The Movie “Wild” and Finding Yourself in Solo Travel

When I saw the poster for Wild, I was immediately reeled in.

As a solo female traveler, a movie poster featuring a lone woman on the road with a backpack immediately sparked my interest.  Although I wasn’t quite sure what the movie was entirely about, as a fellow traveler I was certain that I had to see it and discover for myself.

Wild is about Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) and her journey on the pacific crest trail, starting from the Mojave Desert and ending in the National Parks of Oregon.  While this movie showcases the splendor of America’s rugged pacific coast, it’s not a picture perfect,  self-discovery type travel epic filled with epiphanies and life’s splendor.  It’s a movie about cold nights spent in a tent; the weight of a backpack digging into your skin, suffering from dehydration in the sun, ripping a toenail off your bloody foot and eating cold food for days on end..

…basically, it’s about what traveling in the outdoors is really like.

It’s not a movie about standing at the top of a mountain and finding the true meaning of life.

It’s a movie about standing at the top of a mountain and saying ‘fuck you’ to the world (as she literally does in the opening scene of the film).

Cheryl has a tumult of trauma in her life.  Ever since the sudden passing of her mother, Cheryl began to cheat on her husband, fell into the drug scene where she became an addicted heroine fiend and eventually divorced her loyal and caring husband due to mental trauma and stress.  Her life hit rock bottom, and as she so elegantly phrased it herself:  “I have become a piece of shit.”

One day, while passing through a shop in town, she saw a book for the Pacific Crest Trail resting on a shelf.  This one glance at a book–a book for a destination she probably never imagined going before–would change her entire life.

She sold all of her belongings and bought a giant backpack.  In an effort to find recovery, to find meaning, to find forgiveness and–most of all–“the woman her mother raised her to be,” Cheryl looked to the open road.

It’s not a movie about travel, and beauty, and the world.

It’s a movie about how the road–the journey of travel–can change you.

Finding Solace in Solo Travel

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Traveling is a beautiful art.  Traveling with friends, family and loved ones is a wonderful opportunity to make unforgettable memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

But solo travel is how you heal the soul.  Solo travel into a foreign land and a different culture changes your perspective of the world–and your life.  It allows you take in your surroundings uninterrupted, to merge your thoughts with the world and reach a sense of meditation and peace you could never hope to achieve in a five star hotel, in yoga, in a spa–it’s a raw and honest experience of enlightenment.

When I turned 27 in Shanghai, I felt lost.  I had just broken up with a good, honest man that proposed to me.  We dated for two years.  At the time, I was 27 years old and I was starting to feel the pressure of age.  Even though I was almost 30, I hadn’t achieved all of the great dreams I imagined for myself when I was in my college years.  I wasn’t married yet, I wasn’t working my dream job, and I wasn’t the successful woman I had envisioned myself to be.  I had a quarter life crisis at 27, so I did the most sensible thing possible:

I booked a flight to Bali for one.

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Out of all my travels, the Bali trip is burned into my brain.  I went to Bali with my chest full of stress, worry and sorrow.  I was a walking bomb of anxiety waiting to burst.  I was utterly without direction and purpose. I didn’t know anything about Bali, other than it was a major destination for the movie “Eat Pray Love.”

Yet Bali healed me.  Bali literally means “medicine” in the local language, and that’s exactly what it was for me.

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As a solo traveler in Bali, I felt every sliver of the sunset’s rays and I soaked in every inch of its yellow, red and orange hues.  I felt the sand beneath my toes, every single grain.  When I wandered the streets, I noticed the hardworking women cooking food in their homes.  I saw the men sitting on the streets, petting their cocks and smoking into the turquoise sky of an island escape.  I looked to the green of the rice fields, and in every green stalk I saw the heart of the people.

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In these moments of solitude in Bali, I was able to find peace within myself.  Life was no longer about falling short of goals or being left behind in the giant race for corporate glory of social status.

Life was just about me, what I wanted, what motivated me and what made me happy.

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As a solo traveler, every step of the journey synched with my thoughts.  Throughout my stay in Bali, I saw my life unwind before me.

Solo travel is unfiltered travel.  Solo travel means battling the demons of loneliness, insecurity, and worry–but it’s also the triumph of overcoming obstacles, facing your fears, and taking solace in the beauty of the world.

Everyone Should Solo Travel At Least Once in Their Lives–and See Wild

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Solo travel, to me, is a mark of strength, independence, endurance, and most of all:

It’s the best way to discover who you are, and what you want.

And as for “Wild,” I think non-travelers will find themselves drawn to the open and raw pain of Cheryl and her strenuous journey on a grueling, 2,000 mile trail.

For travelers, despite the blood, pain, hunger and discomfort, it will evoke a sense of wanderlust to drop everything and hit the open road.

4 thoughts on “The Movie “Wild” and Finding Yourself in Solo Travel

  1. hanna says:

    Thank you for this woderful post. Travelling, going to a new place and experiencing new things has a healing effect on me, too. And I guess, when you travel solo, this feeling can be much more intense.

  2. R Zhao says:

    Happy to have just stumbled on your blog.

    I CAN’T WAIT to see this movie. I read the book and it really resonated with me. I’ve traveled alone a lot and while I don’t know if traveling alone is for everyone, I do think it’s something everyone should try. You can really learn a lot about yourself and connect to the places and people around you in a different way than you would if you were traveling with other people.

    • rubymary says:

      I heard the book is way more intense than the movie! Other audience members said the book made you really feel bad for Cheryl, and it also showcased just how challenging the PCT is!

      I don’t think traveling solo is for everyone, but I think even a one time trial would be quite life changing. It’s a very self-reflective experience.

      I’m happy to find YOU! I love your blog, I’m so amazed that you have a family in China! That visa post I read really made me feel for you! So much red tape, but you’re handling it great 😉

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