This week’s featured fearless female traveler is Lucy Jane Bledsoe, author and adventurer extraordinaire. Check out what it was like to prepare for a trip to Antarctica, what animals to look out for while kayaking, and more.
GGG: Hi! Welcome to Girls that Go! Let’s start with the basics. What’s your name, and where are you from originally?
My name is Lucy Jane Bledsoe and I’m from Portland, Oregon, that wonderfully wild state.
GGG: Nice to meet you! You’re one of the few who have stayed at all three American stations in Antarctica. How did that opportunity come about?
I love all places gorgeous and remote, and am always on the lookout for finding ways to get to them. I heard about a National Science Foundation Artists & Writers Fellowship that took people to the stations in Antarctica – the places where scientists and support staff spend the season.
I knew these fellowships were the only way to get to these stations because the tourist trips only went to the edges of the continent. So I started dreaming about a novel I wanted to write and applied for the fellowship.
I got it, and wrote my novel, The Big Bang Symphony, which is about three women who take jobs in Antarctica, as a galley cook, a composer, and a climate change geologist. That first trip allowed me to go to both McMurdo Station, where I stayed a few months, and South Pole Station, where I stayed for a week.
The experience was so over-the-top awesome I applied to go again, and this time asked to go to Palmer Station. I ended up writing two kids books about Antarctica too – The Antarctic Scoop and How to Survive in Antarctica.
GGG: Sweet! How did you prepare for your first trip to Antarctica? Was there anything that first time that you wish you had done differently?
Hm. Good question about wondering if I’d done something differently.
I don’t think I’ve ever prepared for anything so carefully in my life. I knew this was a chance of a lifetime and I really worked hard to make sure I got the most from it. So I made endless lists and read every book I could find on the continent, talked to all sorts of people.
I ended up getting to spend time in lots of field camps – in the Transantarctic mountains and on a couple of islands. I was glad I’d prepared so thoroughly.
Some trips are all about just going and following your nose and seeing what happens. Antarctica is such an extreme place, with a lot of potential danger, so I really wanted to know what was ahead of me.
That said, one thing everyone there tells you is that everything changes all the time and that all plans get foiled. That’s true of life, of course, so Antarctica is a good place to stay agile.
GGG: Good point. Antarctica isn’t the only place you’ve ventured to! Where are some of your other favorite places to sojourn?
I love Alaska. Stunning and huge. I like to go in the winter to see the northern lights.
The Andes and the Pyrenees are other mountain ranges I’ve spent time in. But I love hanging out in the warm sunlight with great wine in places like Italy, too. I love swimming in warm ocean water, so anywhere tropical.
Basically, I love seeing new places and meeting new people, so I’ll go just about anywhere that promises to be beautiful and interesting.
GGG: Not a bad policy. You’ve been through a lot of wilderness in your adventures. Any crazy animal-related stories you could share?
Oh, yeah. Lots. We encountered a lot of brown bear (what we call grizzlies in the lower forty-eight) while kayaking in Alaska (both Glacier Bay National Park and Prince William Sound).
We were advised to check out a beach before we set up camp – if there were bear tracks, don’t camp there. The only problem was that there weren’t any beaches at all without bear tracks! We were very careful to hang our food every night.
I heard that the bears had learned that kayakers kept food in the hatches of their boats. There were stories of brown bears swimming after kayakers, trying to get their food!
GGG: Yikes! So, how has your relationship to nature changed since you began traveling through many (relatively) untouched places?
My book, The Ice Cave, is about lots of my travels and exactly your question – how my relationship to the wild has changed. I think it has intensified.
I love being in nature because it reminds me that I’m just another animal, trying to survive. I find that relaxing. In my everyday life, working long hours, I get all caught up in the hamster wheel of my mind.
When traveling, I become more and more aware of my blessedly insignificant place on this planet.That helps me enjoy food, sleep, other people, and beautiful sights so much more.
GGG: Your novels seem to be heavily influenced by your travels. How do you choose what aspects to include in your fiction?
I write about people—their loves, troubles, family. Readers often tell me they didn’t think they’d like my writing because they “don’t like nature.” But when they read my stories, they realize that I’m writing about—or trying to write about!—the most deeply human stuff.
I sometimes place my characters in wild places because I think that intensifies their humanness in an interesting way.
GGG: Finally, any upcoming travel plans to inspire more work?
The novel I’m working on now takes place in New York, Chicago, and New Hampshire! I like to keep challenging myself, and this is definitely doing that. To add to the challenge, it takes place in the 1960s.
That said, my travel hopes for the near future include China and possibly Russia.
Great! We’re looking forward to seeing what comes out of those trips! Perhaps another book.
For more information about Lucy Jane, check out her website or find her books in a bookstore near you!