250 kilometers, 350,000 steps and a very personal realization. At the start of the year, photographer and blithe spirit Daniel Huber embarked on a pilgrimage through Bavaria. His trek took him far from his bed, shower and washing machine at home. Instead, he relied on donations and traveled an emotional journey filled with surprises.
Departing from home
Huber, a native of Vohburg in the heart of Bavaria, had it all mapped out. He would walk along the Danube, with Passau as his destination. Daniel had chugged along the route in a rubber dinghy as a child. “Visiting my relatives in Passau was always a highlight for me,” he says. So, this was a journey to the past, with Huber all on his own. “Nothing to hear, nothing to see – just switching off for once and seeing what happens, recharging my batteries for my next season as a photographer, and a chance to listen to my inner dialog,” says the 36 year old as he outlines his intentions.
However, there was another motivating factor for Daniel. He had attempted the journey once before, back in 2020, but was forced to abandon it. He’d been wearing the wrong clothing, the wrong shoes, and his feet had ended up covered in bloody blisters. “That really annoyed me, so I told myself that I needed to be smart about it this time!”
Preparing for the 250-kilometer walk
Four weeks before setting off, Daniel started getting himself ready. He logged 15 to 20 thousand steps per day as a minimum. Instead of wearing sneakers as he did last time, he bought some decent walking shoes and onion-style functional clothing. The first acid test was a trial run of 25 kilometers. The clothes fitted, the shoes proved sturdy, nothing rubbed or nipped – all set for the get-go!
The passionate barefoot walker also spoiled himself with a little spa day before setting off. “I paid my physiotherapist a visit and booked myself a 90-minute reflexology massage for my feet,” he recalls with a smile. He also had his leg, which carries the scars of his years playing soccer, taped up in preparation. And so, wrapped in strips of blue sports tape, he set off on February 2, 2022.
High hurdles and magical moments
Daniel shared his experiences with family and friends via Instagram. He also tried to forge his path using donations alone. “Before I had even set off, I had €80 in my online account,” he says, recalling his astonishment. In total, he says he received €600, with some coming from friends but some from new followers he gained along the way. That said, money isn’t everything. Daniel also needed an extensive network and hospitable people – as he discovered on his first night. “I got completely lost and ended up taking an eight-kilometer detour,” he says, shaking his head. “It was far too late to book something at such short notice. So, I put up a post asking for help.” Within 15 minutes, he had found accommodation in Kelheim and was able to spend the night on the couch of someone he had never met, cuddled up with their two cats.
The following day, he arrived in Regensburg, where another surprise awaited him. Although he had arranged accommodation in the city, the people he had planned to stay with had been forced into isolation shortly before his arrival. Daniel, who got the news while washing his clothes in a laundromat, was not able to stay with them. That meant another post asking for help – and another slice of luck! “I got a message from my cousin, telling me that we had relatives in Regensburg. So, I walked four kilometers to their house with my wet laundry in my backpack. Thankfully, they let me crash there and we stayed up until midnight having a lovely conversation.”
When asked about his favorite moment during his pilgrimage, one image instantly springs to Daniel’s mind: a tattered, yellow soccer ball, almost entirely deflated, lying by the side of the path. “In that moment, all my pain disappeared. I felt like a kid again and kicked the ball along for an hour and a half.” As a parting gift – and a small homage to Wilson from ‘Cast Away’ – Daniel drew a smiley face on the ball when he left.
If you’ve met Daniel or follow him on social media, you’ll know how he communicates. ‘Hubi’, as his friends call him, always smiles cheerfully into the camera and gladly provides daily reports on his life and work. He documented his pilgrimage with his usual diligence, even producing a short podcast series. “Right at the beginning, I felt a strong sense of disquiet. I was impatient, wrought, and full of zest and drive. I was longing for change but had no plan for achieving it.”
So, instead of just putting his phone in his pocket, he would stuff it deep into his backpack and simply set off walking for four hours at a time. And, when he did stumble across a special moment he wanted to capture, Daniel would reach for his analog camera, a 50-year-old Olympus OM1. “You start to think very carefully about how you use your resources. Will you take a snapshot of this moment with you or keep it just for yourself? That grounds you and also makes you thankful.”
Embracing a new world of emotion
On February 12, Daniel reached Passau. His arrival was less than spectacular, taking him through an industrial estate by the harbor on the Danube. However, as he walked into the heart of the Old Town where the Ilz and Inn open into the Danube, he knew on an emotional level that he had arrived. He sat on a bollard beside the harbor and looked into the water. “Now it feels right,” he thought, as pride and gratitude enveloped him. This ten-day journey had made a lasting impression and taught him a crucial lesson: “You can do anything if you show patience.”
Inspired by the experience and enriched on a spiritual level, Daniel is already drawing up plans for his next adventure. Next year, he hopes to walk 1,500 kilometers on the Japanese island of Shikoku. A Buddhist pilgrimage route will take him past 88 sacred locations. “It’s an investment in myself. I’m saving up for it and then I’ll be gone for six months.” Gone? Well, not completely. After all, he definitely won’t be able to resist an Instagram post or two.