Inspiring Books for the Adventurous Soul

 

There’s no shortage of media that inspires us to book a flight, pack our bags, and set off on our next adventure. Whether it be social media, a documentary, or your favorite TV show, we’re constantly presented with the benefits of travel. I’ve found that for me, one of the most inspiring outlets is books. Authors have a way of putting into words feelings that we encounter but can’t figure out how to describe. I find that to be incredibly fulfilling in the sense of travel and adventure, because there’s so much raw emotion associated with these experiences. Below are some of the books that have truly sparked a light within me to head off on my next trip. They discuss the power of persistence, the attainability of your own dream adventure, and the most fulfilling ways to take in our beautiful world.

I hope for this post to be a running list in the future as I keep turning pages. Books are an incredible way to to find meaningful connection in this world where we’re overwhelmed by stimulation. If you enjoy this list, have read any of these books, or have other recommendations please share and comment!

**For best results, read these books in a hammock, next to a fireplace, on a mountain, or with loved ones

The Alchemist | Paulo Coelho

This is on my list of all time favorite books. I read it at a point in my life where I was feeling kind of lost, and was surprised with the inspiration I felt while turning the pages of this classic. The book talks about everyone having a “Personal Legend,” which is a concept I really vibe with. It takes you through the journey of Santiago, who is craving direction to find his own hidden treasure. With a few bumps along the way, this book is a great reminder that the ups and downs of life always lead us to the experiences we were meant to have all along. This book got me excited to engage with this journey of life, and to always remember that the pursuit IS happiness. I remember when I read this book I talked about it for several weeks after. I ended up lending this book to a few different friends t

hat all loved it in different ways and for different reasons. Pick this book up and find your takeaway.

Trespassing Across America |Ken Ilgunas

“On a hike, you’re less of a job title and more of a human being. Our commute, our shift, our shows: how quickly does the routine- masquerading as life- block from our view the grand vistas of possibilities. A periodic hike not only stretches the limbs but also reminds us: wow, there’s a big old world out there.”

This book is the story of Ken Ilgunas, a brave storyteller that hikes the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. Picture the Pacific Crest Trail, but dangerous, illegal, and terrifying. A powerful non-fiction account of a guy trying to understand all sides of the story, Ilgunas drops himself into the heartland of America to prove a point. Instead of rejecting and expecting the worst of the supporters of the pipeline, he immerses himself into their culture to take a backseat and truly listen to their perspective. His findings are both heartbreaking and fascinating, as he quickly understands the stubborn mindset of many of the people he interacts with. He describes in great detail the beauty of the heartland of America, with surprising facts about the very small percentage of public land in this region. Greeted by thunderstorms, gunshots, and angry dogs, this story is quite the capture. The book successfully educates the reader about contemporary issues in environmentalism while telling a interesting story about this insane journey. This book is educationally inspirational and powerfully written, and getting lost in it is a great way to start making a difference in our delicate environment.

Wild | Cheryl Strayed

This book is a staple in the “inspiring” and “adventurous” categories. It has been praised as a New York Times bestseller and more importantly, made it on Oprah’s complete Book Club list.  This is a personal memoir of Cheryl Strayed, who felt terribly lost and boggled down by devastating personal challenges. With zero hiking experience, Cheryl naively prepares to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon by overpacking and under-training. Nevertheless, she continues on this gruesome journey to find herself, with some interesting bumps in the road. Within the story, you’ll find intertwined  flashbacks to her lifetime hardships to grasp the big picture. This book is an inspiring example of the power of perseverance, and makes the reader want to embark on a hearty adventure of their own. Strayed exemplifies the power of having an outlet and connecting with nature as a way to persist through hardships and find the beauty in the world. She has gone on to become a very successful writer, and I also highly recommend a great read that’s a compilation of advice column responses written by Strayed called Tiny Beautiful Things. 

