Lonely Planet Writer

How one man battled depression by walking across Europe

While we all know that a good walk is great for clearing the head, one man took that concept a bit further when he went on a 6000-mile trip by foot from Turkey to Portugal. Chris Lemanski, 26, from California began his epic journey in April 2016 hoping it would help him through a bout of depression, so he set off from Istanbul and blogged along the way.

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

The journey took 18 months and Chris finished the walk on 15 October 2017. He funded the trip through savings and playing ukelele on the street, and also through donations from his blog. “At first, the biggest challenge was learning how to walk along highways and how to ignore my feet,” Chris tells Lonely Planet.

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

“Once I became accustomed to being uncomfortable, the challenges seemed to drift away and I began to enjoy whatever physical challenge came next. From then on, my biggest challenges were simply mental exercises that could all be solved by my not taking whatever situation I was in seriously. A thought that I began to find comforting was, ‘the worst thing that can happen right now is that you’ll be killed in some freak accident, but then you’ll have nothing to worry about because you’ll be dead. So why worry?'”

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

Chris says that when when he felt negative, it was largely down to hunger, exhaustion or craving a cigarette, and he could address it by laughing at himself. “I still needed to find places to camp and sleep and I also needed to find food, but after several months of going through the mountains in Eastern Europe, I stopped worrying about resources,” he says. “I simply kept my eyes open for opportunities and made sure my supplies were in check for any worst-case scenario.”

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

Chris fell in love with this way of life and began to forget what his old life was like. He says that he found walking to be his key to happiness, and his advice to others thinking of doing something similar is get out there and do it. “Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from taking that first step,” he says.

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

“All you can do is prepare for the worst and admit to yourself that there will be many times where you will hate the journey. You may even hate yourself for taking the journey, but those feelings seem to disappear when you walk another 10km or so. To travel slowly is like deliberately reading a book with focused attention. It may take you longer to finish, but the details and lessons you learn will stay with you for the rest of your life.”

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

Chris’s favourite memories from his epic journey

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

1. A group of Czechs on vacation invited me to join their campsite in Padis in the Apuseni Mountains in Romania. I ended up spending three nights there, relishing the beauty of the mountains and of western Romania.

2. The central Balkan mountains in Bulgaria were absolutely stunning. They were some of the most difficult peaks to go over and half of the time the weather was chaotic, but the sheer beauty of the “Singing Rocks” and of the other peaks is still out there, calling for my return.

3. Walking through France was by far one of the most serene experiences during my travels. The landscape looks like something out of a painting, and every 50km you find yourself in a completely different environment that beckons you to look deeper.

Chris Lemanski walked 6000 miles from Turkey to Portugal. Image: Chris Lemanski

4. My first day in the Mala Fatra mountains in Slovakia was by far the most exhausting day of my journey. I only walked 20km, but it took me over ten hours to do so. Granted, the E3 route takes you on the most intense route over five major peaks in a short amount of distance. By the last two hours, my legs were trembling from pure exhaustion.

5. Sokobanja in Serbia is one of the most beautiful locations I’ve been to. Lots of natural landscapes that look like something out of a spaghetti western and with plenty of natural hidden treasures to explore.

6. Also, Ich liebe Deutschland. Great people, great nature and great beer. I could see myself spending a few years in Germany just exploring that amazing country.

To read Chris Lemanski’s blog, see here.