Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rowing to Understanding

In Jill Fredston’s Rowing to Latitude, she doesn’t waste much time in answering the age-old question: why are you doing this? Given that this is the last adventure narrative we are reading, her answer is not far from what we would expect at this point. She says, “They might as well ask us why we breathe or eat. Our journeys are food for our spirits, clean air for our souls” (pg XV). The best part about this answer is that Fredston seems to cleanly articulate what many other adventurers have attempted to say before. She is not trying to hide her real reasons, as if her journeys are something selfish that need to be hidden under the guise of science. Fredston and her husband Doug are not like the Krakauer of The Devil’s Thumb; they aren’t running from something, or trying to fix an unwanted job situation by escaping to the outdoors. Nor are they like Maurice Herzog. They do not have a “conquer or die trying” attitude about their boat adventures.
            While thinking of all the other books we have read this semester, I can clearly see how the perspective of self-awareness has developed. Earlier writers like Herzog and Krakauer did not seem to have a reason for their adventuring, or else they couldn’t articulate the answer. It is much easier and more fulfilling to read a narrative like this, where the adventurer is aware of the way that others perceive her adventures, and who possesses self-understanding of the point to these adventures. About her trips she says, “they are neither a vacations nor an escape, they are a way of life” (pg XV). This brief paragraph in the preface doesn’t drone on; Fredston is not trying to argue her reasons for adventuring. She simply lays out her answer and moves on to more exciting aspects of her journeys. However, this introductory section is very useful for the reader to relate to and appreciate the author’s adventures. 

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with the value of Fredston's up-front attitude, I think its a bit of an oversimplification to say that she moves on to the more exciting parts after stating her reason for adventuring. In fact, I think the rest of the book can be interpreted as a further, deeper explanation of how her rowing adventures have come to serve the purpose that they do for Jill. Adventure dominates and defines her lifestyle in a number of different ways-affecting her marriage, her familial relationships, her relationship with the outside world and the ways she defines herself. I think one of the strongest parts of this narrative is the way every new experience reflects upon Jill's personal development, showing us reasons that she adventures on a far deeper level than the way she simply tells us in the beginning of the book.