"Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense"
By Krista Schlyer
Skyhorse Publishing, $24.99
Reviewed by TOM HENRY
Krista Schlyer’s first book, “Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall,” was a visual feast. Released in the fall of 2012, it blended skillful reporting and masterful storytelling with incredible photography along the U.S.-Mexico border. It was a testament to Schlyer’s talent as a nature photographer, her humanitarian empathy and her well-rounded journalism skills.
Now comes “Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense,” a seemingly freewheeling memoir of a snapshot in time. But it is a whole lot more.
The book explores Schlyer’s deeply rooted pain after the love of her life died of cancer when she was 28. Schlyer sold almost everything she owned and took to the road in her station wagon with one of her best friends and her dog.
What resulted was a cross-country journey, a cathartic release from urban life and a connection to nature that was formed without a specific game plan.
That connection grew as Schyler’s longing for answers did.
The traveling trio learned to live off a shoestring budget, often camping at rest areas when not inside national parks. They ate a lot of rice and noodles, being as frugal as possible.
The story, though, isn’t about physical obstacles or financial hurdles; it is about finding peace in the serenity of nature — and over time rediscovering one’s soul.
There have, of course, been other self-discovery books and movies done along this theme.
What makes Schyler’s book unique is the braveness and beauty of her writing.
Nature is more than a backdrop, but — as readers get to know her better through this book — they find she has revealed so much of her heart in a wry, moving and unsentimental way that the real story is her passion for life, her grit and her determination.
Her story is at times gut wrenching and at times humorous.
“Over the years, I have learned to find sustenance where there is scarcity,” she writes, noting the soothing power of dune grass under an ocean breeze, a solid rock for a luncheon rest on a sunny peak, the wings of a heron reflected in low flight over a river, the cry of a loon echoing in the silent fog, the rare glimpse of a grizzly bear, free in a Yellowstone meadow, the sweet intimacy of holding hands and the ability to hold tight to memories and dreams.
“These are my needs, all else is adaptation,” Schyler writes.
There’s a certain beauty to every struggle. Schyler reveals that in this book, an intimate — and satisfying — look into her life. Her gifts as a writer are as strong as her gifts as a photographer.
Tom Henry is SEJournal’s book editor, a member of the magazine’s editorial board and a former SEJ board member. He has covered environmental and energy issues at The (Toledo) Blade since 1993.
* From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Winter 2015/2016. Each new issue of SEJournal is available to members and subscribers only; find subscription information here or learn how to join SEJ. Past issues are archived for the public here.