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Hiking the Via Alpina
Logos, Eros and the Trails to Freedom

For me walking alone is quiet time, it's calmer. I enjoy nature more because I realised that when I'm with people, also if it's just one other person, often you talk with each other, and it's great, but if it's too much, you don't realise the surroundings, maybe you talk for almost a whole day, and it's good, but you didn't experience nature around you because you were busy talking. It's not negative, but it's different. (Manfred, Switzerland, 50)

Can long-distance hiking present an alternative to the mechanisation, uncertainty and alienation of contemporary European life? Through interviews with hikers on the Via Alpina in the European Alps, we explore this question, applying Ning Wang's insights on tourism as exemplifying the ambivalence of modernity. Modern technologies increase communications, mobility and efficiency, while enabling leisure space for tourism. Via Alpina hikers do not 'opt out' of the social frameworks governed by Logos modernity but undertake solitary walking in search of an intrapersonal existential authenticity by reconnecting with nature, the body and an alternative experience of time. The Logos-directed elements of planning and navigating through digital devices are limited to the essential required to progress on the path and enable them to inhabit smooth time, free of the restrictive syncopations of work schedules and pressing obligations. Thus, hikers harness Logos modernity to enhance the Eros space of sensuality and emotional release. Through knowledge learned along the way, hikers strive for a positive, responsible freedom that broadens their sense of being in the world.

Read the full article Hiking the Via Alpina in the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, written by Jonathan Atari and Jackie Feldman.