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The Last Lecture |Randy Pausch

This is one of those books that really puts life into perspective. This is a hit non-fiction novel written by Randy Pausch who was a computer science professor at Carnegie-Mellon. When Randy was told he had three to six months to live due to a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, he set out to present his last lecture on how to achieve your childhood dreams. The book describes in detail the process of his lecture in a way that makes you want to live purposefully, fully, and generously. It’s a great reminder of how precious life is and a great motivator to start pursuing your passions today. It made me start thinking about not just my childhood dreams, but what I want to do before I die, and this insight really got me into the idea of creating my own bucket list. This book was recommended to me by a special individual in my senior year of college. If you have kept up with my story at all, you most likely know about the leadership class that changed the way I view the world. This man came in as a guest lecturer, who had endured some serious hardships and spent many days outside the campus library talking to students and reading books. One of my classmates asked what book he would most recommend, and he said The Last Lecture. This style of lecture where an individual engages in a presentation of knowledge as if it was there own has become increasingly popular since this book was written. Pick up this book and see if it changes your life the way it changed mine.

1000 Days of Spring | Tomislav Perko

A few years ago when I was obsessively watching Ted Talks, I came upon one called How to Travel the World with Almost No Money. It was insightful and hilarious, and a few months later I was gifted the book “1000 Days of Spring” by the same fella. Tom is a very authentic and insightful writer that has a powerful way of connecting with the reader. In this book, he talks about this itch he has to leave his job at a smoothie bar in Croatia to see the world. The problem is, he has no money. He becomes a huge fan of couch surfing and eventually starts to document his adventures. His accounts are passed on to news outlets and he is supported worldwide for his minimalistic travel. Tom tells some incredible stories of his travels all over the world where he hitch-hikes, couch surfs, and relies on his new friends for his adventures in each new place.

“What truly mattered was the passion with which you approached and lived life: were you actually living it or were you just passing by, not having enough time for the details, the small things, the miracles. In that case, you were only a passive observer, instead of being the star of the movie.”

My favorite part about this book is how genuinely Tom describes the travel community, and the impact that travel can have on your life. He even leads a hitch-hiking competition that ends up being a great story. For a good adventure read and some inspiration for how to get around for cheap, check out this awesome book.

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The Happy Traveler | Jaime Kurtz

In an effort to be transparent, I feel as though this is the time to mention I have not read this book all the way through. However, my adventure partner in crime, Taylor, (@taylorcorcoats) has and happily agreed to write a summary for this post. The reason I felt so adamant about incorporating this book is that it was written by one of my college professors who doubles down as a positive psychologist passionate about travel. I learned a lot about travel and making the most of your experiences when I studied abroad with her in Denmark and Sweden.

Here it is:

Jaime Kurtz’s witty and insightful book, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations is both entertaining and helpful for those of us wanderers looking to make the most of our travels. Her candid approach to revealing secrets about the who, what, when, where, and why of travel in order to create a happier you is everything the adventurous spirit needs before their next big trip.

As I read through, I found myself underlining tid-bits and dog-earing the pages. Not only is the book backed by science, it’s funny too. I could imagine Jaime, whom I studied abroad with in Scandinavia, sharing suggestions about how to spend my money, soak in the world (really, really soak it in), savor life’s moments by disconnecting, and even spend average days at home like a happy traveler. Although this book is more science based non-fiction than an inspiring story, it is a must read for an adventurous soul.

 

Cheers and happy reading!

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Why My First Solo Hike was Terrible and Amazing all at Once

I’ve been pretty lucky. Most of my close friends are really adventurous “yes” people. They’ll almost always take me up on plans to go hiking, kayaking, climbing etc., if they’re not already making those plans themselves. As a result, I’ve never really done the solo adventure thing. My first full day back in Fort Collins, Colorado I decided I was going to do my first solo hike. It sounded like a great way to kick off my upcoming year in this rad state, celebrate recently becoming an Adventure Enthusiasts ambassador, and get a good workout in to start my day.

