Freedom. Henry David Thoreau wrote about it in Walden. Cheryl Strayed experienced it as she walked the Pacific Crest Trail. Jon Krakauer wrote how a young man encountered it in Into the Wild.
When Ken Ilgunas graduated the University of Buffalo with $32,000 in debt, he feared a life without the freedom he valued more than anything. Defying his mother and conventional wisdom, he endured hardships and life-threatening adventures in Alaska as he worked jobs few would consider. He knew that difficult times, mixed with astounding experiences, would build memories he would treasure forever. Through it all, he penny-pinched himself debt-free.
Now what? he thought. His answer may seem out of character for readers of Walden on Wheels. I will reserve it for your discovery when you read Ilgunas’ superb book, which often made me recall the words of Thoreau, Strayed, and Krakauer.
Ken Ilgunas is as extraordinary a writer as he is an impressive person. His book is an adventure, but so much more. It will tug at your heart, tickle your funny bone, and spark thoughts like “I wish I could do that!”
A drive today along Highway 1 on the California coast recalled another time at this place, 49 years before. My best friend Craig and I, driving in my old VW bug, discovered Hollywood: a TV crew, a motorcycle, and a scene from Then Came Bronson. I would never have imagined that the old beetle named Clyde, my friend Craig and I would (in 2018) become part of a book I would write, Camino Sunrise.
A detour had taken Sue, Gert and me to Castrillo Polvazares, a traditional Maragato village off the Camino de Santiago. It was raining with darkness closing in.
From Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows:
“I was about to suggest that we walk to the next town when an old, small pickup stopped next to us. A man with short, gray hair rolled down his window, stuck out his head and shouted questions in Spanish so fast that I had no clue what he said. Gert talked to the driver, also in Spanish, then turned to us with the bad news.
”He said both albergues here are not open for the season yet.” We eyed each other quizzically, even panicked-looking. A wet journey in near-darkness loomed. We could not be certain there would be empty beds in the next village. Suddenly…”
When I put on my backpack in Pamplona on my first day walking the Camino de Santiago, I worried that it was too heavy for me to carry across Spain. I worried about undressing in front of strangers in coed dorms and bathrooms. I worried about trying to keep up with much younger trekkers. It turned out I had no idea I was carrying things far heavier.