I came across an article online about a month or two ago and I have been wanting to “do something with it” since then – what I don’t know. Share it? Read it 100 times? (Check.) Print it and frame it? I don’t know. This always happens to me when I read something online I really resonate with, what do you do with it once it’s read? It’s not a book I can keep on the shelf, so where does it go? I’m I the only one with this weird attachment to articles? Probably.
Anyways, I’ve just been going back and reading it every so often and I just finished BillBryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” (Goodreads review) so I figured now was a great time to share.
Ultra Light Lit: Choosing What To Read on a Long Hike by Robert Moor (Powell’s) is an excerpt from his book “On Trails: An Exploration.” This essay talks about Moor’s challenge of packing reading material for his thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. Epic 5-month long hikes: something I absolutely cannot relate to. Struggling to pack books when you have only the pack on your back: something I can definitely relate to.
Moor was headed for 5 months in the wilderness with a distinct lack of internet, so I can’t say that I’ve really experienced his struggle in the same way, but when it comes to the discussion of choosing books to fit your surroundings, I am there 100% and this is a conversation I love to have because there are so many arguments in each direction.
“Among travelers and outdoorspeople, there are differing opinions on whether one should bring along books with subject matter that matches one’s surroundings, or whether one should opt for a sharp contrast.”
In Moor’s essay he talks about falling in the in-between of the two extremes:
He would’ve rather read a book about the exact experience he was having after the fact, yet when the content of his trail reading is just too “diametrically opposed” to the experience it can be too challenging to appreciate. Eventually, he lands on a novel that falls in
between (despite the fact he doesn’t finish it): Moby-Dick. While this might have been too much for an evening on the trail after an exhausting day of hiking, it’s the spirit of the novel that makes it a relatable experience.
Of course, each read is selected for a different reason, who always follows the same formula? I love reading books that I feel like I’ve experienced; a story that is familiar because you’ve seen the setting. But I also like to pick stories that will really whisk me away from where I am at times. I definitely agree with Moor’s assessment that some novels come to close to home to be appreciated: I was disappointed to how unrelatable Frank Kusy’s Off the Beaten Track: My Crazy Year in Asia (Goodreads review) seemed for someone living in Thailand.
Adventure is one of my favorite genres and I have read many, both fiction and non, since being away from home. I am on my own adventure, but it’s hearing about your comrades in travel and their experiences and extremes that make you feel like you’re a part of this group you only fantasized you could include yourself in. Besides A Walk in the Woods, another favorite non-fiction adventure read was Alan Root’s Ivory, Apes, & Peacocks (Goodreads review), about his life in the wilds of Africa. As for fiction, having my own adventure has only made me love Jules Verne more and I finished Around the World in 80 Days in about one day.
Back to my most recent read, this picture of Bill Byrson’s A Walk in the Woods was taken with a view of Khao Luang Mountain in Sukhothai, Thailand where I currently live, in the back. The hike is about 4km to reach about 1,200m above sea level, plus another 500m or so to the sunrise and sunset peaks. We did the hike in February of this year, it was damn hard and Thai mountains are not about those CO switchbacks. But the view from the top was worth it and we spent a night camping (and freezing) to death at the summit. Okay, maybe attempting the AT isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had… But whether you’re hiking or just day dreaming from your living room, I highly recommend Bryson, he is equal parts entertaining, educational, and exciting – click here for my review of A Walk in the Woods.
Khao Luang Mountain – Sukhothai, Thailand