Friday, 27 February 2015

Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found - Cheryl Strayed

Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found- Cheryl Strayed

I first heard about this book from a friend last year who excitably told me I had to read it, I ended up adding it to my brain's "to read list" and never got round to reading it. A few months later I came across a film trailer of a movie called Wild with the lovely Reese Witherspoon and it suddenly hit me that this was a film adaptation of the book my friend had gone on about. For me I like to read the book before seeing a film adaptation and not doing it the other way round. I learned my lesson from doing that once before when I watched Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince before reading the book, so when I eventually did my mind would not let me get past what I had already seen in the film. Recently after having no internet at home I had a big opportunity to catch up on some reading and Wild was top of my list.

The wonderful thing about this book was that it was written from a real life experience the author had personally gone through. Cheryl Strayed at 26 years old went on a 1,100 mile journey of west coast America all alone and with no experience of hiking. My first thought was that this woman is crazy to have done something like that, but then it dawned on me how incredibly brave and independent she was which only spurred me on more to want to read this book. From the first page I was hooked on this story and I honestly read it over a weekend because I was desperate to find out what happened to her. The way in which it is written is like you are reading her diary, a memoir, she is honest with every word she speaks and that allows the reader to feel at ease and experience her journey with her. You almost feel like you are there walking with her as she embarks on this tough journey. I always enjoy reading personal stories, there is a lot of courage from an author who can write about and retell a story for others to read and judge.

Cheryl was at a stage in her life where she had forgotten who she truly was, she had no idea what to do with her life and doing this walk was a way of finding herself and becoming Cheryl again. After her mother passed away suddenly and soon after her marriage and family started to fall apart, she made an incredible impulsive decision to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Reading the relationship she had with her mother hit me hard, I must have cried several times as she writes flashbacks to when her mother was alive, watching her suffering with cancer and the final moments she had with her mother. For me I know if something is a good book if I can be laughing on one page and then crying from another, because it is allowing me to go through the same emotions and in this case experience what the author was feeling. Being a twenty something woman myself I instantly could relate to certain things she did at 26, especially with parts of your life you might take for granted. There is an amazing bit where Cheryl explains how her mother used to sing or say positive things when everything around them was going wrong, and yet Cheryl would feel irritated by her mother's positivity. When she dies, all she wants is to have her mother back just being who she was and doing whatever she did, which sends the message we should always just make the most of things and that those little things we remember about people sometimes are the most poignant. The relationship she had with her mother is the most significant throughout the book, and due to grieving her mother it was one of the main reasons she initially went on this walk, to be able to find the woman her mother could see her as.

I felt completely empowered after reading this book, there seems to be a common theme with women that nowadays we feel like we have to show how strong we are. But Cheryl writes in a beautiful way of highlighting her weaknesses but also her strengths and it is that brutal honesty that instantly made me fall in love with the book. She reminds me that it is okay to be lost, to have no clue where you want to go in life, to feel completely out of your depth and to just want to be alone every so often. As a woman in my twenties I feel the daily pressures of trying to be somebody in this world, have a successful career, have a family, but also be independent, strong, and try to look good doing it all. Things go wrong in life and things go right, her story definitely makes you look at your own and allows you to see that there is no hurry, just do what you want, when you want, with no time limits.

As somebody who has lived in the countryside most of my life I love every description of the outdoors life that Cheryl comes across. From sleeping under the stars and climbing mountains, to being cautious of bears and being attacked by ants. Her writing feels very liberating and every struggle she encounters along the way you feel it too. It must be an extraordinary thing to carry all of your life and what you need just in a backpack on your back. Our world is surrounded by wanting and having things, but reading this gives you the reality that we are only humans who really need, food, drink and sleep to survive. Nothing else really matters. So when simple things she goes through like being able to have a bath after a week of walking, or being able to eat a burger and fries, are luxurious occasions to her, but for most of us we just overlook them because they are easily accessible to us. Along her journey she encounters some incredible people doing the same walking trail, who are happy to help her along the way. I remember one of my first thoughts about reading this was how vulnerable she might be, being a young woman all alone in the middle of nowhere, and on many occasions hitch-hikes for a lift from strangers. You can be as independent as you want to be, but we are always aware of horrible things that do happen in this world and people who do take advantage. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how little trouble she encountered, but she does have some trouble and luckily manages to get away from it. She writes about the people she meets throughout her journey, and very honestly describes how she feels about each one of them, so if she feels on edge, you do too, and when she regards somebody as a friend, you trust them.

I would without a doubt see the film adaptation after now reading the book, I understand that Cheryl herself was very much apart of the film, and I love that she was involved so much in visually showing an audience what she personally went through. The film also picked up a couple of Oscar nominations. For me the book was a brilliant read which is one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog post about it. I myself know very little about hiking, or The Pacific Crest Trail but that did not stop me for one second from understanding the true meaning behind the book. I got from the very beginning that this was a story of a young woman on a journey to find herself again, who was living a life filled with grief and no meaning and who ultimately as the book title says goes on a journey from lost to found. Her relationships with certain people have only encouraged her to make this journey, and even though you might think going on an 1100 mile journey with no knowledge of hiking as completely reckless, you soon begin to understand why this woman made this journey. This walk allows her to face all her demons, to be able to think more clearly about herself and to just let it all be so that she can start a new life. The message is clear, what do you have to lose if you don't have anything to lose in the first place? It is a journey of challenging yourself and self discovery, because that is what we all want really, to find out who we personally are and live that way. I re-evaluated my own life after reading this and ultimately felt a lot more stronger about what I wanted and who I was.

Of course 100% I would recommend you to read this book. This is not just for people who want to walk a thousand miles or even for those who want to walk The Pacific Crest Trail. It is a personal story about a damaged woman who writes honestly about her life, what she has encountered and her path to self discovery. Throughout Cheryl's journey she has flaws, humour, and a quirkiness that we all know ourselves to have, that is why as a reader it is easy to understand her story and experience it with her.

"I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me."- Cheryl Strayed

Have you read this book before or seen the film? Let me know in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

Elle x

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Thank you so much for reading! I read every comment and will reply back to you as soon as I can xx

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