'Friendly Friday Challenge', Books, Travel, What's On Your Bookshelf?

What’s On Your Bookshelf Meets Friendly Friday Challenge: Favourite Travel Book

My husband accuses me of having had a humour bypass. I swear that man laughs at everything. And don’t get me started about his reaction to Far Side. His single glance at that Gary Larson cartoon can make someone in the other room rush to call 911. Me? I smile in my mind. Sometimes.

But there is one exception. Bill Bryson’s travel memoir, A Walk in the Woods, Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. I’ve learned not to read that book in public places – especially not in a library, a coffee shop, or a crowded bus. Although I’ve read it numerous times, that book continues to make me snort with laughter. And that’s simply not pretty!

If you’ve seen the movie but not read the book, please forget everything you know about it. The wit, banter and droll self-deprecation did not transfer well to that film (IMHO). A Walk in the Woods chronicles Bryson’s attempt to hike the 2,100 mile-long (3,379.6 km) Appalachian Trail with Katz, Bryson’s unprepared, out-of-shape, polar opposite sidekick. A Walk in the Woods doesn’t only make me laugh, Bryson’s extensive knowledge of the trail’s history, his pointed questions, and his raising of environmental concerns always make me stop and reflect (and slide down a rabbit hole or two, of course).

Now, here’s a thought to consider. Every twenty minutes on the Appalachian Trail, Katz and I walked farther than the average American walks in a week.

A Walk in the Woods, 1998, p. 128

According to the Mayo Clinic, although Bryson’s findings are a bit outdated, the current results remain sobering. Here’s a more worldwide view.

A Walk in the Woods also propelled me on a scenic journey through the majestic wilderness of the Appalachian Trail. I so wanted to be there…but without carrying days worth of food or my bed. And then, of course, there’s Bryson’s obsession about being eaten by a bear – which I have to admit would also cross my mind.

Black bears rarely attack. But here’s the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but – and here is the absolutely salient point – once would be enough.

A Walk in the Woods, 1998, p. 23

I am a big believer that long-distance hiking (and any hiking, really) changes a person not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Bryson brilliantly captures this as well.

I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists.

A Walk in the Woods, 1998, p. 274

Do you have a favourite travel book? Why not join us at Friendly Friday Challenge/What’s On Your Bookshelf and share it with us?

Friendly Friday Challenge

The Friendly Friday Challenge is a fortnightly challenge co-hosted by Sandy from The Sandy Chronicles, Amanda from Something to Ponder About and Sarah from Travels with Me.
You can learn more about the Friendly Friday Challenge here.
‘Friendly Friday’

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

What’s On Your Bookshelf is a monthly link-up co-hosted by Debbie (Deb’s World), Jo (And Anyways), Sue (Women Living Well After 50) and Donna (Retirement Reflections). #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

Sue, Jo, Debbie and I have been delighted to co-host this one-time combo challenge with Friendly Friday Challenge and What’s On Your Bookshelf. To join us and showcase your favourite travel book, you can share in the comments, pingback with your own post, or use the handy InLInkz bar below. Please be sure to tag both challenges (‘Friendly Friday’ and #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge). We look forward to hearing your thoughts as well as your travel book suggestions!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
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101 thoughts on “What’s On Your Bookshelf Meets Friendly Friday Challenge: Favourite Travel Book”

  1. This is so good Donna, you’ve summed up perfectly what a good travel book should make you feel! I have read Bryson’s Australian book and some others but not this particular one. It’s been great to join in with the Friendly Friday challenge and i look forward to reading everyone’s posts. By the way, your sense of humour is perfectly intact IMHO 🙂

