At twenty-eight years old, Krista Schlyer sold almost everything she owned and packed the rest of it in a station wagon bound for the American wild. Her two best friends joined her—one a grumpy, grieving introvert, the other a feisty dog—and together they sought out every national park, historic site, forest, and wilderness they could get to before their money ran out or their minds gave in.
The journey began as a desperate escape from urban isolation, heartbreak, and despair, but became an adventure beyond imagining. Chronicling their colorful escapade, Almost Anywhere explores the courage, cowardice, and heroics that live in all of us, as well as the life of nature and the nature of life.
This eloquent and accessible memoir is at once an immersion in the pain of losing someone particularly close and especially young and a healing journey of a broken life given over to the whimsy and humor of living on the road.
Almost Anywhere will appeal to outdoor lovers, armchair travelers, and anyone struggling to find a way forward in life.
Early Reviews: “Outstanding, wry, heart-wrenching and healing. Those words describe Almost Anywhere, which hits the bull’s-eye as a cross between Wild and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Krista’s unique voice will draw you in and take you on journey to the intersection of unfathomable grief and the healing power of wanderlust.” —Michelle Theall, author of Teaching the Cat to Sit
"Brave, beautiful, and utterly captivating, Almost Anywhere breaks your heart and puts it back together again on a long and often arduous road trip across an America where the uncertain future is always just beyond the horizon and the immutable past rushes at you without remorse. Measuring the sharpness of loss against the hugeness of life, Krista Schlyer has found her way, page by page, to a rare state of grace. An amazing book." –William Souder, author of Under a Wild Sky, A Plague of Frogs and On a Farther Shore.
Krista Schlyer is a conservation photographer and writer. She is a senior fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers and her work has been published by BBC, The Nature Conservancy, High Country News, The National Geographic Society, and Audubon. Schlyer is the author of two previous books including Continental Divide, winner of the 2013 National Outdoor Book Award. She is also the 2014 recipient of the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography and the 2015 Vision Award from the North American Nature Photographers Association. She resides in Washington, D.C.
“Over the years, I have learned to find sustenance where there is scarcity,” photojournalist Krista Schlyer writes in Almost Anywhere. “In the bend of dune grass under an ocean breeze. A solid rock for luncheon rest on a sunny peak. The wings of a heron reflected in low flight over the Anacostia River.” In these and more, Schlyer has discovered what it means to walk the tenuous line between exquisite joy and mind-numbing pain. As her readers, we are invited to join her on that precarious walk.
It is tempting to draw comparisons here—say, with John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, written more than 50 years ago. Each is an account of a yearlong road trip in search of an intangible something— in his case, the American character; in hers, a kind of serenity that only “this grand, graceful Earth can give.”
Instead of Charley the standard poodle, however, Schlyer travels with a “big-eared furry runt of a dog” named Maggie and a curmudgeonly friend named Bill. Also unlike Steinbeck, who allegedly fabricated many of his encounters with colorful strangers, Schlyer does indeed meet a number of eccentric types, including a naked old man near a hot spring in Utah. And whereas Steinbeck only talked about camping in national parks along the way, Schlyer and her companions actually do so—in deserts and mountain forests, amid swarms of mosquitos and in the company of loons. Only on those rare occasions when she can convince Bill to loosen his grip on the purse strings do they deign to stay in a motel. This is, after all, a pilgrimage, not a relaxing vacation.
Just as Schlyer’s journey takes her across the breadth of the country, it also takes her through an emotional and spiritual landscape fraught with extremes—awe in the presence of great beauty, desolation in the wake of great loss. Daniel, the love of her life, has died, and Krista must learn how to carry on. Similarly adrift, Bill must reorient himself; in losing Daniel, he has lost his best friend. Having sold most of their possessions, pooled their money, and bought a car, Krista and Bill set out on the road toward healing, and in the process, sort out their own relationship and set a new course. Maggie just goes along for the ride.
Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense is everything the title suggests. Fifteen years in the making, this memoir is at the same time lyrical and plainspoken, laugh-out-loud funny and wise. Deeply moving in places, it rings true for anyone who has ever experienced profound grief. It also stirs the wanderlust in us all, that desire to explore, to get in the car and go.
More than anything, though, Schlyer reminds us of what the natural world can teach us, not just about finitude and loss, about the cycle of which we’re a part, but also about grace.
