In the past month, I’ve read two very different books that offer up a similar temptation for me.
For a few years now, I’ve thought about how fun it would be to call a time out on life and go somewhere, anywhere, and explore. When I think about acting on this, most often what I want to do is pack a backpack full of gear and head to a trail and walk and walk and walk.
That is exactly what Cheryl Strayed does in her book, Wild, a memoir of her hike along the Pacific Coast Trail out west, and it’s what author Richard Paul Evans’ main character, Alan Christoffersen, does in Evans’ novel, The Walk.
Strayed’s book was the amazing story of her heading out on the trail without any real forethought or preparation. She wasn’t a big hiker, and she didn’t do any work in advance, such as taking practice climbs with a pack full of gear. She didn’t even break in her boots, which meant she nearly crippled her feet in boots that were a size too small.
Strayed headed out on the trail after her mother died, and Strayed herself began to self-destruct, committing adultery and flirting with drugs in her grief. She knew she had to separate herself from reality, and off she went.
There are many scenes in the book that effectively frightened me away from hiking alone in the woods. She encounters large, scary animals and more than a few rattlesnakes, for instance, but the bigger threat was men; she very nearly was raped on one occasion.
So for this reason, I liked the journey that Christoffersen, a fictional character, embarked on in The Walk. After his wife dies, and his business partner steals his clients and opens his own firm, Christoffersen also loses his home and vehicles to foreclosure. An experienced hiker, he packs up his gear in a backpack, walks out of his home in Seattle, Washington, and heads for Key West, Florida.
Christoffersen hikes on main roads. He stops at diners, grocery stores, and every now and again, he stays in cheap hotels rather than camping out. This seems a safer means of travel that allows for a hot shower every so often and good meals. I also prefer his destination.
In terms of the books themselves, I would highly recommend Strayed’s book. It is excellent journalism and a gripping read. Evans’ book, on the other hand, is only so-so, rather melodramatic and trite, but inspiring nonetheless.
I think my interest in packing a bag and heading for the beach is part of my mid-life processing—and notice I’m not saying mid-life crisis here. I’m just frustrated, and sometimes exhausted, over the work that is life.
I wonder if we have more fate at work here? I wonder if these authors are tempting me to, you know, take off and go somewhere. And I wonder if I will.
I don’t really see that happening, but maybe an adventure is in my future. My daughter has invited me to meet her in Italy in September.
Perhaps these books are a sign I should go?