Years ago, a friend gifted me with the book Solo: On Her Own Adventure, edited by Susan Fox Rogers. It's a collection of essays written by women who have journeyed forth alone. This was during my friend's former life managing an outfitter store, and she had observed my appreciative, if distant, interest in the adventure that surrounded her. Hikers, kayakers and campers came to her for gear and told their stories to her which were, in turn, relayed to me. Those were the years before I put my things in storage and started down this inadvertent nomadic path of mine. This compilation encompassed an adventuresome spirit that riveted me... from a safe distance.
About how compiling this collection affected her, Rogers writes in the introduction:
"I began to see the importance of and need for solo experiences, especially for women. Editing this collection was not a simple task, and I would only be slightly exaggerating to say that in the process I rewrote my life - or a least certain sections of it. This collection may not have the same life-altering effects on readers as it did on me, but I hope it will shake up some ideas and inspire more than a few adventures."
When I first read this book, I was enthralled with the stories inside. My personal relationship with "adventure" nonetheless remained largely on the page.
Yesterday I went to my storage unit to hunt down some fleece and wool to replace the cotton and linen that fills my southern closet. Finally. As sometimes happens when I "visit my things," I got a little curious about the hidden possessions I've stored for so long. Though many of the contents of this unit have been passed on to others in my way-too-slow move toward something resembling minimalism, I have far to go. And so I had many boxes to grab my attention as I finished packing up the cool-weather clothes I'd gathered. I dug down to a stack of small boxes whose labels told me I'd found some books I'd been unable to part with when I'd unloaded so many before that first drastic move.
I won't be able to accurately convey my giddiness to discover that I had not been willing to part with Solo. It didn't matter that I'd read it and put it away without taking any of the actions described in the books. The guidance and advice remained for me, for the time when finding it again feels like the perfect gift.
It's easy to turn toward regret, wondering, "What if I'd actually embraced these challenges for myself when I first read this book?" Through one set of lenses, it feels a little wasteful. And then I gently pull myself toward an alternate viewpoint that suits me better these days. A viewpoint that tells me that following an authentic path is not a waste of time. Unready, then, to embark on solo adventures of the kinds Susan Fox Rogers shared, I explored many other avenues in this path of mine, learning scads of lessons about myself, and about the way I want to be in this world. I'm encouraged by people like my friend, Susan Harding, who reminds me simply, with her direct smile, "Your path is your path."
Tthe editor of this book illustrates a similar point. In the introduction Rogers shares her own challenges upon realizing, at the start of the project, that her own life had become less adventuresome than she preferred. With candid vulnerability, she tells of the starts and stops as she approached the renewal of her personal solo adventure path. Reading, I was reminded that we start where we start. It's the forward movement that matters much more than when and where we embark. Authentic living requires the accepting of the challenges when they present themselves. The snarky inner critic can go back to sleep.
And now, at a time when I've brushed off some old curiosities and started looking at the latent goals that, to some, resemble a bit of off-the-beaten-path adventure, this book has made its way into my hands again. As I read it again, through older eyes that have seen unanticipated things at the time of that first reading, I am once more curious. And the wistfulness that is re-sparked comes upon a different landscape. One that is rapidly shifting and expanding to include different adventures. Maybe even some solo ones...