Through these miserable days of Covid isolation, I’ve spent countless hours planning out long intricate walking
journies journeys (why is spelling in the English language so bloody convoluted?) I watch every through hike movie and documentary I can find. I’ve read countless hiking and walking memoirs. I’m studiously planning my own Camino de Santiago walk when the world is once again open and readily accessible. On the darker days, this kind of functional daydreaming has lifted me out of the enveloping perfect storm of boredom and sadness.
With travel limitations firmly in place I often walk local trails and routes. Clearly I benefit in a cardiovascular sense, and the vitamin D likely helps improve my mood, but these walks are a poor substitute for the real adventure and scenery change I long for. At some point, it hit me though, that my imagination had some power here. I swapped out my usual motivational music playlist for audio books.
I 100% prefer a good old fashioned paper book to a kindle or an audio book normally. I discovered though, that even for someone like me who needs that tactile connection normally to enjoy a good read, audio books have a valuable place in my life. When I’m listening to a good walking memoir, even the dullest of walks- through the concrete periphery of my suburban neighborhood- can indeed become a journey. I’m not walking down Oak Street, I’m traversing the Appalachian Trail!
Looking for your own epic sidewalk (audio book driven) journey? Here are a few of the recent “reads” I’ve enjoyed
One of the most commercialized thru-hiking books of modern times, Wild was made into a blockbuster movie starring Reese Witherspoon. If you’ve only seen the movie, then yes the book is different. Strayed is a young woman who takes on the PCT, and like any good outdoor adventure story she is facing internal demons as well as nature’s challenges. There has been some controversy and critique in some hiking circles, over how wholly accurate Strayed’s depiction is but ultimately I found the characters interesting, the story engaging, and her colorful descriptions of the scenery she hiked through quite appealing.
In my obsession of all things Camino, I stumbled across Foskett’s audiobook. Full disclosure- like Foskett himself the narrator is British and I have a thing for British accents so that’s why I picked it. As it turns out, it was actually a really fun pick. There are thousands of Camino memoirs out there, apparently everyone who completes the Camino has a need to tell the world about it! They can get a little repetitive sometimes, especially with the historical bits. Don’t get me wrong- I love the historical bits. But one can only read the same bits presented in an eerily similar manner so many times before one starts page skimming. Foskett does the skimming for the reader, and instead focuses on the mechanics of the walk itself (blister piercing, stopping snorers, foodie bits) and some of the colorful characters he met along the way. The result is a fun, informative and often chortle-inducing read.
Pawleski presents quite a different Camino experience than Foskett’s read recomended above. Pawleski’s journey is that of a middle aged woman who has embarked on a spiritual and personal growth path. Her walk is much more aligned with traditional Camino pilgrims, yet is presented in a compelling and non-preachy, easy to follow narrative. Maybe it is because I am a middle aged woman craving both adventure and spiritual growth that this appealed to me so much, but it goes on my recommend list.
I have a lot more walking/hiking memoir’s to recommend in the future but this short list ought to keep your Audible account happy for awhile as you seek out your own epic suburban sidewalk journey.