There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society where none intrudes, By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less, but Nature more. ~ Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s pilgrimage
my latest indulgence in film and book have very similar themes: on travelling miles and miles on foot with the final result of finding oneself amidst the journey. both were awesome! Wild (2014) caught my attention already by its movie trailer. Reese Witherspoon. hiking. nature. a past to forget. What more could one ask for?
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (by Rachel Joyce) took me around 5 days to finish, mainly because i had other activities and meet ups with my friends; but it was utterly engaging and I would have finished it within a day of two otherwise. Harold is such an endearing character. The story starts with his seemingly mundane post-retirement life, where one day he receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessey, who was diagnosed with terminal head and neck cancer, currently in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, which was up north, while he stayed at the far south of England in Kingsbridge. The author has kindly attached a map at the end of the book to faciliate readers like me who have no idea where is where in the UK!
By a mysterious twist of fate which started off as simply going out to mail his reply to Queenie via post, he decided to walk his way up to meet Queenie, and “I will keep walking and she will keep living”. But as the story goes on, one comes to realise that Queenie is probably not the one requiring saving; but Harold himself. Throughout the journey, Harold’s story, his relationship with his wife and sons, his regrets, mistakes and actions in the past that have haunted him slowly unravel, and he starts to come to terms with them.
I guess many other books carry similar themes; like Lord of the Rings and the 9 hour long journey to destroy the ring in the fires of Mordor (Samwise Gamgee: I can’t carry it (the ring) for you, but I can carry you!), the Alchemist…
I don’t hike as much as I would like to, mainly due to studies, but hiking has been greatly therapeutic and eye opening for me. Sunset Peak had the most stunning view I had ever seen in Hong Kong, while the hike in Bako National Park 2 years ago in Sarawak was refreshing though what we saw was mainly that of the tropical rainforest (at least it proved that I had at least some stamina despite having a super sedentary lifestyle since the beginning of med school). Hiking is like going on a pilgrimage of my own. It gives me time to think, reflect, explore, and enjoy the nature which God marvellously created. I don’t have that much issues as compared to Cheryl Strayed and Harold Fry, but I feel their stories resonating with mine as I see their past flash through their eyes. I still don’t really know what does it mean to “find myself” in the wild; but exploring new places always reminds me how big and wonderful the world is, and how small me and my problems are. am really itching to travel more but of course there are many limitations (monetary, parents’ insecurity, time…). oh well. in the mean time you can check out my secondary school classmate’s travel experiences here! she writes really well and her adventures are inspiring. 🙂
Updates on Thailand trip soon! waiting for friends to finish uploading their DSLR-quality photos 😉