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I wanted to pick a hike I had already done before and near where I live, so I chose to do the notoriously crowded Horsetooth Mountain hike. I woke up around 8:15 am, packed my bag with the usuals (ENO hammock, whatever book I’m reading, and my camera) and headed for the trailhead. When I got to the parking lot, I was happy to see it wasn’t too crowded. As I went to pay the entry fee, I noticed a warning sign on the window of the pay station that said “Rattlesnakes Live Here” and what to do in case you are bit.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a walking oxymoron. I absolutely love a good outdoor adventure but have a debilitating fear of snakes. I can’t exactly pinpoint why, when, or how this self-diagnosed phobia started, but seeing this sign before taking off on this hike was a rough way to start the experience.

Usually when I go on a hike with friends, they’re aware of the situation and (hopefully) know not to tell me if they see a snake. I operate much better with an “out of sight out of mind” approach to this problem and if I don’t see it, I usually won’t freak out. This was true until I started my first solo hike, when the fear that I would cross paths with a snake lingered with every step.

For someone who considers themselves pretty adventurous, I really struggled on this hike. I flinched at every noise I heard and movement I saw, trying to just keep moving forward. Before I started the hike, I figured I’d be walking near people the entire time since this hike is generally pretty crowded. Nope! Of course, the one day I choose to do this hike, taking each step with crippling fear, the trail feels completely empty.

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I was walking at a swift pace, trying hard to keep my eyes on the trail and not let my gaze wander into the tall grass where there was a higher likelihood of me seeing something that would put me over the edge. More often than not, I debated turning back. I thought to myself, “no one would know I didn’t do it,” and “I already got this far, and I know what it looks like at the top.” I kept moving through these thoughts, worrying that if I stopped the silence would reveal hissing or rattling.

As I got further towards the top, I passed several groups on their descent. When I approached other hikers, I always debated whether or not to ask them if they had seen a snake, terrified that the answer would be yes. I continued on, greeting passerbys and hoping to get to the top fast.

Although I didn’t rest much because I was too scared to stop for too long, I realized quickly that this fear was draining my energy. I trust the physical condition I’m in, and knew this experience was feeling much harder than it should have. I tried my best to focus on enjoying the experience, but it was tough. I struggled with the thought that if I had been with other people, this fear would have floated to the back of my mind. I felt defeated because there were some incredible trees to put up my hammock and enjoy the view, but I could not muster up the courage to walk through the tall grass off the trail to set it up.

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As I kept moving, the views became more and more beautiful. The trail was full of wildflowers that I hadn’t seen the last time I had done this hike, and I stayed distracted by enjoying these views.

I started to think about what I was enjoying most about this experience. It was nice to stop whenever I wanted. Sometimes when you’re hiking in a group with varying abilities, it’s hard to ask to stop if you’re tired or to not move at a faster pace if you’re feeling good while others aren’t. I was only in charge of keeping my pace and listening to my body without having to worry about disrupting others. While I was trying to stay distracted from thinking about snakes, I noticed smaller details that made the trail so beautiful. A good view after a certain turn, the wildflowers in several different colors, and much more. These are all things I could have easily overlooked had I been walking and talking with a partner.

When I got to the top, I felt like a ginormous weight was lifted off my shoulders. To the West, I could see Rocky Mountain National Park, to the North, Wyoming. There was a 360 degree view with an interesting thing to look at from every angle. I was one of two people at the top, the other who was also a woman solo-hiking. We acknowledged each other’s presence and each enjoyed our little victory.

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I’m grateful to have gone on some incredible hikes all over the country, but I felt a sense of accomplishment on this one that I hadn’t felt before. I had combatted this debilitating fear all the way to the top, and was now being rewarded with incredible views on a beautiful day. I spent a while at the top, enjoying the experience and being humbled by the view ;).

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On the way down, I passed two really nice guys and ended up making the hike down with them after disclosing how terrified I had been on the way up. They shared their fears, one of which was also snakes. I made it to the bottom feeling successful for both finishing the hike and not seeing any snakes.

I wanted to write about this experience to share that while someone might be adventurous, it’s important to acknowledge that we’re all humans battling our own fears in our own spaces, and it’s what you do with that fear that will make all the difference.

If this resonated with you, or you know someone who would benefit from a story like this, please feel free to pass it along.

 

Cheers!