Molly Wizenberg, who as a child aspired to be a writer, had always been a top-notch student, but she'd never felt a strong sense of direction. Eventually, she found herself working on a doctorate in cultural anthropology, a pursuit that took her to Paris to gather information for her dissertation on the French social-security system.
While in Paris, however, she became infatuated with French food, and spent much more time eating and drinking in cafés than researching the country's economic practices. Returning to the U.S. with a wealth of gastronomical memories, but little progress on her dissertation, Wizenberg decided to stop working on her doctorate.
One day, she told a friend about her culinary adventures in France, and he suggested that she start writing a blog about food. Taken by the idea, she soon created a blog that enabled her to combine her two deepest interests: writing and food.
Within months, her blog was attracting a steadily increasing stream of readers. In 2006, she received a book deal to write a memoir about food, family and the often-poignant connection between the two. The book became a New York Times best-seller, and she now writes a monthly column for Bon Appétit magazine.
In his new book, Adventure in Everything: How the Five Elements of Adventure Create a Life of Authenticity, Purpose and Inspiration, Tucson writer and seasoned adventurer Matt Walker points to Wizenberg as an illustration of what can happen when people find a life path that really turns them on.
Such meaningful endeavors, he says, can transform our lives into an adventure, not only launching us out of bed in the morning with rapturous visions of the day ahead, but also often preparing the way for some astonishing accomplishments. Sadly, he tells us, few people ever experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from discovering what they really want to do with their lives.
Judging from the wide array of self-help books on the market (not to mention the seemingly endless procession of therapists and self-improvement workshops), it would appear that Walker is right. It's the goal of his short but empathetic book to sharpen readers' self-awareness, expand their sense of potentiality and guide them toward a path that's "worthy of our energy, love and passion."
Walker, a longtime outdoor educator and mountain guide, acknowledges that there are numerous reasons why so many lives lack meaning and purpose. The overarching one is fear—especially the fear of stepping outside of our comfort zone.
"Too often," he writes, "we decide against leaving our comfort zone for the sake of new opportunities because they might disrupt our worldview—and having such a disturbance would be scary and confusing. Instead, we fall into the pattern of saying no to new and different experiences."
Reaching a point where we begin to say yes to change is a significant step, Walker writes, but the process of figuring out exactly what kind of change we desire can be long and difficult. Imagination, he suggests, is the underlying key to self-discovery. To jump-start our intuitive faculties, he proposes a simple formula that entails grafting, as Wizenberg did, multiple activities that we truly enjoy into one unique hybrid that "encapsulates all of your interests, passions and dreams into a single lifestyle."
If we're fortunate enough to discover such a glorious pursuit—and Walker is adamant that a life of fulfilling adventure is possible for all, regardless of our circumstances—it's vital that we dedicate ourselves completely to it, and learn not to give up when faced with adversity. He says we must expunge from our minds negative stories we've created based on our own insecurities. He says we must surround ourselves with mentors and supportive companions, develop flexible problem-solving skills, and be willing to go wherever our adventure takes us.
Walker fills the pages with inspiring examples and many action-oriented assignments, including a number of stream-of-consciousness "brain dumping" exercises to foster greater clarity of mind.
This is an illuminative, inspiriting book. Like most effective self-help guides, it motivates by reminding us of important truths that we already know, but often forget. And like the very best of these books, it's a compelling testament to the value of living an authentic life.
"The most important part," Walker asserts, "of finding adventure in everything is to conduct ourselves with humility, grace and a willingness to be who we are."