Bill Bryson writes travel books. One notable title being A Walk in the Woods about his personal journey across the 2,100 mile Appalachian Trail to reconnect with his native country (and himself), while reinforcing the importance of conserving America’s great wilderness.
Bred from what’s categorized as a travel book, one would assume the movie would lack any kind of inspiration or meaning the viewing audience might apply to their own lives. But this viewer discovered some profound themes which have been running through my head since the concluding credits began rolling.
The film’s opening shows Bryson frustrated with the current state of his life. Friends and neighbors around him are all growing older, getting sick and dying and he himself begins to feel as though his best days might be behind him.
As we approach our 40’s, it’s common for many of us to begin understanding the fragility of life.
At one point you see nothing but time and opportunities ahead of you, until one day you realize time is flying by at warp speed. Suddenly you find yourself worried about things like physical aging and death, not to mention concerns about financial security in the latter half of your life. The joys of growing older.
In the movie, Bryson eventually decides not to finish his personal journey along the Appalachian Trail as the pair instead decides to go home. And while some might view this as a personal failure, I believe there are invaluable lessons one could take away from this – lessons we should try to remember as we travel through our own lives.
First, many times in life it’s not the end of our personal journey which matters most. It’s all the unplanned memories which happen in between. It’s the courage to begin the journey in the first place and the knowledge to know when it’s time for a change.
Second, as Bryson and his friend certainly learned near the end of the film, we often lose sight of the immeasurable blessings we already have, and oftentimes it’s not until they’re no longer in front of us that we realize just how fortunate we truly are.
Our personal journey exists each and every day we’re blessed to open our eyes. Here’s hoping we take the time to enjoy all the stops along the way.