Christine Thürmer has covered 47,000 km by foot, 30,000 km by bike, and 6,500 km by boat. She told us about the role Excel plays in her activities and where she’s found her paradise.
Could you tell us in a nutshell what motivated you to just get up and embark on your travels?
I had a job that involved doing projections for companies: Where will the company be in five years? In ten? Money played a critical role in all this for them. I’ve always wondered what my own life would be like in the future and what sort of resource I’d draw on. When a good friend of mine got sick and died shortly thereafter, it became clear to me that my most important asset is my life – my time on the planet. You can’t project how long you’ll live but you know life’s a finite resource. This revelation led me to quit my job for good and to start hiking.
You promptly chose to hike one of the toughest trails in the world, the Pacific Crest Trail. Why did you opt for something so challenging when first starting?
To be completely honest – I was a total greenhorn. Half a year before, I’d gone on vacation and it was all very cushy. I had a tent, a thick insulated sleeping pad, and a large backpack. One night, this group of hikers came by, totally filthy and lugging very little equipment. I asked them what they were up to. They said, “We’re hiking from Mexico to Canada.” That fascinated me immediately. For me, hiking had always been a pretty leisurely activity. You head out at 10 a.m. Then you finish at 4 p.m. and enjoy a picnic. The idea of hiking from one end of a country to the other sounded really good to me. I thought to myself: “If they can do it, so can I!”
You meticulously prepared for your first hike. Do you have to be a bit of an optimizer to do so much hiking?
I can only answer that with an enthusiastic yes, yes, and yes again! (laughs) Most people’s ideas about hiking are way too romantic. All they can think of is what’s in these ads for outdoor equipment: Young people, freshly showered, wearing brand-name apparel, and surrounded by tons of equipment. In reality, things are very different. You get dirty, stinky and only lug a minimum of stuff around with you. The things in these ads would be much too heavy for long-distance hiking. When you’re hiking, the biggest luxury isn’t what you have with you, but what you don’t have to carry. That’s why it’s incredibly important that you only bring what you absolutely need. The less you carry, the freer you are, and the more enjoyable the hike is. My two cents: It’s not enough to do a little bit of optimizing – you need to do a massive amount of it and nothing works without Excel.
What would have to happen to make you settle down again so traveling is no longer your main occupation but something you do on the side?
I spend half the year in Germany, writing books and giving lectures. The other half I’m away traveling. So, I have the best of both worlds. If I were to land a big job in Germany, say for a year, then I’d stay longer in Germany. The only thing that would make me give up hiking would be health issues – I’d never do it for a partner! He’d have to do without me for six months and wait for me at home. (laughs)
What do you most miss when you’re away traveling? And what do you miss when you return?
When I’m away, what I most miss is fresh food. All I eat when I’m hiking is packaged food. Sometimes I get these visions of things I’d really like to cook right now on the spot! When I’m back, there’s nothing I long for. My life follows a set rhythm. My next trip is already in the works. I know exactly when I’m heading out again, so I’m not plagued by any wanderlust. When I’m back home, though, what I miss is the way the body feels different when on the road. When you’re hiking, your body is your instrument. And when you reach the end of your trip, you’re simply proud of the fact that your body made it. Back home, people constantly think about what they look like, what to wear. I prefer the way I feel about my body when I’m traveling.
What’s the main takeaway from your various experiences?
A key takeaway for me is that everything you pick up while traveling is something you’ve learned for life. I also discovered that anyone can hike. And when you’re out there, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. It’s not for nothing that people say, “The trail is a great equalizer.” I also learned to make do with a lot less and to be happy and thankful for small things.
“Where is paradise?” That’s this year’s motto. Have you found an answer to this question?
Paradise is always where I am right now. It doesn’t matter where I hike. The scenery is just something in the background. Whether I’m in Brandenburg or Australia, what’s important is what’s going with me. That’s why my advice to people is: Don’t look for paradise in some faraway place. Instead, turn the place you’re at right now into your paradise.