A young woman follows winter across five continents on a physical and spiritual journey that tests her body and soul in this transformational memoir full of heart and courage that speaks to the adventurousness in all of us.
Excerpted from Unbound by Steph Jagger. Copyright 2017. Reprinted by permission of Harper Wave, and imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
With blue skies cracking open above us and a knee-deep carpet of snow under our skis, we opted for the Whistler side of the resort. More specifically, we hit up an area of the mountain dominated by two fast-moving chairlifts, Symphony and Harmony. From the lift we could see three massive bowls of untouched powder beneath us, each filled to the brim.
All morning, and well into the afternoon, we skied those bowls until we hit their gutters, arriving at the bottom of each run completely and utterly spent. Once there, we loaded back onto the lifts and did it again. We skied hard all day long—harder than hard. My legs were throbbing, lactic acid spread from my quads to my calves, and then finally down into my feet and my tiny little toes. It was a euphoric mix—I was fully awake but completely exhausted. I wanted the feeling to last.
Each chairlift ride was a blessing, ten minutes of badly needed rest and recovery. I collapsed onto one of them in the late afternoon and leaned back. My feet dangled below me, and my head came to a rest on the back of the chair. I looked up into the sky and inhaled deeply, releasing the air as my cheeks turned up in a smile.
And then, right there, perhaps because of all that fairy dust, I was struck with a grand idea, a bolt straight out of the shining blue sky. It was the answer to “What’s next?” and the perfect box for me to strike a giant check through. Or perhaps, more accurately, it was exactly what was needed to fan all the flames.
I immediately announced my idea.
“I’m gonna do this,” I said with confidence. “I’m going to quit my job and ski around the world.” I felt a shiver move up my right arm.
Silence hung heavy in the air. Other than some light panting, leftover breath from our last run, there was no response.
A few moments passed, and the silence was replaced with a light snickering sound. Then chuckles. Then full snorting.
“Good one, Jagger,” said one of the guys. “Now that’s what I call a fucking pipe dream!”
“Yeah! What’s stopping you?” added my friend Scott before crumpling forward in laughter.
Eventually they all chimed in, each taking turns to shoot down what was a truly absurd and, apparently, comical idea.
“Don’t you think you’re a little young to retire?” one of them said.
“You’re a good skier, Jagger. But you’re not that good.”
“Sounds nice, but remember that little thing you’ve got called a mortgage?”
It was enough to snuff out the small flame, and it didn’t take long for my own voice to chime in.
They’re right. I laughed, shaking my head from side to side. What the fuck am I thinking? I’ve done big goals, but that’s a little much.
As we approached the top of the lift, a blue tin sign caught my eye:
RAISE RESTRAINING DEVICE
Another shiver. This one started at the base of my spine and moved up through my body, causing my shoulders to shudder.
I’d seen the sign before, thousands of times. It’s posted at the top of every lift in the resort—but this time something was different, something about it made me pause. I looked back at it one more time:
RAISE RESTRAINING DEVICE
What’s holding me back? I asked myself. What’s my restraining device? My job? My mortgage? I can figure out what to do with those things.
The match was lit. All I had to do now was drop it.
Steph soon decided to walk away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a bundle of plane tickets. For the next year, she followed winter across North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand—and up and down the mountains of nine countries—on a mission to ski four million vertical feet in a year.