Book Title: Bewildered
Author: Laura Waters
Promotional Blurb: What would move you to ditch your life and take off into the wild for five months? For Laura Waters, it took the implosion of a toxic relationship and a crippling bout of anxiety.
Armed with maps, a compass and her life in a bag on her back, she set out to walk the untamed landscapes of the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand, 3000 kilometres of raw, wild, mountainous trail winding from the top of the North Island to the frosty tip of the South Island. But when her walking partner dropped out on the second day, she was faced with a choice: abandon the journey, or face her fears and continue on alone? She chose to walk on.
For five months, Laura battled not only treacherous terrain and elements, but also the demons of self-doubt and anxiety. As the kilometres fell behind her, nature did its work, stripping away her identity and guiding her towards a new way of being. At the end of Te Araroa, it was the hard-earned insights into the power of nature, emotional wellbeing and fulfilling relationships – with others as well as with herself – that were Laura’s greatest accomplishments. She emerged ‘rewilded’, and it transformed her life. Source
My Thoughts: I have often dreamed about walking the long, long Pacific Crest Trail up the West coast of the USA or the slightly shorter Appalachian Trail on the eastern side of that country. Dreaming is as far as I get. The actual realisation of these dreams is possibly well-beyond my physical and mental capabilities.
Little did I know that there was an epic long distance walk much closer to home – the Te Ararora trail in New Zealand.
From scanning various walking magazines and websites over the years, I had heard of Laura. Nothing precise, just that she had walked the entire length of New Zealand. That is the sort of thing that sticks in my mind. When I saw this book in my local op shop for 50c there was no way I could resist.
The first thing I would like to say is that Laura can write. She has a very nice turn of phrase and paints clear and compelling pictures of the stunning landscape she is walking through and the hardship she is enduring at the time. She certainly doesn’t pull any punches about the physical difficulty of the trail and the scale of the undertaking from a mental perspective.
I really enjoyed reading about her experience and she accurately captured some of the emotions I have also felt when walking for extended periods/distances:
- The jarring clash and jangle of a city/town when you walk in after spending weeks in quiet solitude in the country.
- The sheer luxury of a long hot shower, the pure joy of feeling clean, and then sliding into a soft bed between crisp, clean sheets.
- Feeling my body responding to the rigours of the trail, getting stronger and more resilient every day.
- The feeling that all that you have on your back is enough. Enough to live every day. Enough to make the most of every day.
Waters includes various quotes throughout her story and I particularly like the explanation of the book title, Bewildered. Apparently American frontiersman, Daniel Boone, once wrote, “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days’. Like Boone and Waters, sometimes I too have been temporarily bewildered.
What I didn’t enjoy so much in the book was her constant questioning of herself and her abilities. Yes, she had some pretty big mental health issues to work through and a long, quiet walk through Nature is a pretty good remedy for that. What she didn’t seem to do was give herself permission to do that on her own. She seemed desperate to cling to any other walker on the trail, including romantic thoughts for a couple of male companions, rather than just walking her own path and giving herself a chance to heal. Maybe it is unfair of me to judge as I have neither walked in her shoes nor walked the Te Ararora trail.
Something that resonated with me was her quote from Sir Edmund Hilary. On summiting Everest he said, “I’m sure the feeling of fear, as long as you take advantage of it and not be rendered useless by it, can make you extend yourself beyond what you would regard as your capacity”.
Maybe walking the Pacific Crest Trail is not out of the question after all?
An enjoyable read for outdoor enthusiasts and armchair dreamers. It opened my eyes to a little-known trail just across The Ditch. Well done Laura for setting herself the challenge, seeing it through and coming about so much stronger for the experience. I gave it 7/10.
Author bio: Laura Waters is a Melbourne-based freelance travel writer, speaker, author and nature nomad. After a decade on the corporate grind, she undertook this adventure, which ultimately changed her life. Laura hiked the length of New Zealand, a 3000-km journey. She left behind the nine-to-five and the comforts of modern life, instead seeking further adventures in the wild. She writes for worldwide publications, including Australian Traveller, Wild, and Outdoor, about experiential travel and her adventures in the great outdoors. She also trained with former US Vice President Al Gore to become a Climate Presenter, and gives presentations to hundreds of people on climate change and inspires others to reconnect with nature. Source.
Author blog or website: www.soultrekkers.com.au
Publisher: Affirm Press
Available from: Book Depository (from AUD$27.84)
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