Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

In the summer of 2015, having never walked particularly far before, Jonathan Arlan decided to walk 400 miles through the French Alps, a trip that would become the focus of his debut book, Mountain Lines, and leave him with a few pearls of wisdom.

I’ve told the story of how I ended up walking 400 miles through the French Alps so many times that I’m starting to doubt how much of it happened the way I say it did.

Sometimes, I’ll be doing the things a suburban milquetoast such as myself normally does, like watching squirrels eat acorns from my window or walking my maltipoo, Bella, around the block, and I’ll wonder if I didn’t just make the whole thing up.

To assuage these doubts, I’ll run through major plot points in my head.

First, there was the big breakup. (That definitely happened.) Then there is the part where I quit my job, sublet my Brooklyn apartment, and flew to Tokyo. (All true; I still have the plane ticket.)