It is while standing a mere 15 feet from a herd of bison in Yellowstone National Park that Schlyer sees where this trip has been taking her. She is afraid at first, and she should be; at 500 pounds apiece, this herd could kill her in an instant. When she shifts her position between the bison and the river, they shift as well. “I can either think my way out of such close proximity to these giants or draw a halt to my rising panic,” she writes. She chooses the latter.
Schlyer’s epiphany comes when the herd simply ignores her as they make their way to the river. “I am nothing to them,” she realizes, “a moth, a varmint, beneath notice. But they have given me back my life, pressed paddles to my heart and (clear!) drummed me with electric shock. I have not been so alive for years, perhaps never.”
Although she will continue to carry the wound of Daniel’s loss, Schlyer has also been given a gift: the knowledge that, like this remnant herd of bison, grazing as bison have done for eons, she, too, can carry on. In being ignored by the brute power of the universe, she has gained “liberation from self-pity.”
Later, Schlyer is able to put words to this experience. It was at that moment, she explains, that she discovered her vocation for speaking for the natural world. “If the bison can hold on and hold fast to his work on the landscape until the landscape itself is returned to him,” she observes, “then maybe I can rebound from hopelessness by helping him try to get there—however I can.”
Fortunately for her readers, Schlyer has made good on this promise, giving us a remarkable body of work in her photographs and words.
In this funny, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive memoir, Krista Schlyer invites her readers on a cross-country journey from loss to hope. Along the way, she guides us through dozens of America's state and national parks and introduces us to the many species whose land we've come to occupy. Schlyer's writing is warm and witty; self-effacing and honest, she's the kind of writer and narrator a reader connects with easily, even if many of us have never faced the trials that inspired her trip.
The real triumph of the book, though, is the way Schlyer traces the birth of her own environmental consciousness. We see bison, seals, and giant, giant trees nudging back to life and helping her discover the possibility of love and life after death; only by helping save the natural world can she imagine moving forward. Her regard for nature not only inspires, it also makes a great story.
Deep love. Deep loss. In the fog of pain, Krista Schlyer struggles to see her way forward. Seeking solace where trees tower, buffalo roam, and mountains humble, Schlyer faces and embraces life, warts and all, with sobs, smiles, and a quirky little dog.
Award-winning photojournalist and wilderness advocate Krista Schlyer was 28 years old, living in Washington, DC, and stuck in a disabling fog of grief after losing her husband to cancer when her best friend Bill—also her late husband's best friend—phoned and said, "We both need to get out of here. Way out."
He thought we should go out on the road, to all those national parks and wild lands, as many as we could get to for as long as we could manage to stay away. We'd go by car, sleep in a tent, eat cheap noodles and canned beans, whatever it took.
So the two bought a used Saturn station wagon (because it got good gas mileage and they could sleep in the back in a pinch), sold their respective belongings, and hit the road. With them they took Maggie, Schlyer's Corgi-Dachshund cross, the "cutest dog on the planet," who possessed a master nose for expensive cheese and an ability to charm anyone, even Bill.
Almost Anywhere, Schlyer's memoir of that year spent searching for "a place to be both broken and whole at the same time," is a wry and lyrical contribution to the classic American literature of road-trip stories. It is a portrait of numbing grief gradually thawed by moments of heart-stopping beauty: the eerie call of a loon from a north-country lake; the passage of a herd of bison almost close enough to touch, the huge animals supremely unfazed by human presence.
What lifts this tale above other journey stories is Schlyer's combination of honesty and humor, her ability to shift seamlessly from the grandeur of the places they visit to the mundane struggles of two humans with serious emotional baggage dealing with the less glamorous aspects of exploring America's wild places, from clouds of voracious mosquitoes to the chipmunk who stows away with them.
How could any reader resist a story that pins you through the heart with its exquisite truths and also leaves you rolling on the floor laughing? Almost Anywhere is not perfect, but it is a great read.
"I set out on the road to find magic in quiet places to cushion the hard edges of grief, and I have, beyond my wildest hopes. But I am also becoming acquainted with an entirely new source of grief as I come to understand the devastation we have wrought on the natural world." This to me felt like a nice summary of this wonderful memoir by Krista Schlyer. Look for my review soon on ThePeorian.com.
This is the best memoir I have ever read. Most memoirs/autobiographies, understandably, have a "this is all about me!" feel to them, but I never felt that about this book. Schlyer is simply a guide to her experiences on the road, switching beautifully from funny to profound to informative.
