I’ve always loved walking and hiking in nature, away from the bustle of civilization. How wonderful it would be to do that in cultures I’ve read about but never visited…at least it seemed that way in theory. That “what if” is initially what drew me to Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot. This is a non-fiction book by explorer Sarah Marquis that’s very different from the ones we normally review on this web site. If I couldn’t make that kind of trek in person, at least not at this moment in time, I wanted to see what her experience was like. People I’ve worked with have taken off on treks into places like the Amazon, Nepal and Tibet, but none of them were women. I wanted to see what such a trek was like from a woman’s perspective.
Even better, we’re hosting a giveaway for a copy that one of you will win so be sure to enter!
Sarah Marquis walked 10,000 miles across Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, China, Siberia, Thailand, Laos, and Australia – alone. That takes a kind of physical, emotional and mental strength I can only imagine, not to mention one hell of a lot of preparation and planning. She had a support team and sponsors in case of emergency but they weren’t there when she faced predatory wildlife, menacing locals, or raging weather. She faced those things alone. She spoke none of the languages. She knew some local customs but mostly had to learn by trial and error, and keen observation, what was acceptable and what would get her into hot water she might not emerge from. In short, Sarah’s three-year journey was a test of the human spirit, endurance, and stretched her limits beyond what she could have imagined.
“’Don’t you know, gentlemen, that you shouldn’t push me too far when I’m tired?’ That phrase has never come out of my mouth before, but I’m not scared, I’m ready. My eyes don’t leave them, behind my sunglasses. Standing still, focused, I observe them…It’s the only way to make my plan work. I look for the right moment to put it into action. A gust of sand comes up. Now!
Their horses are close enough, too close, I throw myself toward them all at once, arms in the air and screaming like a madwoman, with the goal of scaring them and throwing them off balance…My plan works perfectly. I was lucky they were so drunk, as even a ten-year-old could have gotten back in the saddle in the same situation. They glare angrily, understanding that I’m not afraid. In a way, they lost face by almost falling off their horses. They depart without another word, and I watch as they go…The brown cream sand seems to have devoured them, which means they can’t see me anymore, either.
Good, that’s done with!”
Now I want to make clear that Sarah, who is in her early 40’s, is no neophyte explorer. This was not her first rodeo in exploring new cultures and countries. She had learned through prior trips what worked and what didn’t, but not in these cultures. Her love of exploring was likely inborn since she began local explorations as a small child. According to her web site’s biography, she decided to ride across Turkey on horseback at age seventeen, with the minor detail of having no riding experience not stopping her for even a minute. A native of Switzerland, she’s explored New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and South America, including crossing the Andes on foot.
Her motivation for this trip? To inspire herself and other women to stretch their limits. She believes that we can change the world view, one step after another. And Wild by Nature is a testament to that belief. Despite some tense and potentially violent encounters with local people (mostly men) that gave me chills, Sarah kept her cool and always came from a place of peacemaker. That said, far more encounters demonstrated the goodness that’s inherent in people of every culture – the willingness of people, with so little, to share so much with a complete stranger. Those encounters warmed my heart and gave me hope for our planet.
“Mongolia is like a truly beautiful person. From up close, you can’t quite determine if the eyes are beautiful, or if the mouth is exceptional, but with a bit of distance you perceive a harmonious blend with an indescribable energy.
This is Mongolia. Its beauty breathes. It’s the space, the absence of limits, the absence of everything – roads, fences, rules. The farther away you move, the more you see it. I’m completely hypnotized by the beauty of the steppes. Which surprises even me.”
When I finished Wild by Nature, I felt like I had walked every one of those 10,000 miles with Sarah. I was surprised to see that my shoes didn’t have huge holes in the soles. That’s how much she made her journey come to life on the pages of this book. It’s an armchair journey we can all take and I thank her for sharing it so openly and honestly with us. She leaves out nothing; the good moments, the bad moments, the OMG terrifying moments, the will I find water moments, the will I find food moments (she’s a vegetarian), the health crises and the recoveries, and the doubts and the revelations of three years of walking across Asia and Australia are all included.
Wild by Nature is an eye-opening and life changing read. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year then to get in touch with testing your limits and opening your eyes to new possibilities!
This video is a National Geographic interview with Sarah after Chinese authorities kicked her out of Tibet.
Can’t wait to read it? Wild by Nature is available from your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the link and you can have it to read asap!
I’d love to get your comments on Wild by Nature, Sarah Marquis, and/or this review.
One lucky reader will win an ARC (advance readers copy) of Wild by Nature by Sarah Marquis!
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 1/30/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
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