The Story of Cheryl Strayed's Hike to the Bestseller's List

Cheryl Strayed is an author of 4 books of critical acclaim, a wife and mother of two children, and owner of three cats. She resides in the Pacific Northwest, living a perfectly comfortable life. Far before reaching an ideal life, Strayed was traveling down a speedy downward spiral. It was during a deep low point in her life where Strayed made an impulsive, completely impractical decision that completely changed her, and plays an enormous part into who she has become today. This is the story of Cheryl Strayed.

Cheryl Strayed was born Cheryl Nyland. She grew up in Northern Minnesota raised by a single mother whom she was incredibly close to. At the age of 7, she had discovered a passion for writing and kept that passion throughout her young life. She attended college and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor’s of Art in English. It was during her senior year when she experienced tragedy. Strayed’s mother had passed away exactly 7 weeks after she had been diagnosed with cancer. Her mother was only 45 years old. Strayed was absolutely devastated and completely unraveled. She began to heavily experiment with drugs and alcohol and wasn’t fulfilling her dreams of becoming a writer. In the winter of 1995, Strayed was waitressing in Minneapolis, when her truck was caved in with snow. She then headed out to an outdoor supply store to purchase a shovel when she came across a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The PCT is a hiking route that spans across some of the most scenic outdoor wonders in the United States. It begins in Southern California and carries on through Oregon And Washington. Strayed, a completely inexperienced hiker, decided to an embark on a 1,100 mile journey up the PCT all by herself.

There was plenty of hardship along the way up the PCT. She faced extreme temperatures and terrain, dehydration, and her body was constantly aching. In a deep moment of frustration, Strayed threw her boot off of a mountain. She then wondered if she could hear anybody laughing below. She then had an epiphany “The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.” (From Strayed’s memoir, Wild)There were several moments where Strayed felt like giving in, but she kept onward and saw her hike through. In 94 days, she had successfully made her way from the Mojave Desert all the way to Washington State. It was during this hike that she learned so many life lessons. “I learned how to be resilient, I learned that even though I was carrying this weight I couldn’t bare, I bore it. And even though I couldn’t live in a world without my mother, I was living in one.”

After everything she had learned, Strayed was finally able to channel her energy into writing. In 2002, she earned her MFA from Syracuse University and had her first book published in 2006. She wrote a memoir about her experience on the PCT entitled Wild, which was published in 2012. Wild became the number one book on The New York Times Bestseller’s list and was chosen as a part of the prestigious Oprah’s book club. Soon afterward, actress Reese Witherspoon bought the rights to the book to make into a film. In 2014, the film version of Wild was released, with Witherspoon producing and starring in the role of Strayed.

Strayed delivers a unique and honest writing style that doesn’t glorify her struggle over anyone else’s, but adds a great perspective. Strayed equates her success on those rock bottom moments, from her previous self-loathing after her mother had passed, to those moments on her journey when she desperately felt like turning back. “What we accomplish is built on what we tried at, what we failed at, and what we hope to do better someday,” Strayed said. Through all of this, Strayed carried on and was able to touch readers all over the world and bring her mother back through her memories, creating her into a beloved character for her readers.

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