Friday, December 28, 2012

A Walk In The Woods

I just finished reading a great book by Bill Bryson called A Walk in the Woods.  It was recommended by an old (very old) friend and fellow blogger Bob whose blog is one of only two non-boating blogs I follow - Rensselaer Plateau Life.

While recovering from a bad drug hangover (new meds for my back), I ensconced myself in the aft stateroom to enjoy this fine read.  Bryson is witty, funny, and holds the reader's interest.  It's about a couple of middle aged guys who decide to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine. I had a hard time putting it down... well... except for the Georgia-Alabama football game.

I got to this part, at the beginning of chapter 6, and it made me pause.

Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable,ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception.  The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know.  Planetary scale is your little secret.

Life takes on a neat simplicity, too.  Time ceases to have any meaning.  When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between.  It's quite wonderful, really.

You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties;  no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants;  you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation,  "far removed from the seats of strife," as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it.  All this is required of you is a willingness to trudge.

It reminded me of a letter (remember those?) I received about 15 years ago from a friend who was cruising and living aboard with his wife in American Samoa.  Michael reasoned that cruising isn't a mode of travel, but rather a mindset.  Michael opined that one can "cruise" in a boat, a motorcycle, an RV, or at the end of one's thumb.

Look at the paragraphs in italics above.  Substitute "foot" with boat, RV, kayak, airplane, hot air balloon, pogo stick... whatever.  It is indeed a mindset.  Wanderlust.  The mode of travel is secondary.

As my old (very old) friend Bob did, I highly recommend reading A Walk in the Woods if you're considering chucking it all, buying a boat (RV, canoe, new sneakers, cabin in the mountains), and casting off the dock lines.  It ain't all a rose garden, but then again, it ain't a bad life.  It all depends on whether you truly have a cruising mindset.


  1. Glad you enjoyed it Dave, and thanks for the plug. Next on the list: Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir." Gut-busting funny! Linda and I traveled to Egypt a couple of years ago (good timing) with some friends, including her brother. I gave my copy to him and watched him go through it non-stop on a falucca ride down the Nile. I wish I had it to mail to you. As good, if not better, than "A Walk Through the Woods."

  2. I'm heading to the library to get a copy of "A Walk Through The Woods". Have read "the Thunderbolt Kid" and it was superb. Thanks for the heads-up on "A Walk..." Stretch