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Review of To Walk It Is To See It by Kathy Elkind

(1 Couple, 98 Days, 1400 Miles on Europe’s GR5)
Reviewed by Kathy Wilson

After American Kathy Elkind and her husband Jim moved to Vermont and became empty nesters, they decided to plan a grand walking adventure. In her late fifties and moderately fit, Kathy selected the Grande Randonnée Cinq (GR5) route, starting in Hoek van Holland in The Netherlands and finishing in Nice, France, a distance of 2300 kilometres. Her rationale was that this route would be more refined than rugged, offering a better chance of her making it through to the end!

The official trail winds through Europe’s Vosges, Jura and the Alps mountain ranges, so it is not just a leisurely stroll. On longer days, they walked up to 37 km, overnighting in gîtes (simple country lodgings for travellers) or occasionally a hotel as a treat and a chance to rest up in comfort. At times, kind strangers stepped in to find them somewhere to sleep. Along the way, they befriended different local walkers for the brief time that they had a path and destination in common.

Kathy’s richly descriptive writing invites you along for the walk. She brings the scenery, villages, and walking conditions to life and shares her highs and lows as the three-month trek unfolds.

For Kathy, walking the GR5 was also a journey of introspection and discovering who she was as she approached her sixth decade. She looks back on her struggles with dyslexia (that she became a teacher and wrote this book is a huge achievement) and comfort eating, and reflects on her 28-year marriage – did she marry Jim for the right reasons, and how compatible are they, particularly as they enter a new phase of their lives? Seemingly, both she and Jim came away with more clarity and connection, thanks to that Alpine air!

It is an enjoyable read that may inspire sedentary individuals to rush out and buy their first pair of sturdy walking shoes.

A copy of To Walk It Is To See It by Kathy Elkind is available in the Chartered client library for short-term loan.

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