Why do you call yourself the "anxious" Adventurista?
People assume that because I've been doing all this adventure travel that I'm immune to fear. It's quite the opposite! While I have far greater confidence in my ability to work through and around fear, I still feel it, and sometimes pretty strongly. And because it's an unpleasant sensation, I don't like it. Every new, scary adventure makes me feel anxious right up until the moment I step off the edge or jump off the platform or do whatever crazy thing I've set out to do. Hopefully there are some Adventurista-wannabes out there who'll take some comfort in that!
What's with the raven or crow or whatever it is?
Even though some cultures view the raven as a harbinger of death, I've always enjoyed their company in the canyons when I'm travelling alone out west. One always seems to be nearby either flying overhead, or hopping along the trail beside me. Though skittish, they're also fairly bold and very curious. In Norse legend, the raven symbolizes mind, thought and wisdom, which speaks to me as a writer. A raven was integrated into the design of the cover for my National Geographic book Only Pack What You Can Carry and it seemed somehow natural and comforting to keep that image with me on my continuing journey.
Why solo travel?
I love the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want, and even to be whoever I want to be. I've had lots of fun with this. Once, I decided to take a vow of silence for a few days and didn't speak a word, which was interesting when it came to ordering food in a restaurant, or seeking directions. When I'm by myself I can try on new behaviors or attitudes and see how they fit. But what I love most about travelling alone is the space it gives me for deep reflection and introspection. Also, the experiences I have when travelling solo seem much more vivid and enduring, probably because I'm not distracted by a travel partner.
Do you ever travel with anyone?
Yes, but they have to do what I say and schlep the bags! All kidding aside, I do have a few people I can stand to travel with, but they have to be adventurous and willing to take some risks. I'm not interested in laying on a beach or shopping or going to shows. Those are perfectly fine pursuits, but they're not for me. It's hard to find people who willingly want to get uncomfortable and explore the unknown.
Do you ever get scared when you're by yourself?
I've gotten lost a few times when storms were coming or night was about to fall, and those were some close calls which served to make me more careful in the future. But I've never been frightened just for the fact of being alone. That said, I've been known to keep a buck knife close to my pillow; fortunately I've never had to use it other than to slice up sausages and cheese for a late night snack.
What about following in Cheryl Strayed's footsteps. Is the PCT in your future?
I know this may sound hard to believe, but nothing about that is appealing to me any more. I've done the long-term trek into the wilderness, both on foot and in a raft. I'm grateful for those experiences, and for when I had a youthful body that could handle the punishment of sleeping on freezing cold ground and foraging for food. Those are some indelible memories. These days, I'm still willing to hike all day and endure hunger and blisters and insect bites, even forgo a shower, but at the very end of the excursion, I want a good meal, a stiff drink, and a warm bed for my beat up body. I understand and encourage the value in an epic journey to find yourself, which Cheryl did. And she didn't give up, which is the most awesome part of her story. Go Cheryl!
Aren't you contradicting yourself? You say our comfort zone is a cage we need to break out of, yet you're not willing to hike the PCT. WTF?
Great observation. This is a wonderful question because the answer comes down to specifics. I'm not afraid of epic hikes. I've done them. What I really want to do is seek the experiences that make me feel on edge, that make me wonder if I can complete them. That's the difference. I want to put myself in situations where I have no prior experience, where I don't know what I'm doing. That's what forces me to draw upon my inner reserves and figure out what I can and cannot do. Your question is a good reminder that this journey we undertake is highly individual. Cheryl's journey is not mine, and my canyoneering journey is not yours. What's most important is that we figure out our own, and then get going.