We all hear the call for travel.

There is something tugging at our hearts, a longing for far-away places and distant lands, a desire to see more than just what is in front of our eyes, day in, day out. The call comes from many different places; it comes from bustling cities, gorgeous castles, creative festivals, kind people, amazing cultures. It can be a combination of all of those things, tangled and messy; it can become an overwhelming rush of I-Need-To-Get-Away, overtaking our senses, flushing our consciousness with the one, the constant, the burning need to book the next flight out of reality.

It calls until we crumble under the pressure, we succumb, we throw our necessities in a little, dusty backpack and step onto the next train. We fly away and leave normality behind, and we don’t look back, at least not for a while. In this moment, we all feel it: The strings that were pulling so hard on our hearts loosen.

Mountains Hills Hiking Austria Alps Europe

In this tumultuous mess of wishfulness, there is one cord that is wrapped around my soul harder than any other, one that has me travelling the globe only to finally feel it giving in, happy, fulfilled. It is the mountains of this earth that have me catching flight after flight, tying my boots, and setting off to climb higher, higher, higher.

When I answer the call for travel, I follow mountains.

Mountains Hills Hiking Austria Alps Europe

It started off innocently – I looked for summits that I knew best. The Austrian Alps, “my” mountains, provided abundant opportunities to appease my growing hunger for ragged peaks. My rare weekends at home in Austria, usually spent sleeping in, meeting friends, going out, repeat, changed from lazy days into those where you get up so early your mind doesn’t entirely understand what is happening yet, don your hiking boots, and scramble up the nearest mountain.

I read up on my favorite mountain climbers, finding out how Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner (the first woman to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders without the use of supplementary oxygen) trained herself by sleeping with her windows wide open even in the coldest of winters, letting the falling snow slowly cover her bed, to become accustomed to the conditions waiting for her outdoors; I started googling the highest peaks of the world, took notes on how and when best to summit Mont Blanc; spent hours bent over maps of the world’s mountains. I filled my heart and brain with summits that at night, my unconscious mind would be busy dreaming about.

Mountains Hills Hiking Austria Alps Europe

Even though my home is Austria, back then I lived in Dijon, France – a little town best known for its mustard and considerable senior population. Mountains were hard to find around this sleepy little city, but I tried my best: I laced my hiking shoes anyways and set out to the downs. By the second year I lived there, I organized group hikes and took other students from my university with me to enjoy these low-intensity hiking excursions together.

Burgundy Dijon France Mountains Hills Wine Hiking

Hiking in the middle of France’s vineyards near Dijon, France. 

Whenever I had time off from university, I hiked: My college roommate and I walked from town to town in beautiful Cinque Terre, Italy; I spent a few days in an old circus caravan, now turned into a convenient little home away from home, in the middle of the Swiss mountains, exploring the surroundings; I trudged through a meter of snow for hours until I reached a little mountain hut up somewhere in the Alps, lost in twirling snowflakes and buried underneath a heavy layer of soft, powdery whiteness. When it was time to leave again, my belly filled with cheese spaetzle and mulled wine, I took the easy way down: a children’s sled.

Mountains Hills Hiking Italy Cinque Terre Europe

Hiking from town to town in Cinque Terre, Italy. 

The summer that followed was spent chasing mountain tops. I visited Georgia (the one in the Caucasus, not the one in the U.S.) and matched my itinerary to my growing wish to see, feel, and experience the immense mountains that are, to me, the very essence of Georgia’s beauty. Together with my travel buddy, we drove up to Kazbegi and marveled at Mount Kazbek, we explored the peaks and abandoned mountains towns in Svaneti, and listened in awe as we met travellers who had just returned from a two-week adventure in one of the most remote and barely accessible regions of the country, Tusheti. They had travelled to the region on foot – I was swooning.

Mountains Hills Hiking Georgia Caucasus

Hiking the Caucasus. 

Back home in Austria, I followed suit and went on my first ever long-distance hike. Together with my best friend, we packed the bare minimum of clothing, a tent, and our best hiking shoes, and took off. I still remember the two weeks that followed fondly – they taught me that adventure can start right at your doorstep. We literally began walking right where we lived, where we grew up – and headed in the general direction of Vienna, crossing the lower Alps. We didn’t make it all the way to the Austrian capital, but it didn’t matter to us: The journey was our destination.

Mountains Hills Hiking Austria Alps Europe

A year and many hikes later, I was faced with a decision: I had to choose a destination for a stay abroad, one university year studying and living in yet another foreign country. I did what I always do: I followed the mountains. My country of choice was Kyrgyzstan, where I saw the Himalayas for the first time with my own eyes. I used every spare second I had during that one year to scale these mountains – the highest ones I had ever seen. I had climbed in higher altitudes before, but never under these conditions – the high mountains I knew were in warm places, close to the equator, accommodating for inexperienced hikers like me at the time. Kyrgyzstan was different – the mountains were covered in deep snow for most of the year, and it could rain, snow, or hail at any time.

It was pure joy.

Mountains Hills Hiking Kyrgyzstan Central Asia Karakol

Mountains Hills Hiking Kyrgyzstan Central Asia Karakol

Hiking the Himalaya in Kyrgyzstan.

I went back home, happy and satisfied, richer in experience and better versed in outdoor sports. Now, half a year later, my life revolves around mountains more than ever. I use every second to go hiking – the free moments, the days off, the weekends, every chance I get. When I am not in the mountains, I read about them, I write about them, I research new hikes and routes. I answer the call in every way I possibly can, with every fibre of my being, wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

It is in these short moments of fulfilment that I almost forget what it feels like to have something tugging at your heart so strongly, you cannot resist its pull. I say almost, because just as clear as we all hear the call for adventure in our minds and souls, we also know, with unquestionable certainty, that this longing can never be satisfied for long.

I follow mountains, and always will.

What about you?