But Aspen Matis, 25, ventured onto the 2,650-mile path from Mexico to Canada in 2009 — well before the publication of Strayed’s book.
On her second night as a freshman at Colorado College, Matis was raped. She was so traumatized, that she dropped out of school and sought healing in the wilderness. "Girl in the Woods," the story of her five-month Pacific Crest Trail trek, was published last week by Harper Collins' William Morrow imprint.
What was your reaction when you found out about "Wild"?
I had a Modern Love column coming out about my experience in the New York Times six weeks after “Wild” was published. I’d been writing about my experience since 2011 in a writing class at the New School. But then I read [“Wild”], and it’s an entirely different book — and it’s a beautiful book. She has wisdom. She’s in her 40s.
My book is more like — let me capture the state of confusion I'm going through. Hers is a book about grieving the loss of your mother — the shocking, white-noise aftermath of love lost. Mine is a story about learning to love yourself by discovering your place in the world.
I imagine the success of "Wild" made your book a trickier sell, though.
And Strayed ended up giving you a positive blurb on your book.
Lena Dunham also gives you praise on your cover.
Your story differs from Strayed's in many ways — down to what you carried on the hike. She brought way too much stuff, and you only carried an 11-pound knapsack with you.
And yet with so few things with you, you never seemed especially worried about the elements.
You ended up falling in love on the trail with a guy named Dash — and after the hike, you wed. Your book ends on this positive note, but you've since revealed that Dash walked out of your apartment one day and never returned. What happened?
Wow. So you were born Deborah Parker, and on the trail changed your name to Aspen Matis. Matis is Dash's last name. Will you keep it?
In the wake of "Wild" and now your book, I'm sure foot traffic on the PCT will increase even more. To find yourself, do you think it's necessary to take such a major trip?
You don't find yourself at a bar at 2 o'clock in the morning, surrounded by friends. That's where you go to sedate yourself. But walking from Mexico to Canada doesn't magically solve anything, either.
The trail is not a destination. It's simply time with yourself. For me, that time gave me the opportunity to think clearly through my thoughts — unfiltered and redirected by the thoughts of everyone else.
Don't try to muffle that voice. We always wish something could solve our problems for us, but we have to solve our problems directly — be it through hiking, writing, therapy or even good conversation with honest friends.