I was hoping to swap an old book for a new one, but that’s not how this sleepy bookstore somewhere in the Indian Himalayas worked. I’d have to part with some rupees if I wanted to leave with any new reading material. There wasn’t much to choose from, but one did catch my eye. Judge a book by it’s cover and go from there is what I often do. This one had a pleasant look about it – white and pink and with the image of a well used hiking boot on the front. Red laces.
The story was about a young woman, called Cheryl Strayed, who decides to walk over 1000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail , on her own, in an attempt to overcome the death of her mother. The PCT allows hikers to walk from the Mexican border to the Canadian one- or the other way round. Incorporating California, Oregon and Washing states in all their glory.
This book ticked a lot of boxes for me: uniquely travel related with just the right amount of adventure, set in a part of the USA I could easily visualise because I’d been there before. I liked the book. I liked that it was written by a woman, I liked that she climbed an actual mountain to deal with her demons, I like how she took condoms with her for in-case. I like how, since reading it, I’ve watched the book gain popularity and be tuned into a screenplay starring Reese Witherspoon. I like how I didn’t know if it would be a good read, then I wasn’t sure the movie would be any good, and I love that its turned out to be Oscar material.
I feel like I’ve journeyed with Cheryl from a random bookshelf in a Tibetan refugee town in India to her glamorous appearance at the Golden Globes, attached at the hip to Reese Witherspoon. Even more so, Wild has kept me awake at night thinking about that book I’d like to write. I’ve always loved writing, I’m inspired by travel and I’ve lived on 5 continents over the past 4 years. But i didn’t get married at 18. My mother didn’t die when I was 22. I didn’t become an adulterous sex and drug addict and I didn’t trek over 1000 miles to fix myself. 5 continents in 4 years but what the hell would I write about?! It’s a conundrum that’s got me thinking about writing fiction for the first time.
Then there’s the very real issue of having never finished anything longer than article before. I don’t think I could even claim to have written a short story. Any longer piece of writing I’ve ever considered writing has died not long after it’s birth. This does not bode well for undertaking and executing the huge task that is writing a book.
Wild is not about to be the next Harry Potter- read by billions- or turn into of the the great classics. And I’m sure it was never meant to be any of that. But what it has achieved, certainly in me, is a heightened appreciation for the average woman doing something for herself, thinking not much of it, and turning it into a source of inspiration for others.
I am increasingly of the opinion that anyone can be inspirational – just not everyone knows how to go about it. So good on you Cheryl. you were just another lot girl with a bleeding heart who navigated through various mountain ranges all alone and now everyone, including Reese Witherspoon, loves you.