Grief is difficult to write about, but Schlyer rocks it. I feel like I took this journey with her, from the crushing weight of losing someone you love to realizing that, yes, grief is huge, but life is bigger. This isn't so much a book about adventures as a portrayal of life, and finding a way to live it. And Schlyer does it in an intelligent but humble way.
And of course you can't have great literature without great characters. It's impossible not to love Krista, Daniel, Bill, and Maggie. The book does get a bit environmentalist at the end, but that's just a small complaint about a book I really, really loved.
Almost Anywhere is astonishingly lyrical, gut-bustingly funny, and tremendously moving. It's a reminder of the healing, transformative power of nature. If you've never felt the numinous astonishment of walking in a wood with no human sounds but your own footsteps, this book will give you that vicarious experience from your armchair. But more than that - it will inspire you to seek out your own paths into places full of beauty.
Oh,and it's full of beautiful scenes from some of the best parts of the U.S. Krista Schlyer takes us there on her own personal journey of healing, of mourning and finding love. Travel with her - you won't regret it.
The most insightful books always seem to come at exactly the right time. One thing that they all share in common is a powerful mix of personal narrative, humor, and the kind of deep thinking that speaks to me not only while I’m burning through their pages, but for the days and weeks that follow. Almost Anywhere will take you on an unforgettable journey through America’s National Parks—some more familiar than others—and deep within the landscape of beautiful lives touched by wonder, tragedy, and ultimately redemption.
There was a lot I related to in this book. The author and I embarked on somewhat similar road trips in 2001: Traveling cheap in a small car, sleeping in rest areas, visiting every national park along the way, and yes, bickering with the man whom I would form a long-term relationship following the trip. When I learned she was 10 years older than I was at the time (I was 21, she was 31) I was surprised. Her perspectives struck me as those of a young adult just striking out in the world. The humor at times felt somewhat forced, but there were several laugh-out-loud moments.
I appreciated her raw honesty about grief, but this theme eventually faded behind a drawn-out travelogue. It took me a while to get through this book, as I admittedly lost interest in the second half. Still, it is an enjoyable read. The author writes beautifully, although the nature writing often becomes bogged down in forced metaphors.
Have made it known that for my memorial- whenever that comes to be -to be read aloud : “If you seek to experience the sublime in life,the force of a beauty so terrible and powerful it tends your souls a weeping wound and then a cataclysmic giggle, you have to be willing to walk where the wild things are, in the stillness between light and dark, between pain and comfort, between life and death.
It is there, where neither force devours the other that the amber glow of dusk rests upon this world. If only for a moment.”
This young lady has a true gift of knowing the human heart’s longing and fears and happiness in the midst of pain.
I've been zipping through books this year, but took my time with this one. There's so much that's really good about this book. After significant personal losses, Krista and Bill sell nearly everything and head out in a station wagon with a tent, a year's worth of rice and sauce packets and a funny little dog to embark on an adventure of healing and discovery. I expected bits about the various parks they visited along the way, but got so much more. The book is at times touching and heartfelt as they work through their pain, but also has its funny moments (Maggie helps with that - as most dogs do). :-) We get a glimpse of a few of the characters they meet along the way as well. Well worth a read! I only wish there were more photos included. I guess I'll have to hit the road and see for myself someday...
The author's unique insights (related to herself and her beloveds, her journey from despair to hope, her understanding of nature and the universe), are all presented in a style that is honest, beautiful and highly relatable. When a book can cause one to laugh out loud, to be blinded by tears, and to come away with a better understanding of one's place in the scheme of things, it's well worth reading more than once, and maybe in a book club. I wish everyone who has been significant to me in my life, everyone I care about, could read this book and keep it nearby to reread from time to time as needed.
A captivating read, serious, funny and entertaining. Krista Schlyer's "Almost Anywhere" is a probing journey book that combines the personal (a journey through loss and grief) with the public - in this case, with a focus on natural history and the environment; the mapping is both internal/psychic and geographic. The book also artfully balances reverence for nature and the seriousness of grief with absurdity, irreverence and laugh-aloud humor, as often as not aimed by the author at herself. Her very three-dimensional travel companions, Bill and Maggie, add enormously to the book's vitality. A wonderful new contribution by an important conservation photographer, writer, and speaker.
I read Almost Anywhere a few days ago, but I can’t stop thinking about its beauty and depth. Never before has a book made me laugh and then cry, and then start laughing while I am crying. This book is worth reading for the funny moments alone, but the humor is a small gift compared to the greater gifts shared.
