Wild by Nature by Sarah Marquis

In brief: The story of Sarah’s walk (yes, walk) from Siberia to Australia – through snow, heat, storms and interruptions you would have dreamed about. It’s a unique adventure through a range of landscapes.

The good: Fascinating as to how people live and the barriers overcome.

The not-so-good: Some sad parts and scary parts for Sarah.

Why I chose it: Thank you to Allen and Unwin for the copy.

Year: 2016

Pages: 259

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Setting: Australia, Thailand, Mongolia, China, Siberia & Laos

Sometimes a book just appears in your life at exactly the right moment. Stuck in an indecisive rut, I couldn’t decide what to read but on receiving a copy of Wild by Nature, I opened it and read the first page, then another until before I knew it I’d read 50 pages. It’s a gripping and surprisingly spiritual story of one woman’s journey across the world on foot.

Sarah Marquis isn’t a stranger to exploring though – she’s National Geographic’s explorer of 2014, having walked across Australia, South American and done the Pacific Crest Trail. Yet this journey across six countries tested this experienced explorer to her limits in so many ways. What really intrigued me about Wild by Nature is that it’s told completely differently to the other travel memoirs I’ve read. It’s not a day by day blow by blow diary but rather a focus on the people of the region, barriers encountered and problems solved as well as a reflection on humanity itself. As she walks, Sarah has time to contemplate why humans do what we do, what we have lost living in the big cities being stuck on computers. She is someone who is truly in love with nature and incredibly experienced at being able to choose the best path and closest water simply by surveying the landscape. She is a woman to be admired for her strength – this is truly girl power at its best.

As Sarah writes about her journey, she meets problems that I would never have dreamed about. For example, thieves in Mongolia harassed her every night until she was forced to sleep in drained just to get a moment’s peace. In China, her Blackberry was stolen, then mysteriously returned. And how do you deal with the border police when you don’t know the language? Or when the desert is devastatingly hot or the terrain covered in snow? What do you do when you have dengue fever in the wilderness, far from anywhere? Or your closest companion dies when you’re thousands of kilometres away? Sarah deals with the setbacks incredibly well, pragmatically but allowing herself to grieve, rage and just simply feel. If you’re interested in mindfulness, you will find this book interesting in its thoughts and ideas on nature. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, there will certainly be a number of times you’ll be on the edge of your seat!

Another part of Sarah’s story that I respected was her ability to accept help when needed. It may have been from a stranger or it may have been when the terrain or her body let her down. Rather than trudging on in situations that were dangerous, she was brave and decided that things couldn’t carry on as they were. Yes the journey would be interrupted, but these decisions only made me admire her more.

I must admit that I was particularly interested in the last leg of Sarah’s journey, from Perth southwards to the Nullarbor Plain because I’m so familiar with that area. It didn’t disappoint and I’m impressed at the logistics at getting everyone to that remote spot! That section also brought the Aussie ‘lend a hand’ spirit to light and I couldn’t have been prouder when Sarah made it to her special tree on the Nullarbor. It brought a tear to my eye.

I loved this combination of adventure, memoir and reflection on self and the human spirit. Wild by Nature is inspiring at what just one person can achieve.

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