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    1. Hi, Debbie – Thank you for this uplifting comment and the morning smile! My son previously left me a copy of BIll Bryson’s ‘Down Under.’ I haven’t yet read it but I have now moved it to the TBR pile (conveniently located near my bed). 😀 I believe that that is the same book as “Australia” and “In a Sunburned Country”. Although I LOVE Bill Bryson, I don’t love when authors/publishers change book titles for different locations. Just choose one universal title and stick with it! (Rant now over). Thank you for cohosting and coguesthosting. It’s a fun adventure!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Donna
    I completely agree with Bryson on how walking in the huge landscapes of our world puts life in perspective. It also astonishes me how few people get out walking. It’s a free activity which offers health benefits, entertainment and education.
    Thanks for sharing your favourite travel book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Janine – DItto-ditto from me as well. It is truly incredible what walking does for our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits. It is overwhelmingly powerful — if we allow it to be. It also helps us to really explore an area in a way that no other form of travel can quite match. It’s something that most people can do in their own way and own speed (there is certainly no ‘right’ way to walk – just multiple options. And as you say, it’s free. Win-win-win-win! Thank you so much for commenting.

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  3. It is a marvellous book isn’t it? I also saw the film on a holiday flight. I’m a big Bill Bryson fan. His writing skills and sense of humour are second to none. I looked up some of his best quotes and they are so clever and funny.

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    1. Hi, Paul – I’m totally with you on Bill’s best quotes. Just reading the quotes alone can have me roaring with laughter — tears in my eyes — the whole works. As you say, he’s a very clever man — and wickedly funny! Thank you so much for stopping by. I greatly appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bill Bryson has a great sense of humour and writes wonderful travel books. One of my favourite travel books is Sand Dance by Bruce Kirkby. His description of the desert and the camels are amazing and inspired me to write my first Amanda Travel book. He has written other travel books as well. Thank heaven for hubbies with a good sense of humour. I have one too.

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    1. Hi, Darlene – Thank you for sharing that Sand Dance inspired you to write your first Amanda Travel book. That is so cool and a great tidbit to know. Cheers to Bill Bryson and to husbands with a keen sense of humour!

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  5. Likewise the Friendly Friday challenge team were delighted to have you as co-hosts. And your post makes me so want to read Bill Bryson’s book. I can just imagine my hubby saying exactly that about the black bear, ” Once would be enough!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Amanda. Combining these two challenges in one post was a great idea. I greatly appreciate you, Sarah and Sandy inviting us to join in. PS – There are even funnier lines about bears in Bryson’s book – but since my blog in rated G – I went with the more general one! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sandy initiated the collaborative idea but Sarah and I quickly jumped on board with it. I think it has been quite a success!
        I am going to have a look at Bryson’s book. Does he still make Australia his home?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Big kudos to Sandy and to you and Sarah for jumping on board. Do you have other Guest Hosts lined up for this year?
        Oh and about Bill Bryson. My understanding is that he currently lives in rural Hampshire but maintains a small flat in South Kensington, London.

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  6. I have read the Bill Bryson book and I too found myself laughing out loud at times. It’s a rare writer who is able to elicit that kind of response. I have also walked a very small section of the AppalachianTrail. My wife and I were visiting Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania and decide we’d walk in a couple of kilometres and then turn around and retrace our steps. We had barely gone 500 metres when torrential rain occurred and drove us back to the trailhead where our car was parked. We were soaked, but at least we can now claim, “We walked the Appalachian Trail!”

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  7. I’m not generally a ‘laugh out loud’ person either, but I’m much more likely to laugh when reading a good passage in a book than, say, after one of my guy’s puns. 😉 (Much to his disappointment.) I haven’t read A Walk in the Woods but now I’m definitely going to. I may get it on Audibles, which I listen to while driving, and humor is definitely needed while driving. I am reading Bryson’s newest book THE BODY, which is terrific. And really makes you realize the amazing miracle of our bodies. Okay, I’m off for a walk!

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  8. Ooooh, I know Bill Bryson as a writer but this one I’ve never read. Sounds up my street or path or trail … I’ve got a big fat book called 1000 places to see before you die – that I dip into every now and then. We’re setting off next week on the Wellington Wine Walk, a few days of meandering in the beauty of this part of the world. I just hope there’re no snakes … have a lovely weekend Donna.

