When you chat with any hiker on the trail, arguably the top 3 subjects are; where are you going, how long have you been hiking, and what gear are you using?
If, however, you are talking to a hiker with the nametag @Hikemicrobe, one of those questions changes to 'how long have you been infected?' quickly followed by 'is there a cure?', and 'where can we meet others who have it?''
Andy, the 44-year-old family man from Belgium who's in no hurry to search to cure his Hikemicrobe; it's his source of life energy. Without it, he would be lost. The problem is getting worse, as he is infecting those around him fast - his wife, daughter, and son were the first to go. It doesn't stop there. The problem is getting bigger each day as his 4000-something Instagram is growing, and those who see his passion for the outdoors are bound to catch it.
How does a Hikemicrobe develop when untreated?
Andy started doing day hikes in Austria about six years ago on family vacations. Even though his kids were still young (under ten), there was no way back. For the following two years, they spent their holidays in the Triglav national park in Slovenia doing more day hikes. As the kids got older and the passion grew, the family walked the first part of the Italian Alta Via 1 (in the dolomites), going from Refugio to Refugio.
After these first stages of growth, it's not uncommon for the patient to start desiring something bigger. A more profound craving grows to spend days on end just walking and being outside. This is how Andy found himself with two feet in the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in 2019, ready to start the 800km long Camino de Santiago. After four days, he got some blisters, but once your Hikemicrobe has grown this far - you become resilient and can start enjoying mundane things like sore feet.
Further evidence for the spread of the Hikemicrobe can be found in Andy's 2022 trips. Together with his daughter, he walked the 154km long West Highland Way in Scotland, where they got the most blissful circumstances. There were no midges, those pesky tiny stinging mosquito-flies, and breezy but sunny weather. Later this year, the family will finish the second part of the Via Alta 1. When I was a teen, I don't think my parents would have been able to get me to go on a multiday hike - let alone twice in one year. But Andy and his Hikemicrobe make it work.
What makes it so contagious?
Daily life is stressful. Responsibilities can be a burden. Even though humans can endure loads of stress and carry a heavy burden, a release of the tension is a must for anyone's long-term well-being. Andy is no stranger to this concept; in his day-to-day life, he works as a homicide detective, where he experiences two types of stress:
Firstly there is the positive kind, a blend of duty and responsibility. Making the world a bit safer and giving the relatives of a victim peace of mind is the drive for Andy to do his vital job. Even though your job might not be as intense, your average Joe (like me) can handle this type of stress. The kind of stress where your weekends and holiday here and there work pretty well to help you unwind and stay on track.
Then there is the second kind of stress. Andy dubs it the negative one. It's the side of being a homicide detective that shows you the darker side of the world and what people are capable of. Without this kind of stress, the job can not be done. It's also where the running hypothesis for the spread of Hikemicrobe starts:
When you experience negative stress or maybe simply way too much of the 'positive' stress, you need a more significant outlet to reset your mind. Hikemicrobe is the organism in your body that helps you unwind with every step you hike. Depending on the build-up of stress, Hikemicrobe will bring you back to the energy level you need to notice the details that matter. A butterfly flaps by, the trees rustle in the wind, you feel the sun on your face, and that inside joke makes you chuckle out of the blue. Those with the Hikemicrobe then realize, 'I wouldn't truly be alive without hiking'. Sounds familiar? If you are worried, you can use our diagnostic tool here.
Thanks for reading🙏,