If you haven’t already realised by now I’m into long distance hiking so I take any opportunity to read books on long trails, particularly the US trails which are on my bucket list. Becoming Odyssa : Adventures on the Appalachian Trail is a book about Jennifer Pharr Davis’s 2005 journey on the 3,524 km (2,190 miles) Appalachian Trail on the east coast of the USA.
Jennifer Pharr Davis is a name I am familiar with through various podcasts and online articles which initially was what drew me to this book. In 2011, Pharr Davis set the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail completing it in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes – a record that was broken around four years later and then only by around 3 hours.
After graduating from college, Jennifer isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. So why not undertake a 3,524 km journey on one of the USA’s best known long distance trails, the Appalachian Trail. This is a trail that only one in four hikers complete. This trail has become more and more popular year by year and now more 3,000 people attempt it each year.
This book details Pharr Davis’s journey on this long distance trail and her interactions with people she meets, the good and the bad, along with the impact that hiking has on her life. Undertaking a long trail as a thru hike is a life changing experience. As is common on US long distance trails, the taking/awarding of a trail name is common. As a classics major in college she had compared hiking the Appalachian Trail to Homer’s Odyssey and regendered this name to become Odyssa, hence the title of the book.
It’s interesting to see the reactions and reviews on this book ranging across the spectrum from positive to negative. In one instance I came across one review calling Pharr Davis a whinger because of her negativity. From my perspective I found this book a very enjoyable read. Having done an Australian long distance trail I can relate to the process of a long distance hike as well as the mental and physical journey people go through. While having a frame of reference certainly helps in engaging with this book, its not necessary. Jennifer Pharr Davis is an engaging story teller and the language and style of the writing is easy to like. I’ve read a number of long distance hiking books and this one ranks as one of the best.
This book was first released in 2010 and is now 11 years old but has gone through several reprints with the most recent being the 10 year anniversary edition while many contemporary books have come and gone. It must be doing something right that it still retains is relevance after all this time.
Two quotes in this book that stood out for me were:
“Walking the Appalachian Trail is not recreation. It is an education and a job.”
“You need to know that the trail can and will change you. Once you finish the trail, your life might not look the same as it did when you started. If you don’t want things to change then you need to rethink the hiking.”
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AUD $26.99 RRP
Becoming Odyssa book
This review was done with product purchased by Australian Hiker