Beautifully written memoir, captivates the reader. I love the way Krista entwines the past and present in the story, pulling the reader along. I laughed and I cried (a lot!) as I was transported from one amazing scene to another. Thank you for sharing your story, Krista.
I bought this on Audible and almost stopped listening because i didn't care for the narrator. I'm glad I stuck around. I enjoyed the stories, nature references, research, history, etc. The author uses beautiful language to convey this journey. I understand from my book group buddies that there are footnotes that are funny that we didn't hear. I'm disappointed about that. While listening, I laughed out loud and shed a few tears. I recommend this book!
A year long road trip with 2 introverts and a dog, visiting nature sites across the US with a dip into MX. They are grieving Krista’s husband/Bill’s best friend, which makes for all the feels, sometimes. I liked revisiting places I’ve been, and noting some new ones. I can relate to the grumpiness of sharing a small space.
There was much that appealed to me about this book, the biggest thing being "national parks," which my husband and I have spent many years "collecting." And "road trip ruminations" was also a draw since I seem to ruminate often. A funny thing happened as I began reading, though. They started in New Buffalo, Michigan, and began traveling EAST. Well, I couldn't understand that; I live in New Hampshire and we always head WEST when we travel. How could they go the wrong way? But as I kept reading it became clear that they were going to do a clockwise loop rather than counter-clockwise, which we prefer. Isn't it crazy how those kinds of things stick in one's brain? (Still, it would have been great to see a map of their travels.)
The book description said that this trip was born out of tragedy, and in one place, Krista observes, "I consider my life ahead. there could be thirty-one more years for me, or more. What if they are even half as difficult as the past three? My spirit shrinks to exhaustion at the thought of bearing all that could come." (Loc 3801) This passage resonated with me and was one reason I chose to read the book. The last three years in my own life have also been fraught with grief and personal tragedy. The tragic events in her life were over when she took her journey; mine are not, and so I can only hope that I will also rise above it all and continue to go forward.
Last year I read another book about somebody driven mad by grief trying to cope by embarking on a Project. "H is for Hawk" is a better book than this, and certainly less preachy. But Schlyer's account of going through David's death from cancer hits home with me, and her National Park roadtrip recalls past camping trips of my own. She's at her best describing the actual events of the trip: trying to sleep in the smelly station wagon when no campsite is found, soaking in the hot springs with naked weirdos, trying to keep the dachsund from taking on a javelina, spending Christmas with her grandma. When she describes the places she goes, she veers from paragraphs of history that seem ripped from wikipedia to self-consciously poetic paeans of environmentalism.
Evidently the experience changed her life, and I applaud her willingness to be honest about her emotional journey.
This was an inspiring and moving book for me. I will definitely be reading it again as there is so much in there that I want to remember. Not only does she share insight into the beauty that can be found around us and across our country Krista Scheyer also shares her struggle with grief in such a way that I feel would help many who are struggling through their own grief. I rate this book right up there with another of my favorites by Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural Healing of Nature and Place. Highly recommended.
I really enjoyed Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense. I am not a big reader but this book held my attention. I am a sucker for a love story and it also spoke to my curiosity of what we can find traveling the wild side of our country. The places described on the road trip emphasize, amplifies, and echoes the loss ruminated in the book, the loss of a loved one and the continued loss of our natural world.
Not what I expected. I liked the parts about the people they met along the way and descriptions of places they went. I definitely could have done without the long, emotional stuff (I get that it was a book about her healing but some of those passages just went on way too long for me), her ideas on religion (or lack thereof), and her profanity, etc. I found myself annoyed at times. Would not recommend.
"We are all looking for ways to hold on, enraptured by life in all its cruel kindness. The infinite ways that we manage to do that, conjured up by countless forms of life, offer an eternity of lessons in living."
This book has it all, the unbearable sadness of losing your life partner, the joy and hardships of the road, the redemptive power of love, friendship, humor, nature and the devotion of a great dog. Great read.
Schlyer is an award-winning outdoors photographer and writer. Anyone who enjoys visiting national parks, has endured a lengthy road trip, has grappled with surviving grief after the lengthy terminal illness or death of a loved one, or has spent time truly searching her soul to understand this world and her place in it will probably find something of value in this book.
