The SNJ’s new columnist Karen Eberhardt-Shelton was born in California but grew up in England.
She now lives in Stroud and is currently working on an education project called Learn, Think, Act and is hoping to develop an eco-community land trust.
Her thought-provoking columns will focus on how we all have to take responsibility for our actions and for our planet.
WHAT delights me is doing something different – heeding what my father’s explorer gene instilled in me and going out and embracing it, listening to it, feeling and following it.
He always had to see what was over the next hill, around the bend, beyond the range of vision and that is something I inherited.
Following the same path or route, doing the predictable or habitual, adhering to a model or theme is simply not my style.
If there are two ways to get there, I’ll try them both.
If there are 10, I’ll sample all 10.
If it’s new, I want to check it out – if I’ve never been there, I want to look in; if I’ve never tasted it or heard it or felt it or seen it, I’m compelled to have a go.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about dangerous or forbidden, just what’s real, alluring, a bit challenging, non-average, inspiring, unknown.
It’s the fresh edge, the unfamiliar, the challenge to see the mountain behind the mountain that’s what I like doing best.
I once read an article about that explorer gene and how there’s a genuine basis for its existence, and thought yes, it must be true.
My father loved spending time in Alaska where the unknown and unexplored was commonplace.
He bought a boat and probed the waters, worked summers at Camp Denali in the shadow of Mt McKinley (at 20,320 feet, the highest point in North America), drove several times from coast to coast in the US, journeyed to Russia and Hungary and did his little unusual bits for his three children, like bring home pet ducklings or get us sliding down dry hillsides on large sheets of cardboard, saying goodnight to wildlife.
Oh yes, many times we wound up waiting or looking or crying for him.
Where was he? Why did he take so long? Were we lost? Would we ever see our home again?
Once, when I had a birthday, he said I could invite a few friends and he would drive us to the coast to swim and horse around on the beach.
On the way home in his lovely yellow-green Ford convertible, he decided to take a hilly route he hadn’t been on before. Night fell.
We tired, sun-lashed teenagers became carsick on the curvy, up and down roads.
It took forever to get home and I knew the final farewell ‘thank yous’ weren’t genuine.
But looking back, I know my father felt compelled to take that unknown route, even if his passengers had to pay the price and I respect his courage to be true to himself even though it made his passengers throw up.
I also bless that gene. I love it.
It has taken me over the Khyber Pass and out on to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, hitch-hiking across America, sailing across the Bass Strait on a 29ft sailboat and trekking about on my own in the Himalayan foothills.
That gene makes my heart sing, my blood tickle, my cells nibble, my feet twitch.
I love where it beckons me, what it allows me to see, taste, investigate, confront, peer through, climb up, clatter down.
It has persuaded me to rock climb, run marathons, sit in Stefan’s Dom in Vienna listening to coral music and be kissed on a P&O liner by the man who turned out to be the love of my life.
It has led me to milk a Nubian goat, sheer sheep, raise bees, plant redwood trees, ride on a moped around Scotland and Corsica and live in a fabric house.
That explorer gene introduced me to Schumacher (of Small is Beautiful), Mother Teresa, Acker Bilk, Teddy Goldsmith, Clare Short and Lord Bath.
It moved me from California to Sussex, Somerset, Devon and finally Stroud.
As I sit writing, the setting sun beckons, saying “Come to a high point, watch me, dream.”
But all in all, it’s very simple.
What delights me at some point in the day or in a particular place, is that inner tug: “Come, try me. You don’t know me, so have a go. We’ve never met, edge closer.”
I love not being comfortable with what’s predictable and conventional, and being touched instead by the hidden, the unrevealed, the unfamiliar.
No Eastenders or timetables for me, thank you.
The door is shut; I watch it slowly swing open.
Just setting off toward an unknown destination along an unfamiliar path with no idea what lies at the end of the route or what I will smell or bump into or converse with along the way makes my heart jiggle with anticipation.
What has your 'explorer gene' driven you to find out or do? Have you had an epic adventure that you would like to share? Join the discussion at stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk or call the team at 01453 762412.