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    1. HI, Susan – You had me at ‘wine’ and ‘walk’ for the same event. It sounds awesome. 😀
      Thank you for the reminder of !000 Places to Visit Before You Die. I have that book upstairs and need to dust it off and give it another look. My travel feet have been very itchy lately!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love to laugh, Donna. When laughter brings tears, I’m in my happy place. Thanks for sharing Bill’s book. I’m definitely going to check it out and pass it along to my father, too. I hope your weekend is filled with laughter and smiles. xo

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Jill. I hope that your father likes A Walk in the Woods. It truly is one of my favourite books. So far, my weekend has been filled with hiking and coffee — I think those are kind of synonyms for laughter and smiles! Wishing you a great weekend as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I am always looking for a book that will make me smile. I will be getting a copy of Bill Bryson’s book. Thanks for the recommendation. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle is probably my favorite also. Every other page had me laughing.

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    1. Thanks, Bernadette – Jo Tracey also highly recommended A Year in Provence. I looked for it at our town bookshop this morning but didn’t find it there. I will now check it out from our local library. Enjoy A Walk in the Woods. It is guaranteed to make you smile!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I LOVE that book! And hiking the AT was on my bucket list for years until I finally had to admit to myself it was just not going to happen. I’m a day hiker. When the book came out, I read it once and then again out loud to my family so we could all laugh together.

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    1. Hi, Anna – That is so cool that you read A Walk In The Woods aloud to your family. I recently tried to read a single paragrah from that book to my husband. I couldn’t make it past the first few words. I was simply laughing too hard. I love long multi-day hikes — as long as they are lodge-to-lodge. Having to carry days worth of food, water and my bed (etc etc) and then sleep in the wild works in my mind – but not so much in reality. Happy hiking! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t read it, but the first quote about Katz sums up long hikes for me too……where’s the coffee shop? Are we there yet? Mind you, now hiking/walking is off my list, I do miss it quite a lot!

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  13. My husband is also a loud gawffer when it comes to comics. His favs are Dilbert, Farside and a host of others. I’m satisfied with a polite twitter. I must get the book since hiking is on top of “my got to get doing” list.

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    1. Thanks, Antoinette. Kindred spirits unite! With all that you do, I am very impressed that hiking is also high on your list. In its defense, I do find that (even in very short chunks of time) it is a brilliant way to clear the mind. If you pick up the book, definitely share it with your husband as well. Tell him that Donna recommends it.

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  14. Hi Donna! I’ve always thought you had a great sense of humor…maybe that’s because I have even less? At any rate I haven’t read this book (did see the movie and enjoyed it!) and really don’t read travel stories as a practice. (maybe I should??) But I LOVE the quote: “I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world. I found patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I had. I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists.” I get that same feeling from travel and can’t imagine people who want to stay home all the time. Thanks for sharing what makes you laugh. ~Kathy

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    1. Hi, Kathy – Thank you for your kind words and vote of confidence. I love clever humour — I’m simply not a LOL kind of gal (or as I very recently learned a ROFLOL kind of gal). I love your upcoming travel plans and greatly look forward to following your adventure. Please keep us posted.

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  15. I love this book – and like you snort in public when reading Bryson. In another comment that probably won’t surprise you – like Richard I laugh at everything…yep Far Side cartoons do it for me too.

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  16. A book that comes to mind is Indians on Vacation by Thomas King. “So we’re in Prague” begins many paragraphs until they’re in Budapest, with many references to their other travel destinations. “Indians on Vacation is a witty, funny striking story that ponders the importance of history from the smallest personal connections to big-picture politics.”
    – Vancouver Sun
    I’m encouraged to read Bill Bryson’s books because of this post. I saw A Walk in the Woods movie and loved it. I saw it as a coming-of-age story for retired folks. It also introduced me to the music of Lord Huron, an Indie rock band from LA. Check out their album Strange Trails, featured in the movie.

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    1. Hi, Mona – Thank you for the recommendation fo Indians on Vacation. I will take a look for it.
      If you liked the movie for AWITW, I am sure that you will love the book. It is incredibly clever, witty and thought-provoking all at the same time. Thanks again for stopping by!

