Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’m one of those people that will loudly, and unabashedly tell anyone, and everyone, about my need to leave the United States, and travel. Before this summer, and the three English courses I took during it, I’d never given much thought to walking across the world. Yet, after reading Cheryl Strayed’s award winning book, Wild, walking is all I want to do.

Wild is not an unknown book. It’s been adapted into a movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, and is a New York Times #1 Bestseller, voted A Best Nonfiction Book of 2012 by both Entertainment Weekly and Vogue, as well as a Winner of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award. My review of this book is not to tell you how good it is, the world has already done that. Instead, I’d like to share how this book transformed the way I think about traveling.

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I’ll admit it, I’m not a camper. I like the idea of sleeping underneath the stars, or in a nylon tent, but when it comes time to do it, all I can think about are the bugs trying to crawl all over me, or the wild animals that most assuredly lurk outside the camp, just waiting for me to close my eyes so they can kill me. I’m terrified of the thought of actually living in nature. How would I wipe my butt? Where would I shower? What if my shoes broke, or I ran out of water? There are too many “what-ifs” that hiking for months, like Cheryl does on the Pacific Crest Trail, seems impossible.

And yet, after reading Wild, I couldn’t help but to start researching how to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve spent hours scouring REI’s website, looking at backpacks and clothing (I’ve picked out a pack: the REIGrand Tour 80 Travel Pack – Women’s. It’s blue). I dream about hiking shoes, poles, and endless days of walking. I can already feel the soreness in my feet, and see the blackened toe nails just begging to be ripped off. I want to walk the Pacific Crest Trail because Cheryl did. She proved a woman could survive this, alone (though, to be fair, she is not the first woman, nor the last to hike the PCT).

The main problem with this statement, that she proved a woman could survive the trip, is the fact that she made the trek back in 1995. That’s the year I was born. A lot has changed since then. Hitchhiking is no longer a thing. People still do it, but thanks to movies like The Hitchhiker and the The Hitcher, everyone assumes a hitchhiker is synonymous with a murderer or psychopath. That, or I would assume the people willing to stop and pick me up were murderers or psychopaths.

Another fault in believing I could actually survive the Pacific Crest Trail is the fact that I’m not in shape to actually make a hike like that. Cheryl wasn’t either, but she at least was used to more physical activity than I am. Sure, I walk to and from class, and each evening I go to the university’s Rec center, but I still enjoy ice cream way too much, and spend the largest portion of my day napping. I’ve got muscle, and endurance, it’s just hidden beneath layers of fat and laziness.

Perhaps that’s why I should do it: to get myself out of these nasty, little habits (I wanted to say hobbits so bad). Throwing myself into a stressful, and strenuous situation, like the PCT, should sharpen me right up. That’s what happened to Cheryl. She started her journey prepared for everything, and nothing at the same time. She packed too much, and yet not enough. She found herself on the trail, and was able to shed years of sorrow, and addiction, as well as come to terms with failed relationships that only a long lasting walk in nature can really battle against.

How Strayed overcomes her fears and issues is another reason why I loved Wild. She doesn’t sugar coat her bad habits (ie. heroin) or gloss over the fact that she had multiple affairs. Strayed comes to terms with her shortcomings, and through the stress and unknown of the PCT she eventually moves past them. It’s Strayed’s unwillingness to give up– and let’s be honest her sense of humor– that drew me to her. We all have issues, and it is helpful to hear about how someone else confronted theirs. It gives me a little bit of hope that maybe a good, long walk in the woods could help me clear up some of the things in my life.

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Wild is a book for the wanderer, the loner, and the wild-at-heart. It provides an escape from our own lives, and a deep-dive into Strayed’s. She does not hold back from anything. Strayed let’s us known every thought she has, and can remember, the good and the bad. That’s what makes Wild such a compelling read. As it so eloquently states on the back cover of the book, “Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.”

Book: Wild
Cheryl Strayed
Travel/ Self-help
My Rating:
4/5 Stars

Read Wild  and have a differing opinion? Hiked the PCT and have tips? Want to gush about walking/traveling? Write a comment down below, I’d love to read about your thoughts/opinions!

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2 Comments on “Book Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

  1. Pingback: Travel Essays to Read Before Your Next Trip – Little Slice of Bri

  2. I dream of hiking the PCT, starting in Cali and ending in Washington! It’s definitely on my bucket list. I love hiking, being outdoors and sleeping in a tent. That “not showering” thing doesn’t bother me. Although, there is always a good feeling of finally getting home and taking a shower that is soothing, but also sad; kind of like washing away the remnants of your adventure. I liked this book, and would also recommend that you read “Into the Wild.”


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