After reading UNBOUND, I was thrilled to have the chance to connect with author Steph Jagger and discuss some of the lingering questions I had for her. UNBOUND is the story of a young woman who follows winter across five continents on a physical and spiritual journey that tests her body and soul. You can read a few excerpts from the book here and here, or order your own copy today.
Steph Jagger: Well, of course I was told I was crazy - that the idea itself was crazy and I was crazy to chase after such absurdity. I’ve also been called selfish a fair bit, that seems to be a popular one. I’m not sure a man would ever get asked the same question for creating a quest and getting after it. I’ve been told many times (prior to the trip and still to this day) that there was no real reason for me to up and leave my life. This mostly has to do with the fact that I was living a pretty good life. I often got a “who does she think she is asking for something more when she’s already got something good” kind of response.
At the time, I gathered a VERY small handful of allies. People who saw some sanity and reason in what I was doing. And then I used the permission and validation I got from them to help push me forward.
It’s much different for me today. When I announce I’m going to do something, whether that’s solo traveling, or a writing project, or something in my business that rubs the status quo a bit, my reaction to negative feedback is different. Instead of looking to others to push me forward, I do my best to do that myself. Additionally, I often take the “you’re crazy” response as a cue to move forward. Not in a rebellious way but in an “oooooh, I must be onto something here” kind of way.
Steph Jagger: It wasn’t necessarily a fear associated with the adventure itself. I’d traveled solo before, I’d skied a ton, I knew I’d be able to handle whatever bumps came up in regards to the trip itself. But…the biggest fear I had going into the trip, which partially led to me saying yes to the whole thing in the first place, was a fear of not being enough. Not good enough, strong enough, tough enough, etc. I was driven to say yes to the trip because I figured if I could pull it off there would be no argument about whether or not I was, quote-unquote, enough.
Of course, the skiing and the validation I was looking for from the people around me, well, those thing don’t add up to “enough.” There’s a very different, far more internal recipe for that bad boy. I didn’t start to learn that though, until I was part way through my journey.
Steph Jagger: Ha! I always get a kick out of this question. It’s come up so much, and it’s really made me think, and…if I’m being honest, which I’m going to be, it’s made me a frustrated about the society we live in. There’s an inherent idea within that question that suggests I should have edited myself, or at the very least I should be worried about what people will think about it.
“Woah, she’s was really open there,” could be a passive way of saying, “Perhaps she shouldn’t have shared that much of herself.”
Here’s the quick and dirty. I wasn’t thinking about all of that when I was writing. I wasn’t thinking, “Is this too much?” which in memoir is another way of saying, “Am I too much?” I’m done with editing myself like that in life, and my writing has to mirror that or it wouldn’t be authentic.
I also wasn’t asking myself, “What will people think?” or “Oh my gosh, my father-in-law is going to read this so I shouldn’t write XYZ or I should definitely edit myself here.”
I just don’t think that’s the best way to pull an authentic story out of oneself. There’s a line in the book that reads, “You cannot be half of yourself and expect to endure.” I went into the writing process with that idea in mind. I cannot not show up on these pages. It’s got to be all of me, or nothing at all.
AND…my family’s known me since the minute I was born – they’re well used to my methods of showing up and sharing by now!
Steph Jagger: I think this relates back to question 2. At the beginning of the trip fear kept me going. My fear of not being enough in this world and the ego attached to that fear. Toward the end of my journey this changed for me, I knew there was something larger at play, a bigger emotional and spiritual journey happening, and I supposed once I realized that curiosity and calling kept me going.
I also relied on a few key people to keep my spirits up. One of them was Chris, but there were others – Joseph, Pete, Tree and more, who kept the fire fuelled.
Steph Jagger: People, for sure, as I mentioned above, and I think perpetual motion. When you’re traveling and you’re about to downward spiral, you just pack your bags and move on. That’s the beauty of it. You know, I just read a quote on Kelly Calvillo’s Instagram page. It read, “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.’” The quote is by Lisa St. Aubin de Terán
So if you’re having the time of your life, perhaps flirt and move on. Or if you’re in some dark space on the road, perhaps say “you’re not for me” and move on.
Steph Jagger: I’d say the biggest challenge was adrenal burnout. I was literal human toast for so long after the trip. I couldn’t move. It really took a toll. Physically for sure, but ultimately it led to a pretty big mental and emotional meltdown. In the long run, I see it as a good thing, but in the short run ending the journey by moving to a different country was really also tough. I was craving familiarity in a big way, and nothing about the situation (save the language spoken) was familiar. I really felt as though I had to start from scratch. But I’m grateful for that now. If I had gone back to Vancouver when the trip was over I feel I would have fallen back into the old version of me, that I would have become lost in that. Even though this route was harder in the short term, I felt that being in San Diego post-trip allowed me to cement so many of the changes (mental, emotional and spiritual) that happened while I had been traveling.
Steph Jagger: This is also a question I get a ton. What’s next? What’s on your bucket list? And that has changed so much for me. The old Steph would have been able to give you a huge list of things I wanted to do and conquer next. The present day Steph has two things on her bucket list and those are:
Am I listening for the call to adventure; and
Do I have the courage to say yes when I hear it.
In essence, I don’t leave the list making to my ego any more. Instead, I like to think of it as a co-creation with whatever it is out there that I feel is guiding me. In a tangible, of-this-world sense I’m feeling very called to write another book, there’s a move back to the mountains that’s planned, and there are a handful of things in my business that I’m feeling pulled toward. I’m doing my best to listen to the, quot-unquote, instructions of the Universe in regards to those things, and then make good on them with aligned action.
Steph Jagger: I guess my doing the above. By dropping as much of my armor as possible, listening to the Universe with all my might, and attempting to make good on what it is that I hear.