced ingredients, and the freedom to enjoy, explore, and fully absorb our surroundings – I not only fell in love with the beauty of Haute Provence but the sense of quiet discovery to be found on self-guided holiday walking trips as well. 

Haute Provence scenery |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence throwback |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Haute Provence scenery |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Janice's husband on the Jordan Trail in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i> Pear tree in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

Although it was years ago, and the highlights of this trip were many, I remember a few standing out. Like the beautiful views from Chapelle St. Jean near Castellane, hiking through the narrow paths of the Gorges du Verdon, or our unexpected candlelight dinner in an old and since-closed chateau near Riez that happened due to a waterlogged tree falling and damaging the electric wire. 

Beautiful picnic spot in Haute Provence |  <i>Janice Moskoff</i>

Through the years, we have repeated this walking trip style in the Alpujarras in Spain, the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, along the dramatic coastlines in Gozo, Malta, and the Green Mountains in Vermont. 

And as our kids, who are now teens, get older, it is a rewarding, slow travel way to explore the world that we plan to return to again and again. 

Words by Janice Moskoff. Janice is a travel writer, book lover, and blogger at Gather and Go Travel, a blog inspiring families, adult friends, and couples to explore US and international destinations, emphasizing hiking, beautiful places, and discovery through learning.

Image credits:

France, haute provence, self guided walking holidays, self guided tours, walking trips in France, Traveller's Tale, Traveller Review Haute Provence

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