To start off, I’ll say: No, I have not read ‘Wild.’
I have not read the book that might be stoking a surge of new thru-hike attempts this year. (It’s on my library hold queue, though!) I hadn’t really heard of it until my friend Elly Blue asked, “Have you read Wild?” I sounded a bit stupid saying no. She made it seem like I might be the only one who hasn’t. I might be.
I’m not sure I’ll need to read it, though, to find out what it’s about.
I travel a lot. I go on trips because of an overwhelming urge to get away from the usual grind. It’s the way I’m wired. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been on the move. A drastic move at age 5 from New Hampshire to Alaska, changing homes and schools 30 times by the time I was 18, moving to Portland at 15, jetting off to France for a week at 16 because of a dare in high school French class, driving back and forth across the USA a couple times in my 20s, a travel nurse career moving me from Vermont to Oregon and then all through Oregon and Portland, bike touring, spontaneous overnighters. Many, many hotel rooms. Many, many countries. Tents, too. Lots of pine needle beds and sore backs. I sort of tried staying put, but basically…
I feel more comfortable anywhere else. But especially in the woods.
Bill Bryson, traveler and author of “A Walk in the Woods” said,
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
I love this quote. I think it’s very telling that when I think of past travels, I remember feeling very comfortable. The pace of appreciation for little things is slower and just feels joyous.
When I met a happy-looking bunch of PCT hikers in 2010, I got hooked on the idea of exploring that trail. They were all miserable but you couldn’t tell at all; all they did was smile and beam joy. I was camping on the trail (having ducked into the woods with my bike) for a week, meeting various hikers, and just romanticizing ditching my bike (which was not allowed on the trail). I wished I didn’t have my bike (and the hikers wished they had my bike!) I don’t think even if I could have a bike on the trail, I would camp that way. I love mountain biking, but there’s something about being on foot that is so much more free and real. I feel more able to do anything, any time. You know how they say life moves much more slowly (as compared to from a car) when on a bike? Well, it moves even more slowly, and carefully, on foot.
That is why I am walking and not biking this time.