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Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’m not going to lie; I was not a huge fan of this book. As someone who loves to hike, and has aspirations for hiking a major trail like that, I was expecting to finish this book and feel completely inspired to hike the PCT. Instead, it took me forever to finish this book because for several reasons- I didn’t feel that I connected with Cheryl, which I’m sure is the main reason I didn’t enjoy this book. I also have found that I’m not a huge fan of books in the travel section that have a more memoir feel to them (I wasn’t a fan of Eat Pray Love, either) so I got bored with so many stories from her past. 

Two things I felt that Cheryl did really well was capture the feeling of being overwhelmed in moments along the trail and the way she captured the spirituality and reasons for being in the wild. I thought I would share a few quotes from the book that I feel showed these emotions:

“It was the thing that had compelled them to fight for the trail against against all the odds, and it was the things that drove me and every other long-distance hiker onward on the most miserable days. It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had only to do wit how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and desires, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel like this.”

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“Wet and miserable as it was, the forest was magical- Gothic in its green grandiosity, both luminous and dark, so lavish in its fecundity that it looked surreal, as if I were walking through a fairy tale rather than the actual world.”

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“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And most surprising of all, that I could carry. That I could bear the unbearable. These realizations about my physical, material life couldn’t help but smile over into the emotional and spiritual realm. That my complicated life could be made so simple was astounding.”

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“I felt bot uneasy about my situation and astounded by the vast lonesome beauty. Should I continue or turn back? I wondered though I knew my answer. I could feel it lodged in my gut: of course I’m continuing on.”

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Wild starring Reese Witherspoon

I went into watching this movie with as much of an open mind as possible (I watched it after I read the book), but I did not enjoy it at all. Other than the beautiful cinematography- which isn’t hard to accomplish with the sites of the PCT – I did not enjoy any of this film. I could not identify with Cheryl’s character who seemed self-indulgent people I’ve ever seen portrayed. The movie ends abruptly with Cheryl explaining how she learned so many lessons on the trail, none of which were clearly expressed. This showed Cheryl being ill-prepared and irresponsible and full of complaints. Matt and I found it hard to sit through, which is sad because it was a pretty short film. 

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I realize that people are inspired by different things, but other than a handful of quotes and stunning views of the PCT, both of which you could find with a quick Goggle Search, I didn’t find this book inspirational at all. What did you guys think? Did you find Cheryl’s book or movie inspirational? 

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    soulstoriesbycarol
    March 12, 2015 at 8:02 am

    I totally agree with you, although I only read the book, it was enough to turn me off from Cheryl and folks like her. I have read some excellent books on hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sorry I can only remember one author, and this book is just entertaining more then realistic-but Bill Bryson wrote a very funny account of the hike.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      March 26, 2015 at 5:57 am

      I actually just bought that book in December, but I haven’t read it yet! I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I’m glad that others agreed with me about Cheryl. I felt very critical writing about her, but it was just a struggle to get through both of these things. I hope that I’m never interpreted to be a traveler like her. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and for making me excited to read A Walk in the Woods when I get back.

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