Seeing the World through the Eyes of Authors

Elizabeth Hudson
Dec. 12, 2012

When I was 18 I took a trip led by a junior English teacher from my high school. Beginning in Italy, we toured through Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. For three days we stayed in a hostel in the Swiss Alps outside of Gimmelwald, a small and not particularly popular tourist destination.

At 4,472 feet, Gimmelwald was surrounded by cascading hills, immense mountains with deep valleys and Swiss cows and goats grazing all around us. I was in a postcard. We had just arrived, settled into our hostel when I sat down at one of the picnic benches and continued reading "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. My teacher walked up and we started talking about the book. He’s one of those characters that no matter what he says, you respect it. He filled our minds with thoughts of a world beyond the bubble of Scottsdale.

 “I read somewhere how important it is not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong . . .” he said, referring to "Into the Wild." In this moment, my world came full circle.

You see, this journey was more than a vacation for me. It was a pilgrimage. Just before the trip, I’d decided not to pursue playing softball in college, something I had trained for my entire life—eating, sleeping, dreaming softball. At some point, the game transformed. It was no longer enjoyable, it was a chore—a job.

My life had consisted of morning training sessions starting at 6 a.m., a closely monitored diet, practice after school each day, along with travel for tournaments on the weekend. Softball became my identity. The people I associated with, the places I went, the things I did—all related to softball. I began to lose track of everything else in my life.

I decided I wanted an unmapped path.

I had everything, but nothing all at once. I was physically strong from softball, but emotionally weak. I wanted more. Krakauer’s "Into the Wild" presented a character that I could identify with. He contemplated the important things in life, things beyond the material realm society says we need. This trip was my own version of going ‘into the wild.’

This trip was the first time I could sit and just be. That’s the funny thing—you can work your whole life for something, then go away for three weeks and come back an entirely different person. It was the little things—the remote Italian coffee shop filled where I sat reading, or the Spanish Steps at sunrise where I journaled  about the way the sunlight hit the water in the fountain, or the hike to the waterfall in Gimmelwald after reading about its beauty.

I felt alive. I even called my mom and said “I think I’m going to say.” I did return, but now with big decisions about my future.

The self that began emerging my freshman year at the University of Arizona was someone who liked to have deep discussions and express herself through writing. When deciding what I wanted to study, humanities offered me something unique. It equipped me with the ability to think creatively, critically, and especially insightfully. It has allowed me to see the world through the eyes of authors of years past. It’s about being able to perceive the individual stories that everyone carries with them and to appreciate humanistic differences. It’s about inspiring self and others. It’s about recording history, capturing the moment, perception. English has allowed me to explore the world, literally and figuratively. It has left me with a sense of strength I am not sure I could have accomplished in another department.

Maybe it’s my addiction to being foreign, or the idea of getting lost in order to find oneself, but whatever it may be, travel and its connection to the larger world through literature became my fixation. Reading changed my perception and raised my awareness. English made me begin to ask questions.

I only have a few short months left at the UA. I may continue my love of traveling by teaching English abroad, I may go straight to graduate school for secondary education, or I may even decide to join the Peace Corps.

But no matter where life may take me, I want the opportunity to introduce another young person to "Into the Wild," in hope of helping them find their inner strength, no matter what it may be.

Photo credit: Krista Niles

Elizabeth Hudson is studying English and communication at the UA. Hudson's narrative is the result of English 340, a course held this fall designed to teach students the craft of professional storytelling. Read about the class in the Dec. 13, 2012 edition of


Resources for the media