Although by now almost everyone is back to school, summer really isn’t quite over yet. Summer is a time to add personal reading to our regular professional reading and we all have until at least Labor Day to finish up our summer books!
In anticipation of the Robert Redford movie “A Walk in the Woods”, I decided to go back and re-read the Bill Bryson classic about his trek on the Appalachian Trail. This book was published in 1998 so if you read it when it came out, its been enough time that I encourage you to read it again to relive Bryson’s humorous and yet very informative narration of his hike.
I think the beauty of this book is that Bryson educates as well as entertains the reader. Of course, I’m very amused by the characters he meets along the trail as well as the interaction between Bryson and his co-hiker and old friend Katz, but its the description of the history of the trail and the depth of description of the hiking experience that make it worth the read. For those of us who don’t have the inclination to attempt a “thru-hike”, Bryson’s descriptions may be the next best thing. In fact, his descriptions my persuade a day hike rather than a hike of the entire trail.
Perhaps there are also leadership lessons in “A Walk in the Woods”. Sometimes we have to take ourselves completely out of our element and immerse ourselves in something so completely different in order to gain an unparalleled level of self understanding. Perhaps Bryson is also telling us that solitude is good for the heart, mind and soul. Even on the days when Bryson and Katz hike “together” they are not usually walking at the same pace. Finally, I wonder if a little self deprivation helps us to truly appreciate our blessings. In our busy lives we can easily lose track of what is important. What if I didn’t see my family for a few months? I would surely appreciate them more after we were reunited. What if I had to eat what I could carry for a month? I would absolutely appreciate the taste and convenience of a meal in even the most mediocre restaurant.
In the end, perhaps re-reading “A Walk in the Woods” was not only just a fun summer read, but also a leadership and personal lesson in appreciating some of the things that we so easily take for granted. The movie comes out on September 2, so if you hurry up, you can still read before you see it!