If you were to read any article by travel writer Laura Waters (Australian Traveller, Outdoor, Wild), you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s been living outdoors and hiking all her life. A natural storyteller who forges worlds from words, she not only draw you into a landscape, but leaves you feeling as though you’ve walked alongside her.
BeWILDered, her first book, takes all the aspects of good travel writing and layers it with an achingly honest, personal account of the transformative power of spending time walking in wild places.
Not an Aussie version of Cheryl Strayed.
To compare her book with Cheryl Strayed’s, ‘Wild’, would be doing Laura a disservice. I confess that I found Cheryl’s memoir self indulgent, egotistical and whiney – frankly, I wanted to slap her! Laura’s work is nothing like that.
The Te Araroa Trail
Laura’s journey along New Zealand’s 3,000 km Te Araroa Trail, draws her soul across the country’s extreme landscapes from Cape Reinga at the northernmost point, to The Bluff (and onto Stewart Island) in the south, five months later.
Unlike the thousands who are drawn to the Pacific Crest Trail in the US, it’s estimated that less than 1000 people will complete the full TA (as it’s known to trampers) in 2018-2019.
Encouragingly, Laura’s account doesn’t hold back when it comes to the physical challenges faced whilst traversing terrain that has claimed several lives. The extremes and changeability of the weather, echoed in scree-covered, knife-edge alpine routes with relentless ascents and descents, proves that the TA isn’t the thru-hike for everyone. If anyone was to be inspired by her book to do the TA, they would be in no doubt about how difficult parts of this adventure will be.
However, the purely observational aspects of the trip are not even half the story.
Why I loved BeWILDered by Laura Waters
The wealth of this book is not in its vivid wordplay that conjures up a deep sense of place, it’s in the soul baring openness with which she shares her internal journey of self doubt, escape from the lingering shadows of a toxic relationship and her wrestles with the familiar clutches of anxiety.
The bravery needed to undertake the trip, with a looming sense that much of it may be alone, appears insignificant when compared with the bravery needed to share her internal dialogue which at times goes to dark places that most of us keep hidden.
The beauty of BeWILDered is in Laura’s ability to mirror the might, wonder and power of the physical landscape, seemingly effortlessly with her internal conflicts and journey.
The result is a memoir that touched me deeply. One that saw me not only laugh and cry, but helped to shake loose some of my own demons and doubts.
Buy it, read it, gift it.
You can buy BeWILDered by Laura Waters (Affirm Press $29.99) here from Booktopia.