Roughing It

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By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter, Contributing Writer

DeeDee I sat in the foyer of the hotel and cried. It wasn’t the dramatic, attention-seeking wail that begs to be comforted. The steady stream of tears that ran down my face signified, without a doubt, that I was feeling sorry for myself. I had not eaten fruit in days, I desperately yearned for a proper Diet Coke, and I could not access the internet. And no one could help me.

I was not marooned on a desert island, nor was I in a third-world country void of the basic luxuries afforded by electricity. It was the technologically advanced and beautiful nation of Germany preventing me from communicating with my family in the States and enjoying a frosty, ice-filled glass of soda. It seems so trite, but the lack of computer assistance was the proverbial last straw. Without any other obvious options, I simply gave up and let the tears fall.

Back in the U.S., which was only days earlier but seemed decades away, I belonged to a  book club. The literature we read was as varied as the personalities involved with the group. They primarily pull titles from the New York Times Bestsellers list, but the genres could not have been chosen more inconsistently if a Magic 8 ball had been used to pick the books. One of our more recent acquisitions was a non-fiction memoir by Cheryl Strayed called “Wild.”

Very briefly, this 26-year-old woman felt lost after her divorce and the death of her mother. She decided to confront her inner turmoil by embarking on an arduous, solitary hike along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. Physically and symbolically, she pushed through and kept walking. She didn’t give up even when she lost a shoe and her toenails fell off because of ill- fitting boots; she braved unexpected weather, potentially dangerous animals and a lack of water.  It was impressive, but what was more fascinating was the discussion that our eclectic book group held at the end of the month.

Our venue was a local pizza place and that Tuesday night we discussed the protagonist as if we knew her personally. We felt we could judge her life, decisions, style, and finally envision her future because the act of publishing her book gave us permission to become that personal. Inevitably, our club members always relate the story back to ourselves and how each of us was affected. In this case, we speculated whether or not we would be able to complete a similar journey. Most of us were pretty sure we would not want to emulate that specific challenge, so we discussed what our “hike” would or could be.


The world of hypotheticals can be a satisfying place to vacation. I lost my mom less than six months prior to reading this book. The author’s loss resonated with me and for some reason I was convinced that was enough of a connection. There was absolutely nothing else about her that even sounded vaguely familiar, but during that book-club discussion I confidently said I would take that hike. It sounded exciting and a great way to get to know yourself. It was a challenge unlike anything I had ever considered. I backtracked only slightly by saying I preferred daily showers, but that I could complete something physical like that in an attempt to refocus priorities.

I can’t say I was lying, because I deeply believed what I was spouting. But, the combination of pizza and the great company of inspiring women certainly made me delusional. Less than a month later, I was Europe bound which, by the way, is far from the rugged terrain of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

Clean clothes, coffee, cakes, chocolate and welcoming relatives greeted me at every turn. We were in a small country town for a week to celebrate my grandmother’s 100th birthday so comparing accommodations to those found in New York City or DC would be ludicrous. There were thatched rooftops, farms and cows dotting the scenery. It was beautiful and could hardly be considered an adversity. Yet, when I climbed up into the hotel room each evening I couldn’t help but notice that lack of phone, desk, large window, tub and closet. Only a dozen channels were available on the decades- old TV, there was no room service and the pay-for-service wifi would not connect to any of my electronics. A key accessed the deadbolt from both sides of the door; it had to remain in the lock or there was no way to open it. I was irrationally afraid of fire.

As I foolishly cried over these minor inconveniences, I suddenly realized my fantasy hike in the mountains was taking place in a foreign country. I was not quite ready for that soul-searching adventure…especially without Diet Coke and the internet.

DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of PrinceWilliam County. Her column, “Tambourinesand Elephants,” appears monthly in Prince William   Living.


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