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  17. I’m sure you remember that you passed A Walk in the Woods on to me, along with several other books. I really enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud at much of it. He is a very engaging, funny, insightful writer. I’m so happy that you are introducing both the book and the author to other readers. Now, I have to remember to pick up of few more of his books from the library…

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    1. Hi, Janis – Whenever I find bargain copies of AWITW I always pick them up so that I can thrust one in the hand of an innocent but much loved friend. I am so glad that you enjoyed your copy. Like you, I want to pick up more of Bryson’s books. My current plan is to start with ‘Down Under’ (which was also published under the titles ‘In a Sunburned Country’ and ‘Australia’….Why? I have no idea)!

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  18. Love our mashup of Friendly Friday & WOYB challenges!

    While I’ve heard of Bill Bryson, I admit that I’ve never actually read his books. Your post inspires me to do just that!

    I’ve just published my post on books that inspired me to travel OR travel inspired me to read.

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    1. Hi, Sandy – Thank you to your and your team for inviting us to Guest Host this episode of ‘Friendly Friday Challenge.’ It’s been great fun and the comments have been both informative and inspiring. I’m glad that you are inspired to read ‘A Walk in the Woods’ it is magnificent on so many levels. I am now motivated to read ‘Chop Suey Nation’…but unlike Jo, I’m going to give peanut dumplings a hard no! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ve never read anything by Bill Bryan but judging from your comments and those from others, I need to give him a try. Self-deprecating humor is way funnier than many other kinds of things that are supposedly”humorous.”

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    1. Hi, Natalie – Science (and I) agree with you about walking and laughing each being powerful mood lifters. Thank you for joining us at What’s On Your Plate/Friendly Friday Challenge. It is greatly appreciated!

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  20. Humour, shared is amazing. Sometimes we laugh out loud for ages at similar things. I think being married for 51 years, our SOH has to be a reason for it lasting…lol. I don’t mind Bill Bryson’s narration and his wit. I am not into long distance anything physical myself but can see the attraction of the challenges…thanks for the Bookshelf challenge Donna! Denyse

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  21. I’ve heard a lot about this book, Donna, but haven’t read it yet. I think it would be right up my alley. Awesome that this is one of your favorite books of all time. Bryson is a fabulous travel writer! “See” you next week. 🙂

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  22. I too love A Walk in the Woods and was disappointed by the movie as well. I don’t agree with Richard’s assessment of your sense of humour. You make me laugh all the time…oh wait, am I supposed to laugh WITH YOU?😉

    Deb

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  23. Hi Donna – I read Bill Bryson’s Notes on a Small Island and could not get to grips with it – perhaps not serious enough for me – as that’s the mode I seem to be in now, but I do love to laugh. If you’d like to walk … I suggest Patrick Leigh Fermor’s journey from London to Istanbul – I’ve read the first two in depth … so much to learn along the way … he started out in 1933, aged 18. PS – he didn’t carry much … little/no money, but wrote diaries along the way …

    Enjoy your Vancouver trip – where you’ll be laughing lots … that much I’ve gathered from your posts … cheers and happy days – Hilary

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    1. Thanks, Hilary – I’ll keep a look out for Patrick Leigh Fermor’s book. It sounds like something that I would like. When doing long distance hikes, my husband and I carry very little as well — but probably much, much more than Patrick did! 😀

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  24. Donna,
    Living in this part of the country (Eastern Tennessee), I have many friends who have hiked all or parts of the AT, and I am embarrassed to say I have never read this book. My sister is a huge Bryson fan. I have an Audiobook for Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid sitting on my desk that will go with me on our next RV trip. Thanks for the prodding.
    PS. I’m still chuckling at “humor bypass”…say it ain’t so!

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    1. Hi, Joe – Your comment – especially the closing line – definitely made me smile.
      I’m jealous that you live so close to the AT.
      I love that you are now prompted to pick up a BIll Bryson book. I haven’t read Thunderbot Kid. When you finish it, please let me know what you think.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I just read this book a couple of years ago and I was laughing out loud so often I had to start reading snippets aloud to my boys and niece who kept asking me what was so funny. I have friends that have hiked the Appalachian trail and while I am in awe of their stories I know myself well to know I am firmly a day hiker– I would be miserable carrying all my stuff and probably make everyone else miserable with my complaining too. I have stumbled upon the Appalachian trail a few times while out hiking in New England but rarely hike it for very long before veering off on another path. Thankfully I have NEVER encountered a bear because I am really not sure how I’d handle that. Another travel book I loved was Leave Only Footprints; about one American tv personality that made it his goal to visit every national park in the US in just one year.

