I recently met a 90-year-old woman who changed my life forever.
One day in June of 1949, 26-year-old Dutch baroness and writer Petronella Van Der Moer walked out of Helsinki, headed north toward the Arctic Circle. With a goal to create her own adventure and share what she found through writing, Petronella spent the following four months fording rivers, battling mosquitoes, befriending gold miners, and creating a legend in Lapland – one that is still told today. What lies between today and October of 2014 is:
Her mystery. Since disappearing from the public eye in 1949, Petronella has remained a mystery. I first learned about her story through my friends, and discovered she lived right down the road from me. When I can, I go and sit with Petronella. I bring a ukulele and a notebook. I sing to her, and sometimes I get a fragment of her story in return. Her daughter, my friend Solange, is helping me uncover her adventure one article, one black and white photograph, one Finnish musical at a time.
My adventure. Beginning in summer 2014, I am packing my backpack and lacing up my own boots to retrace Petronella's footsteps (over 750 miles) across Finland!
My quest. Petronella inspires me, because she redefined society's conceptions of what women of her time could do, and did it her own way. Her story is one of strength, inspiration, and flat-out passion for writing. Raised a proper Dutch Baroness, she was expected to be in the paper 3 times during her life: at birth, when she was married, and when she died. Her passion for writing caused her to shed the expectations of her family in favor of becoming a journalist. When the publications of her time tried to limit her writing to fashion, Petronella took off for Finland to tell her own story. She took a risk for her art.
I am the same age as Petronella was on her journey, and this is my way of living my truth. I plan to write my story, and in turn, breathe life into hers. I lead courses for organizations that empower women and girls through outdoor adventure and travel. I hope that my story inspires people of all ages to seek out and create their own legend.
UPDATE 11/27/13: Thank you so much for your generous support thus far! If I break $24,000, I will be able to implement the test run of a life dream that combines all of my passions: a writing, inspiration, and adventure workshop for women and girls. Through real-life backpacking and adventure, the workshop will focus on pushing ourselves to be adventurous in our writing. Together we will find inspiration in each other, the land around us, and within. Exciting things are ahead!
Risks and challenges
There comes a time in every woman’s life when she stops to examine the direction she is headed and the words, “what the HELL?” fly unbidden from between her lips. I have had, on average, twenty-six moments like that every day for the past 6 months.
What the HELL? Did I just say I was going to walk across Finland? The long way?
What the HELL? That will cost more money than I have ever owned at one time in my life.
What the HELL? My inspiration is a 90-year-old woman who sometimes forgets who her daughter is and talks at the rate of melting cheese.
What the HELL? There’s a book written about her! (It’s in Finnish.) There's an opera written about her! (It's in Finnish.) There’s a musical written about her! (It’s in Finnish.) I don’t speak a damn lick of Finnish.
What the HELL? This means I will have to write. For real. A book.
These incessant, all-too-logical questions come from my inner Critic. You know the one. Her favorite statements are “I can’t,” and “it’s not safe,” and “by yourself?” and “no one will love you if you fail,” and “that’s right, you’re probably going to fail,” and…today, I’m tuning her out. Today, the question has finally become the answer.
What the HELL! Let’s do this thing.
I operate on a 99% mixture of gut instinct, knowledge of self, ability to find the humor in every situation, and the word "yes." That said, I have done the careful preparation necessary for this adventure, and I am confident I will be able to meet any setbacks that lie ahead.
Finland Challenges: I am a savvy outdoors-woman, a raft guide, and a certified Wilderness First Responder. I have journeyed to over 20 countries, and understand the ins and outs of traveling in a foreign place. Come January, I will be dedicating a significant amount of time to learning Finnish, but besides that I have a knack for engaging people wherever I go and believe in music as the Universal Language. (My ukulele will be accompanying me on my journey).
Monetary Challenges: As an Outdoor Educator, I do not earn nearly enough of what it would take for me to complete this journey and the subsequent book. It is supporters like you that make this possible! I have a plan in place to carefully track every cent I earn on Kickstarter, and ensure that all of your donations go strictly to this project. Every little bit helps!
Writing Challenges: Yes, I am new to the writing and publishing world. But hot damn I am passionate about this path, and am working on becoming a better writer all the time. In addition to writing the occasional article for rookerville.com, I am taking writing classes through the San Francisco Writers' Grotto and Hollins University, which are helping me forge connections with well-known writers and publishers, find my inspiration, and hone my craft. I believe there is always more to learn, and I will continue my writing education as far as it will take me.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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