Adventure is a Muscle That Grows Stronger With Use

Adventure is a Muscle That Grows Stronger With Use

I may be an adventure fiction writer, but in real life I am a simple creature of early mornings and early nights. I can ride a Pipeline-sized wave of energy through the day, but the downside is I crash extra hard on the beach by eight pm. After that point, I struggle to make sense of a TV drama. By nine pm, I’m lucky if I can spell my name. 

So when Colin started reading his email aloud at the wee hours of ten, I was nearly at the comatose point of sleep. “You are the grand prize winner,” he said, perplexed. “You and a companion will be flown to—”

The data security sentries in my brain rang the alarm bells. My body flooded with adrenaline and I bolted up in bed. “Delete it now!” I said. “It’s a phishing scam. Don’t touch it!” Three people I knew had recently been hacked. I was bumping into things, reaching wildly for the light switch.

“I haven’t clicked,” he said, “But look. It’s from The North Face. I think we won a ski trip to Colorado.”

“It’s a fake,” I said with authority. “Scammers are really sophisticated.” I remembered working at Ancestry years ago, and receiving a bunch of complaints over an email we’d never sent. Apparently it was pretty easy to fake an email to look like it came from a company. This must be like that.

Thank goodness I’d intervened. I made Colin promise not to click anything in the night. He asked—quite nicely, given the situation—if I would just look at it again in the morning.

“Fine,” I said. My night watchman's duty of protecting our identities, passwords, and bank accounts was over. I willed my body to process the cortisol out of my bloodstream so I could get to sleep as quickly as possible.

It was only the next day that I learned Colin had, in fact, entered a North Face contest. He showed me the email—carefully. He showed me the page where he’d entered. I checked the domain, read the fine print, looked up social posts about the contest, googled fraud + the contest name. Still, I couldn’t spot the scam.

Tentatively, I allowed Colin to call the phone number listed in the email as long as he promised to not divulge a single piece of personal information. He spoke to a sweet woman at a contest company in New York—these exist; I used them myself at Ancestry—who emailed him documents we’d need to have notarized to accept the prizes.

Aha, I thought. Now I’ll see what they’re trying to get from us.

I found fifteen pages of legalese that I read one very skeptical word at a time. But instead of signing away our 401k, it amounted to a pretty standard corporate CYA that we wouldn’t sue them if we hurt ourselves skiing. 

Huh. This was either the most long game con, or… no. Impossible. But wait… could it be?

We signed the documents, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then, airline confirmations showed up. A box arrived with Basecamp duffel bags and $400 winter coats. We got a complete itinerary of our three-day stay in Colorado, including hotel, ski and snowboard rentals, lessons, film premieres, meeting The North Face winter athletes, and an optional night of snow camping.

Through it all, Colin managed to never once call me an idiot.

Thanks to his optimism beating my skepticism into submission, and despite fifteen years since I’d last mounted a chairlift, I found myself on a slope in Colorado with skis attached to my feet. It was a bluebird day. A mama and baby moose were frolicking between the runs. Still, I imagined the outcome would involve torn ligaments and physical therapy.

Instead, I got exhilaration. I got joy. I got the most alive-ness I’ve felt in years.

That’s when I realized I hadn’t just won some great gear. Or fun experiences. Or new friends. Those were fabulous bonuses. The true grand prize The North Face had gifted me turned out to be a rediscovery of my adventure muscles. I hadn’t even realized how much I’d let them atrophy.

In March 2020, I’d been at my most adventure-ready, fresh off two years of sailing Mexico and ready to cast off the dock lines and cross the South Pacific. I felt confident. I felt strong. My excitement was greater than my fear. I was ready to face 9000 miles of open Pacific in a 37-foot boat.

One glance at the date and we all know what brought that plan to a screeching halt. But in the four years since, I hadn’t realized how small I’d let my world grow, how I’d confined myself to armchair exploration. I love writing adventure fiction, but somewhere along the line I’d stopped living it.

Because, well, fear. 

Viruses and wars and freeway shootings. Scammers and shark attacks and plane doors falling off. Lions and tigers and bears. The dangers are no joke. They’re also an integral part of being fully alive. It turns out there was a mighty long tail to my Covid-induced fear chain that I had no conscious awareness of.

But saying YES to swishing down that mountain, saying YES to doing shots with people half my age (crazy girl!), saying YES to snow camping, I felt the twitches of my old self come back. My adventure muscles were still there, and they were raring to get stronger.

That Colorado trip couldn’t have been better. The North Face employees were thoughtful, fun, and super inspiring. The films they premiered showed a total of five athletes pushing every limit of mountain riding. All five were women.

Extra, extra gold stars, TNF.

We also met three North Face sponsored athletes. Badass doesn’t even begin to describe what they’ve accomplished, and yet they were the opposite of intimidating. Not some fearless alien species, but authentic humans who spoke of fear in the same terms I did. Right before they pushed off into the void.

I may have given the sentries in my mind more power for good reason, but I’d forgotten there’s a trade-off for safe. It is living in a box. In a whisper. In a beige world.

And that trip made me want to learn to live BIG again.

So when I got home, I made myself a training plan to get back in adventure shape by taking one tiny step outside my comfort zone at a time.

1. Turn the chicken noodle soup into a curry

2. Wear the red shoes

3. Start exploring my current backyard of Los Angeles—one beach, neighborhood, and cool museum at a time

4. Plan a camping trip

5. Unearth those dusty ocean passage books and plant some seeds for the next full-on, out-loud, wild adventure to come

It’s still 17 months until we splash our new boat, and I have a long way to go before I’m fully back to my March 2020 adventure-ready self, but let’s just say I at least recognize her in the mirror again. :)

Fair Winds, 


If you're curious, this is The North Face’s 40-second video about the event. (If you squint really hard you can find me in a single frame at :20, smiling ear to ear.) Massive shoutout and a lifetime of thanks to the to the great people and gear of The North Face and the amazing athletes: @bigairmare, @griffpost, and @taylahhbrooke.

And just for clarity sake: this post wasn't sponsored at all. Obviously I got a lot of free stuff, but that was the result of a regular contest, and the generosity of my husband in choosing me as his companion even after I was such a ninny about the email. The North Face didn't ask for this post, nor did they review it in advance.



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