I greatly appreciated this book on all those levels but found the writing to be uneven. Loved the sarcasm and self-deprecating humor provoked by months spent jostling across America in a car with a friend and a dog and a tight budget; appreciated the descriptions of the natural world and wilderness, specific hikes and parks, and learning about new places I'd never heard of that are now on my radar. However, Schlyer seems to often struggle with refining her writing, especially seen in clunky metaphors or analogies that just don't work. Speaking of grief caused by the clash of memories, where one involves an old memory of a group of friends that includes her dead husband Dan compared with a new memory of the same group of friends gathering now without Dan, Schlyer writes:
And every time I thought of that dinner table in Pleasanton, California, and I saw only Bill and Katie and me sitting around it, the emotional pressure surging through my veins and sinuses and eyes made my skull feel as though it would crack. The wildebeest [old memory] will eventually fall prey to the lion [new memory] even as the past will invariably be devoured by the present. That is the way of this life. But when someone whose very existence is woven into the fragile sinewy fibers of your own heart becomes trapped in the past, the severing feels like a tweezer clamping the tissue of your heart and ripping it apart, fiber by tender fiber, leaving nothing but a bloody excruciating mess of a still-beating heart. (p. 240)
It's not that I don't have compassion for this moment or empathy for how such a moment feels, but that analogy needs some work (when you think of a lion severing something sinewy, do you think of tweezers? if a heart has been ripped apart fiber by fiber, is it likely to be "still-beating"?) This is only one example of several places in the book where metaphoric language bonked me hard on the head.
On the other hand, Schlyer is a person with a deep appreciation for the wilderness and a profound desire to discover how to move forward after the paralysis of grief. The same person who wrote the heart-ripping analogy above also wrote these thoughtful passages at the end of the book:
I can see that along with losing Daniel, the landscape of my life, and myself for a while, I lost a romantic view of life, the naïveté that there is a threshold for how cruel life can be. . . . The very nature of life demands unsympathetically that you redefine beauty to include pain. We are the students -- life and death are the masters. The only control we have is the will to see and be affected.
Still, we are drawn away from safety and intrigued by wildness. But in a world where we have dominated, destroyed, or domesticated so much of the wild world, an experience of wildness has become rare. And when people encounter wild animals . . . we want to feed them so we can pet them and they'll be safe for us to be around. But if a wild animal is amenable to being tamed, and we succeed, then we have lost the very thing that attracted us to it in the first place. We cannot have everything; there must be sacrifice. If we want wildness, we have to be willing to let go our death-grip on security. If we want total safety, we will be closing the door on nature altogether.
By the end of this book, I was awed by Schlyer's persistence, her endurance -- physical, mental, emotional -- and her growth. I am so glad she shared her journey with us.
Almost Anywhere tells the story of three people: the author Krista Schlyer, her husband Daniel, and their friend Bill. When Daniel passes away unexpectedly from cancer, Krista and Bill set out on a cross-country journey, exploring national parks and monuments along the way.
My interest in the book was with the national parks angle. Having spent the last two vacations exploring the wonders of Yellowstone, I was eager to learn more about some of the other national parks. Krista and her friend Bill do cover a lot of territory in a year and a half, with the author providing a bit of background and history with each stop.
Krista's memoir alternates between her time with her husband and her time with Bill and their journey together. Some of the best scenes in the book involve Krista's dog Maggie, who accompanies them on their trip. Maggie provides comic relief throughout.
My three-star rating is due primarily to the lack of structure. There isn't a beginning, middle, and end. There's a beginning and then a lot of aimless wandering. Another negative for me was the lack of images and the lack of a map showing their many stops. Krista is a photographer. Both she and Bill took many pictures during their journey. Why not include them?
I read the eBook version and listened to the audiobook. It's possible that the printed version had the images and map that was missing in the eBook. If so, then my complaint is with the publisher and not the author.
I usually love memoirs, especially when the authors go on road trips to resolve some meaning of life issues, or in this case, grief. However, this book was so incredibly boring that I could hardly stand it. Instead of weaving her epiphanies into the descriptions of the landscape, she disjointedly jumps back and forth between sounding like a travel brochure and a poignant memoir. She drones on about the scenery, then goes on about her love, Daniel, who died from cancer. I liked the parts about taking care of her dying lover better than any other part of the book. She even moved me to tears a couple of times, which is why I gave the book two stars instead of one. But, it just wasn't enough. Her "funny" stories were just annoying and she came across as immature and shallow much of the time. The parts about nature were dull and sometimes overblown in their imagery. And, I had no idea until near the end that she and Bill were anything other than close friends who formerly dated and who both loved Daniel. Suddenly she discusses them as if we should have known all along that they were "in" love that way, but if there was any romance between them, she didn't even hint at it until the end. Overall, this book is not worth the ten hours I invested in it.