I remember reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed a few years ago, and how I felt so in awe of her experience on the Pacific Crest Trail as well as her personal transformation over the course of her journey. I was inspired on so many different levels, and I remember researching the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail at the time. I remember that I thought I wanted to attempt one of them, at least until I realized I was already working full-time at that point and probably wouldn’t be able to support myself for so long without income. I like to think that because I’m a hiker and avid about the outdoors my inspiration was on a deeper level than the women portrayed on the Gilmore Girls revival A Year in the Life, but who knows. I’ve accepted the fact now that I probably won’t be doing any thru-hikes in my lifetime, and I’m okay with that. But the feeling of awe never really went away, and since then I’ve been drawn to books and memoirs by and about other PCT hikers, and Appalachian Trail hikers too (see my On Trails post here). When I stumbled upon Wild by Nature in the bookstore this past December, though, I think I was in shock.
It was one thing to spend a few months or a summer hiking a trail in one’s native country. It is a completely other (and in my opinion more monumental) thing to spend three years walking through some of the world’s most desolate landscapes in a journey that encompasses two continents! Not to mention the dangers that inhabit each of the countries Sarah Marquis wandered through, and the fact that this was all a completely solo expedition! She takes her love of the outdoors, and Earth overall, to a level that I had never encountered before. I couldn’t wait to dive into this book.
I started reading Wild by Nature on a plane on my way to Texas for a work trip. I was traveling with a male coworker who is in his sixties, and he noticed the book and asked to look at it. I handed it over, and he looked at the cover and glanced through some of the photos before giving it back. “Wow,” was his only comment. If you knew this man personally, you would understand that this is actually one of the highest compliments he can possibly bestow on anyone.
Marquis’ journey is incredible. She faced so many hardships throughout the expedition, but despite everything she remained positive and happy and so grateful about the experience. She walked through sub-zero temperatures and scorching heat, she faced down thieves on horseback and drug dealers, she battled dengue fever and tropic ringworm and a severe tooth abscess, and yet she continued her trek with an amazingly positive attitude. The distance and length of the expedition is awe-inspiring enough without the rough spots; she crossed over 10,000 miles on foot over the course of three years!
While reading the book, I think I was most inspired by her positive attitude, and I can’t say that enough. Many of the sections ended with Marquis offering up a grateful “Thank you, thank you…”. It provided me with a much better perspective on things in my own life. If she was able to continue the expedition and stay positive after dealing with some of the obstacles she faced, then I think it’s time I adopt a similar attitude for situations (not as intense) in my personal life.
I think when I started this book I was expecting more of an adventure story. While it does chronicle Marquis’ solo trek through the wilderness (which is indeed adventurous), I think I was more drawn to the spiritual and philosophical aspects of her journey. Marquis stressed the importance of a simple life tied to nature, and I think this book was a gentle reminder that I need a little more balance in my own life. Things have been crazy lately; I feel like I’m constantly jumping from one thing to another and it’s definitely been taking a toll. At one point in the book, Marquis talked about how your body knows what it needs and gives you signs to signal those needs; all you have to do is listen. I can’t help but draw parallels to my own life right now. I’ve been running, and admittedly stressing, almost nonstop since the holiday season. I kept saying that I needed to start slowing down and taking care of myself, but for January and most of this month I continued to ignore my own advice. So what did my body do? It threw a sinus infection and tendonitis at me, quite literally forcing me to take it easy and rest. And as odd as this may sound given my current condition, I actually do feel better!
As I’m reflecting on it now, I’m grateful that I read this book. It wasn’t quite what I expected but it was what I needed at this point in my life. Sarah Marquis is without a doubt an amazing individual, and I am truly inspired by her story. I’m looking forward to following her story on any future expeditions she challenges herself to.