The Way, a movie you should see if you have one hiking bone in you

I feel like I should open with some sort of public apology because it’s been so long since I posted. Life continues to keep our family insanely busy. We are still trying to sell our “other” house and because of that we have been spending a lot of time painting, coordinating repairs, and generally just running between both houses (btw we could totally use all the good vibes/prayers/thoughts you can send us for it to sell so that our lives can go back to normal with more free time and just one set of bills!). Hiking hasn’t been happening. But on this blog I like to review both dog and hiking related stuff so I feel it’s totally appropriate to tell you about this movie I just watched. It comes out today and I feel it will be well received by those of us who are backpackers on long distance trails, but I also feel it will help show to those who haven’t caught the bug for this sort of long hike/backpacking what others see in the activity.

The Way, starring Martin Sheen, a film by Emilio Estevez, will take you to trail life. Seriously.  If you haven’t ever walked a long trail, or done any long distance backpacking/hiking then this is an opportunity to see what it’s like. My opinion is based on my personal experience section hiking the Appalachian Trail or A.T. for short (which I really need to blog about…) and I found that the trail experience portrayed in The Way is pretty similar to the AT. I found that the camping experience I had meeting travelers on the Natchez Trace was also similar in it’s own way, indicating to me that these type of traveling pursuits either draws out the quirkiness of human nature, or it attracts people who are dealing with the same issues no matter what trail they venture onto.

The Way is such a beautiful movie. It had me grabbing for pen and paper no more than 5 minutes into the movie. The quote that got me was

“My life here might not seem like much to you, but it’s the life I choose.” –dad (Tom) “You don’t choose a life dad. You live one.” –Daniel.

There is also the moment when Tom exits the hotel with his pack on for the first time and says “Okay. Here we go.” Then promptly walks off the wrong way. Everyone who’s ever slung a pack on for a long trek knows that pep phrase, and that common mistake of thinking you know where you are going. If you haven’t taken a wrong turn at least once, then you are not taking enough chances or having enough fun.

There are innumerable YES moments in this film where the YES! translated to “Yes, that is exactly what it was like, except I wasn’t in Spain.” For example his first experience sleeping in a communal hiker environment… the snoring, the crumpling wrappers, the probable smell. Sleeping aids (whatever your flavor) and ear plugs are sometimes all that saves you.

Aside from my own reminiscence of my own trail experience, there is a lot to be had for the non-hiker in this film. First of all, knowing what it is that motivates people… maybe you’ve had a child or sibling or friend set off on a long hike. You thought they were insane. You were not supportive (or supportive enough). Watching this movie might help you see it from their side… what you see here is an accurate example of the friendships, bonds, enjoyment, and experiences that are had by hikers and what they hope to gain from these type of trips. Also, there is great music. The sound track is perfect.  The scenery is pretty and invites you to feel like you are there with them. The movie manages to also capture so many of the quintessential “hiker moments.”

  • The moment when you meet a crazy person who you’d like to think is tripping on acid but you realize they are sober and that’s almost scarier than if they were on drugs (See Jack entrance scene).
  • The moment when you almost are about to have a potty accident trying to get to a proper toilet (See also Jack).
  • The moment when you indulge too much because you’ve been without for too long (See Tom in at least one scene and Joost in almost every food scene).
  • The moment you realize you’re alone with your thoughts, and the birds/animals, and the wilderness and begin to beat the heck out of your bag or anything else within hiking stick range out of pure frustration or anger (See also Jack).
  • The moment when you meet a nasty person who actually turns out to be a decent human being whose been saddled with unfortunate baggage. (See Sarah)
  • The moment when you realize you will have to pee or change clothes in front of men because your outnumbered anywhere from 1:4 to 1:10 out there on the trail. So long as they turn their back then everything’s cool 🙂  (See Sarah).

One other thing that I appreciated about this film is that it depicted older hikers (ahem, ahem) and not “just out of grad school with nothing to do in my early twenties kids.” Yes, there are TONS of those, but I’ve seen enough of them in film and in books about Trail Life. It’s about time that someone reflected authenticity on these trails. There are tons of us in our 30s-70s trudging away and our stories have complexity and colors to it that cannot be captured in the fresh faces of children who haven’t set out in the world and failed or stumbled yet. The main group of hikers in this film seem pretty accurate to the type of people I ended up hiking with.

I cannot say enough good things about this film. I hope everyone I know will watch it, be moved by it, and either be inspired to do a long hike of their own or do some more traveling regardless of mode of transportation and be very understanding to those of us who undertake such hikes in our own lifetimes. I am always saddened deeply to hear of a hiker whose family turns their back on them when they set off to fulfill a lifetime goal of a long distance trail. If you don’t have a hiker in your life you’d be surprised how often it happens. There are thankfully, lots of supportive understanding people out there, but there are also a lot of close minded “You’re being selfish! You’re being stupid!” people out there. Even when I did my last 9 day trek on the AT a “friend” who was an extremely successful businesswoman who I admired in the animal rescue community online gave me a thoroughly nasty lecture about how selfish and stupid I was. It made me realize how ignorant (she said I’d end up like that guy stuck in the rock canyon in the movie 127 hours… she needed a basic geography class I think…), close minded, and judgmental she was. She’s no longer someone I admire or look up to. But at least it was not a family member.

If you want to know more about The Way (also known as The Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James) please check out some of these resources:

To see more about the movie check out:

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2 Responses to The Way, a movie you should see if you have one hiking bone in you

  1. I live just off the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain. I’ll be interested to find out more about this movie..

  2. I really liked your story on the the film “The Way.” I thought it was a really terrific movie too, so much so I might seriously consider making the trek next year. It truly was a wonderful and inspiring story. I wrote a little about it too at

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