The story of Cheryl strayed has constantly inspired us and we thought we would let you know why. It’s a beautiful journey of love, loss, life and coping with it with brutal honesty. Resha is on a mission to strengthen the voice of women and women like her inspire us endlessly and help us know ourselves better. She is a definition of vulnerability and courage both at the same time.
Cheryl Strayed’s life was thrown for a loop when her mother died. She could not deal with the pain of being alone, that she seemed to be the only one in her family at all distraught, and sought out some unsavoury ways to cope with her pain. She cheated on her husband, leading to a divorce. She got a new boyfriend, Joe, who got her into using heroine as another escape from reality. Finally, after getting away from Joe, Cheryl found a book on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and so began her journey to walk the entire thing.
Cheryl was lost in her life and the PCT gave her some direction. Her worries and stresses had a reason and she met others who were going through the same physical journey as her. She was able to do what many thought was impossible for her, yet she proved them wrong. She completed the PCT and found peace with her mother’s death through her journey.
In her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed hikes 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs all the way from Mexico to Canada. She occasionally stumbles upon fellow hikers, but for the most part she travels alone. Strayed was 26 years old at the time, with a backpack dubbed ‘monster’ as her only companion. However, as threatening as the name sounds, ‘monster’ would not have helped her had she been accosted on the PCT.
One could ask, what would incite a young woman with very little hiking experience to embark on a five month long expedition equipped with neither cell phone, credit card or assault weapon of any kind? The answer to this question is one of the reasons Strayed’s memoir is so affective. She is not a superhero. She is a woman full of grief over the loss of her mother to cancer. She is a woman whose marriage fell apart and, with divorce imminent, she does not sugarcoat her leading role in its demise. She is an everywoman of sorts. She never claims to be a heroine. Unless you remove the ‘e,’ that word never crosses her mind.
Before reading her story, one would assume that anyone attempting to backpack across a large portion of the west coast would have to be an avid hiker or crazy. Strayed was neither. She could be you. It is this fact that makes reading her memoir such an emotional experience. For the most part, we have all had moments in our lives when we face challenges that seem a little too trying, where the uphill battle we face seems a little too daunting. We have all experienced loss. And in our weakest most human of moments we search for something to give us meaning. Strayed’s search for meaning took her to the place that most of us would never imagine going, but after reading her inspirational tale, maybe now we might.
The fact that she did it alone makes this inspiration twofold. Strayed stood at the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon, after months of solo travel across terrain that ranged from desert to tundra-like conditions But as empowering as her story is, the question of safety is a lingering one. As much as we admire Strayed’s accomplishment, we wouldn’t make it 100 feet without assessing every possibility for our death and dismemberment.
Cheryl Strayed is not her real name. She changed her name after her divorce, but Strayed is one that she chose. There is so much symbolism in her name. She had strayed away from her old life and was looking for a new path. The irony of people reading the necklace her friend gave her as “starved” instead of her last name gave it a little humour, but the relevance of her name is significant. Names are of great importance in this book. Cheryl needed to change her name to become a new person after everything she had been through in her pre-PCT life. She had strayed away from who she really was after the death of her mother and needed to find herself once again, and the PCT helped her do that.
Cheryl needed to travel alone so she could really reflect and figure herself out. Being alone does that to you. Being alone in a forest or barren desert must be even more difficult. There is no hiding from yourself when you are alone and Cheryl recognised this. This was a personal journey to prove that she was still capable of accomplishing things and that she could be without her family. She needed to be alone to prove it to, not only the people around her, but more so to prove it to herself.
Fear is something that women travellers have been taught to pack in abundance, along with a few pair of warm socks and a canister of pepper spray. But this negative publicity is giving solo travel a bad rap. Solo travel can also be a test of strength, an exploration of self and and incredibly worthwhile adventure. While most of us are still daunted by the prospect of abandoning deodorant for any significant length of time, Strayed’s story has given us a profound sense of what one can accomplish when the world knocks her down. Not only did Strayed get back up, but she did so with a sizeable ‘monster’ on her back.