If there’s anyone qualified to help us navigate a kickass summer, Bend writer Zoe Falk would make a good candidate. Her debut book, “The Adventure Guide to Living a Kickass Life: How to Become More Adventurous and Start Living a More Exciting Life,” releases June 21.
Falk, 24, who grew up in Sisters, where she ran track at Sisters High, describes it as a split between memoir and personal development guide targeted at readers 16 to 25, “using my life as the template, and just trying to help people see their greater purpose and meaning in life through this theme of adventure,” she said.
Her own adventures as a young adult began with a tragedy: Five days before Falk graduated from college, her cousin Gabe committed suicide. She was born in California, where life with her parents was “chaotic and troubled,” she said. “I ended up growing up the rest of my life with my aunt and uncle, who became my immediate family.”
Gabe was like a brother to her, and his suicide hit her hard.
“That was a very profound experience in my life,” Falk said. “With that experience came a lot of inspiration and a lot of writing, also. I didn’t really get into the whole writing scene until that occurrence. … That really altered my perception of going into the future, and what I saw my life as.”
Falk sold her possessions and moved to Europe for a few years, where she taught English in Valencia, Spain and began writing.
“I really got into journaling and writing. It really began with letters I’d write to Gabriel,” she said. “And then along came this idea of travel blogging and writing (about) my experiences.”
The commute to her teaching gig left Falk plenty of time for contemplation, Falk said. That was when she began to consider writing a book “that helped fellow young people who are suffering from mental health problems, or just being able to speak up about my own experiences dealing with grief from suicide and many other traumas that I had to endure,” she said.
The book would be her version of helping people in crisis, a mission amplified by other people’s suicides as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was so difficult to see, and I just needed to do something with my voice … and just being able to help people see life as a grand adventure rather than a task that they have to get up and do every day,” Falk said.
Falk began writing the first of many drafts in the fall of 2019 in Spain. At the outset of the pandemic, she headed to the United Kingdom to stay with her stepfather, Mark Speed.
“He’s also an author, and I got a lot of guidance in that time, actually,” she said. “I got a lot of growth and insight from that experience, and motivation to keep going with the book.”
The book is divided into 12 concepts, including defining adventure, overcoming obstacles and the science behind our perception of time.
“In certain moments of life, you feel like time goes faster, and sometimes it feels slower,” she explained. That chapter explores maximizing one’s perception of time in life.
On that note, Falk had several suggestions for maximizing your kickass summer, including the following:
Create an adventure map: “Find adventure spots you want to go to and have a map ready, and mark them.”
Reenact favorite game show or movie: “I love ‘The Amazing Race’ a lot, and so it would be fun to reenact something of that sort and create challenges. My family loves ‘Red Dawn,’ and we’ve done a ‘Red Dawn’ survival night thing where you only get $5 and you have to get whatever survival equipment you can all contribute (to) with the $5 you have and try to survive the night.”
Explore an unfamiliar road: “See where it takes you. I’ve found some really random things, like an abandoned watchtower, from that. There are some interesting places you can find out in the middle of nowhere.”
Find or make a rope swing: “We had a lot of fun with that growing up. My brothers and I would go and make random rope swings. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. That’s kind of the fun of it.”
Watch the sun rise and set: “Watch as many sunrises and sunsets as you can from your favorite viewpoint.”
Hit a swimming hole: “There are a lot of cliff jumping spots around the Bend area. (Stick to) established places like Steelhead Falls.”
Go spelunking: “It’s fun if it’s a hot night and you want to go explore a new cave, there are a number of caves around the area.”
Try plein air painting: “To do something creative, you could do something like paint in the park, or write poetry on top of a mountain.”
Enter a race: “Sign up for a race or a competition, just do that spontaneously and train for it.”
See the stars: “Go stargazing in your hammock or on top of your car somewhere.”
Make it a Smith Rock afternoon: “It’s the most magical place at sunset. A lot of times my family and I will go out and climb Smith, and on the way back we get to witness the really beautiful sunset. … It’s the perfect time of day to go.”
Play a board game in the park: “I have a travel backgammon set, so … I’ve taught all these different people from around the world how to play backgammon in different places, like the beach in Portugal or a mountain villa in Switzerland. … It’s an easy game to learn quickly, and also just a fun strategic game to do.”