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    1. Hi, Joanne – I’m delighted that you enjoyed AWITW and read snippets to your family. It’s a wonderful book for sharing (if one can remain composed long enough to do so). 😀 Living on Vancouver Island, I have run across bears in the wild. Fortunately, none of them were particularly interested in me.
      Thank you for the recommendation of Leave Only Footprints. It sounds like my kind of book.

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  26. I absolutely love Bill Bryson’s writing and have read many of his books, including this one. Notes from a Small Island is his one on GB and I think when you read someone’s opinions on your own place and can agree with them (while feeling slightly crushed at times) then you can trust their views on other places. I remember seeking out a particular terrace on Capri, and it was just as beautiful as he described. We’ve hiked a few sections of the AT and even seen bears, but lived to tell the tale. As you’ve probably noticed.

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    1. Hi, Anabel – Ashamedly, I have not yet read any of Bryson’s other books — although I have read AWITW several times. I did seek to change this today and picked up Bryson’s ‘The Body’ from our local library. I had planned to save it for later but have already devoured the first few chapters – so that’s a good start. Thank you for the recommendation for Notes from A Small Island. I will add this to my list too. I also really want to get on at least part of the ATT — I just need to find a way to convince Richard to do this! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I love his books. I have actually seen this movie but I believe you when you say that the book is better. book is always better (except in one case). I put one of this travel books on my list too:) thanks for co-hosting this challenge.

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    1. Hi, Sube – AWITW is one of Jo’s favourite travel books as well, so you have a double recommendation. I just pulled out my copy of Down Under and have put it near the top of my TBR pile (under Persuassion and my library books). I look forward to hearing what you think of them!

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  28. Hi Donna, You made me smile with the “…snort with laughter…” Bill Bryson is definitely a witty writer and a favourite of mine, too. A laugh out loud on the bear’s quote.

    I just finished reading an engaging book by Stanley Tucci, (“Taste”). Travelling, food, and all of life’s ups and downs. I look forward to hearing/reading more about your upcoming adventures.xo 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Loved to book review and I am
    Going to order this for my husband —
    And love how you noted this “changes a person not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. ”
    I didn’t quite “get that” until 2019.
    I did shirt hikes in Colorado but never got the depth.
    Maybe too short of hikes or I was always bringing out of town guests (to the CO trails) -and so was in hostess mode
    But I get it now –
    Even tho I don’t need to hike every week like some folks!

    And cheers to The Far Side!!
    I smooe to imagine yo hubs enjoying them

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I’m sure that your husband will love A Walk in the Woods. As a bonus, there are usually multiple copies available at good prices.
      I’m glad that you have been enjoying your hikes. I am one of those addicts who needs to hike regularly and walk daily. Hopeless, I know! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not hopeless to have that good health habit! Yoga is my thing – and for a while I did five classes across three nights –
        And speaking of fitness – in your dog treat post I liked
        Your adidas outfit !
        I actually have some street shots with various adidas items

        Liked by 1 person

  30. I’d actually meant to participate in this link-up but work (life) got the better of me and my blog post is still in my drafts folder.

    I don’t tend to read non-fiction but I know many MANY Bill Bryson fans. He’s also been quite consistently prolific over the years!

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      1. Hopefully next month. It’s about the plethora of streaming services and increased opportunities for authors to have their books translated onto the screen!

        Liked by 1 person

  31. Hi Donna – I’m so glad you loved this book – I read it a while back for my book club! By the way, I’m obsessed with what to do if I ever met up with a bear! Great post 🙂

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      1. Thanks, Barb – I’ve heard that too. As big as I could try to make myself appear, I’m afraid I would never look very intimidating.
        A neighbour spotted a bear in the park directly behind our house today. Sadly or luckily (depending on point of view), both my husband and I both missed this! 😀

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