Bicycle Odyssey: Feel Adventure Up Close

For me, life without adventure is not life at all.
As I near my 70th year, I seek even more exhilarating experiences, whether backpacking the long-distance trails of Europe or exploring the trails and bikeways of the USA while traveling in a small travel trailer.

When I can’t get out there, I pursue adventure through reading about others’ experiences. Bicycle Odyssey took me on the trip of a lifetime.
Consider what author Carla Fountain and her husband Dermot accomplished in a year. Planes, trains and buses transported them and their bicycles to the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Kenya, Uganda, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Bali, and many more places. They rode in weather and situations that would keep most of us indoors.

The American couple quit their teaching jobs so they could spend the night in a tent while hippos shook the ground around them. They snorkeled off the Kenyan coast. They survived the dangerous roads of India, where truck drivers honked rather than move over. They confronted their fears with courage.

Fountain uses her journal to recreate the 1991 journey and her story comes from her heart. Her account feels fresh, brought to life through recreated conversations and fascinating details about cultural experiences. Her adventure causes Fountain to re-evaluate her life, including her marriage. She is introspective in a relatable way.

As much as I feel compelled to tackle risky experiences, I doubt I will come close to an adventure like Fountain’s. However, her story inspires me to stretch the boundaries of my life.

The Real Madness of Mental Illness

Harvard freshman Stephen Hinshaw was back home in Columbus, Ohio for spring break. His father, prominent Ohio State philosopher Virgil Hinshaw Jr., called him into his study for a talk. Within minutes, the son’s life changed forever.

For Stephen, the ensuing talks with his father answered questions he had kept buried for a lifetime. Why did Dad disappear all those times? Where did he go?

In Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness Stephen Hinshaw brilliantly shares his family’s story.

Now an eminent psychology professor at UC Berkeley, the author relates his father’s story. He tells how his family’s silence left its marks that he sees in himself every day.

Where did his dad go all those times? To various institutions for what was diagnosed at the time as schizophrenia. The treatments were extreme and included electric shock therapy.

Why did his father have to go away? His highs and lows were so extreme that he was unable to function in his job, in his family. Later came the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or manic depression.

Stephen Hinshaw describes how ending the silence and stigma attached to mental illness can heal and even prevent scars in patients and their families. The book will help some readers recognize scars in themselves.

Another Kind of Madness envisions a world in which stigma is no longer attached to any condition of human life.

You Can Make Anxiety Your Friend

If you are worried that you don’t know how to deal with anxiety, Sarah Rayner may be the just the person who can help.

Making Friends With Anxiety may seem like a terrible title if anxiety threatens your peace of mind, follows you everywhere, and ruins what should be the best of times. So, if making anxiety your enemy makes it worse, what should you do?

Rayner uses the gentle approach of a friend who understands. She describes how-to exercises and tips about life, including diet, breathing, and handling criticism. She breaks down medications, how to approach your doctor, the kinds of anxiety, and much more.

The author knows from experience. At one point, she admitted herself to a clinic to get help. Her struggle is real. Her words are genuine.

She helped me understand that my body sets off adrenaline and other stress hormones as a signal that something is wrong. It showed me it is harmful to come down hard on myself when I can’t necessarily stop the physical symptoms.

She makes it clear anxiety can be a difficult friend to live with. But Making Friends With Anxiety is full of support and hope.

As a companion book, have you read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz? Click the title to see my brief discussion about one of the greatest books related to mental well-being.

My best wishes.

A Himalayan Journey Born as a Dream

Living in her native India, Susan Jagannath fell in love at first sight. She was just 16. But she would have to wait until she was in her 60s to realize her dream, a closeup view of the object of her affection.

In Chasing Himalayan Dreams, Jagannath describes her journey on the Singalila Ridge Trek along the Nepal-India border to Sandakphu, where she gazes across 30 miles of blue sky to Kanchenjunga, the sacred mountain. On the 38-mile guided walk, she travels through villages, soaking up local culture.

The peak she first glimpsed at 16 is not just any mountain. Billed as the world’s tallest until 1852, Kanchenjunga elevation is 28,169 feet. It resides among four of the tallest peaks, including Mt. Everest. And Kanchenjunga has never been summited. By tradition and out of respect for its sacred designation, climbers stop short of its tallest point.

Her book is a quick, easy page-turner. I celebrated when the author, who lives in Australia, climbed to the viewpoint at Sandakphu, at an altitude of 12,100 feet. I had my fingers crossed that clouds would not stand between her and her mountain. If they had, I think Susan Jagannath would not have quit her dream to get a clear look at her first love.