The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Theresa Fersch presents “Sunrise in Spain”

Where: Concord Public Library, 45 Green St., Concord 
When: Thursday, Nov. 30, 6 to 7:30 p.m. 
More info:

Going the extra mile
Blogger turned author shares solo hike experience

By Angie Sykeny

 Theresa Fersch never considered herself a writer. A security systems engineer from Hollis, Fersch set out on a solo hike of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain in 2015, where she kept a daily blog on her cell phone to share her experiences with family and friends. It wasn’t until she got home that she realized hundreds of strangers had also been following her journey.

“Somehow, it started spreading like wildfire, and I had all these fans who wanted to hear my story and organizations asking if I would give talks,” Fersch said.  
At the suggestion of many of her readers, Fersch turned the blog into a book, Sunrise in Spain: Finding the Good Life Hiking the Camino de Santiago, which she self-published in 2016. The book sold nearly 2,000 copies in the first year, and Fersch has given more than 30 talks all over New England about her experience. Her next talk and book signing is at the Concord Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 30. 
Fersch decided to hike the Camino de Santiago after her husband returned from a six-month hike of the Appalachian Trail.
“He told me how transformative it was and said, ‘You have to do something like this for yourself.’” she said. “I wanted to have an adventure that spoke to me the way [the Appalachian Trail] spoke to him.” 
She settled on the Camino de Santiago — “The Way of Saint James” in English — a pilgrimage from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, over the Pyrenees Mountains and across Spain, to the famous Santiago de Compostela cathedral. For 38 days, she hiked 12 to 18 miles a day through vineyards and wheat fields, small towns and five major cities, staying at hostels at night and using their wifi to upload her blog posts. 
“I was not a blogger prior [to the trip], but I found that journaling was a critical part of my experience and really helped me reflect on my day and capture everything,” she said. 
The blog, and now book, documents Fersch’s day-to-day experiences, friendships formed and the physical, mental and spiritual struggles and transformation she underwent. After she returned home, she went back through her posts and filled in additional details and reflections for a more complete account of her journey. 
When it came to converting her blog into a book, Fersch decided to keep it as authentic as possible. 
“I thought about manicuring it so that my experience sounded more beautiful and I looked like a perfect person, but I realized that I wanted it to be extremely honest and have a rawness to it,” she said. “I think that’s why it took off. What people are hungry for and appreciate the most is hearing someone talk about what it’s like to be human and to push yourself to accomplish something truly amazing.”  
The book is unique in that it includes not just chapters written during Fersch’s journey, but also chapters written before she went, detailing her training, planning and packing process, and chapters written six months after she had come home from the trip, reflecting on what it’s like to return to normal life after such an intense life-changing experience.  
One of the challenges of writing the book, Fersch said, was writing about the people she met during her pilgrimage who would later read the book. After it was published, she sent signed copies to all of the travel partners she wrote about and stayed in contact with. Her longest travel partner, who hiked with her for three weeks and more than 200 miles, came to visit her earlier this year and has another reunion planned for next year. 
“I had to be really honest about my relationships with them when I was writing,” she said. “It’s an interesting thing for them to read about themselves through my eyes, but they all loved it.”
Fersch said she hopes her book will encourage others to embark on new adventures of their own. 
“I’m trying to inspire people to push themselves outside their comfort zone and take a risk and do something amazing for themselves,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be hiking or traveling. It can be something small. It’s about taking on challenges that will improve your life and making your dreams happen.”

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