Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found, Cheryl Strayed

“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

I was sent this book in my Desert Island Reads box from the lovely Books Are My Bag a couple of weeks ago, and took it with me to Kidderminster, where I was visiting Georgie (she had a part in a musical, so I went to see her and be delighted by her excellence). It’s pretty long – the small print makes it a comfortable size to carry around – but I had train journeys, and waiting around, and Georgie being asleep a lot, and also I loved it, so I devoured it in those three short days.

This book made me want to walk a thousand miles, too. Me, with a weak back and soft feet that blister easily, and strong feelings about rain, and easily-sunburnt pale skin, and a hatred of spiders. I almost cried when we went camping in July and there was a puddle in our tent.

Cheryl Strayed set off on the Pacific Crest Trail – which runs the length of the USA (through Oregon, which I did not realise is a coastal state) – with no experience, a backpack that was far too heavy, and nobody to walk with. It’s pretty much the kind of thing I would do – although I do have incredibly comfortable walking boots, and walking poles, when Lauren and I climbed Snowdon earlier this year (pictures below) we would’ve been much less well-prepared without other people’s input. Cheryl had suffered the traumatic loss of her mother, and the breakup of her marriage, and needed something else – which hiking the PCT certainly gave her.

Wild made me laugh, it made me cry, and it absolutely gripped me. Remembering how I felt after two nights’ camping, after the few nights in Australia when we free-camped and couldn’t shower, and climbing the trickier parts of Snowdon, I couldn’t imagine how she managed to get through it. I enjoyed her conversational, matter-of-fact tone, the way she wove her past through the story without interrupting the flow. I enjoyed that she was unprepared and learnt from it. It felt real, and accessible.

While I’m probably not going to follow in her footsteps, I’d love to visit some of the places she passed through, to see those extraordinary landscapes and experience that particular kind of wilderness.

A big thankyou to BAMB for sending to me!

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