To Be Brave: A Conversation
By Katie Inglis
I sat down with my friend and colleague Jennifer Sukis to talk about her upcoming and much anticipated project To Be Brave, a countrywide camping road trip where she plans to interview interesting folks that have taken the plunge to follow their dreams, and write a book about the discoveries made along the journey.
A quality that I admire very much in a person is the ability to innately understand when the time has come to move on coupled with the ability to fluidly transition into a new space. I’m not good at this, but Jennifer is. She acts with foresight and intention, even when it’s really hard or the path ahead is unclear. Jennifer’s project, To Be Brave, was born out of a need to change the scenery, to get off the well-trod path, to spend some much needed time writing-reflecting-introspecting, and to record the stories of people that have done the same and been better for it.
Many late night conversations led to discussing that elusive person – the one we all have heard of or know anecdotally – that took the plunge to follow their passions. These are the ones that took huge risks and made it, who felt compelled to go outside of their “comfort zones”, those that desired to do something bigger, something better, to give back, or to just live the best life they’ve always known was possible but weren’t pursuing. To Be Brave will explore, over coffee, campsites, long nights and 41 days, these rare individuals. Jennifer aims to uncover what makes them tick. How did they come to where they are? How do they consider their own mortality? What inspires them? Are there overarching similarities that we can apply to our own lives? And along the way she’ll talk with eighteen others that are on the same path as she motors from state to state.
Putting on pause life in Austin to pack up her car with bikes, books, the necessities of camping and the tools of journalistic enterprise, she’ll head for Marfa on April 13th to a worthy Bon Voyage, marking the beginning of this new adventure. Jennifer will be crossing the American Southwest first, heading to California, up the coast and around to Montana, through the Great Planes to the cities and coasts of the Northeast, then down through the Blue Ridge Mountains and back to Austin, where To Be Brave will be made into something sharable.
In between interviews, reflecting on and understanding the material she gathers through To Be Brave will be essential for forming the contents of the book Jennifer plans to create. The idea of the To Be Brave book came from the many people that told stories of the Brave, and want to learn still more about their experiences, their lives, and the things Jennifer learns from them on her journey. Whether the final product is a small and personal hand-bound journal or a bold coffee-table sized volume, I too can’t wait to see the how these deep questions and long thoughts crystalize onto the printed page. And I hear a film may be in the the future of To Be Brave as well!
Jennifer and I share a passion for camping, the very quietness of it, and the space it provides for ritual and introspection. Jennifer’s favorite things to take camping are her coffee pot/hand grinder/kettles/filter, and coffee, that’s being specially roasted for her by Handsome Coffee. They’re donating enough to To Be Brave that she’ll have plenty to gift and share with the folks she meets along the way – one of the best ways to get to know someone. While we talked Jennifer described to me the importance of a good cup of Joe, the different types of coffee making usually encountered while camping (Cowboy Coffee!? Who could ever…!) and how to make the best cup even while you’re on the move. This is her ritual, and one she’ll be sharing with lots of people.
I’m inspired by Jennifer’s thirst for knowledge and her mission to seek answers from people she respects. I feel challenged in my own life to consider what it means to live the best life, to take chances, to be uncompromising about my values and to stop waiting for the “right time” to do the things I want to do in my life. Jennifer is being brave, going out on the road in search of something bigger than herself and bigger than the things most of us know.