Six years ago, I made a commitment to myself to one day write a book that would chronicle my adventures and transition to parenthood. Fast-forward and life got busy, I had another kid, started a few businesses, put together four photo travel books with Paul and, voilà, the project was perpetually put on hold. But the dream never faded and in the fall of 2018, I connected with my publisher and finally got the wheels in motion.
Hiking on Rapa Nui. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
With that, I’m excited to announce that I signed a book contract for a travel memoir to be published by Rocky Mountain Books in Fall 2022!
“Travel memoir” is the best I can do to distill the book down to its essence, but it spans the past 15 years, and tracks my journey West and then off the beaten track. It spans oceans and continents, from peaks to valleys, as I learn to navigate an adventure-filled life, unlike anything I was raised with, and guide my young kids down the same bumpy path. It’s not a book about parenting, so much as about adventure amplified with children added to the mix, and what it means to choose adventure as a way of life in all its many facets.
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: New Zealand, Lake O’Hara, Auyuittuq National Park, Bermuda, Rapa Nui/Easter Island. All photos by Paul Zizka Photography.
As of today, I’m 33,792 words in and I can tell I have plenty of work ahead. But I’m in love with the process and the opportunity to relive my memories as I shape them into this book.
About the photo: Hiking in Connemara National Park, Ireland, with my family back in November 2019. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
I’m a writer by trade and, like everyone, my life is more than my profession. But what’s unique about my arrangement is that I can weave my passions, interests and daily existence into my writing. If you follow my social media feeds, you’ll notice some emerging themes that don’t always have a clear connection apart from them coming from me: the mountain life, travel and adventure, writing, entrepreneurship, publishing, the work/life balance and parenting.
My usual approach is to compartmentalize parts of my private life and keep them offline. There’s a lot that transpires that doesn’t need to reach the virtual space. I’ll hint at things at times, but not fully divulge. But this month, I’ve been through a period of burnout that I recognize has the potential to affect other creative people and fellow parent-entrepreneurs who are firing all cylinders all the time. Heck, anyone can fall into the trap because we’re all juggling a lot, right?
So, I wanted to write about it with hopes that I can start a conversation with other creatives, business owners and go-getters so that perhaps I can help others avoid a similar scenario.
“Lucky” for me, I have an auto-immune disease I’ve never spoken about publicly, and not because I am ashamed of it but because I’ve never acknowledged for myself the real role it plays in my life. I say “lucky” because what this provides me is a barometer for my stress and my neglect of self-care. That disease is eczema, and it’s a difficult one to talk about because it manifests itself differently in every person it affects. It varies widely in severity and also in what causes it to flare. I’ve been dealing with it since high school, but it has gotten worse in my thirties, and went from “a patch here or there” to a full-body screaming machine. By definition, mine is of moderate severity, but the consequences of a bad flare-up are enough to make me want to crawl in my bed in a dark room and never come out.
This week I had a bad flare-up. Hindsight is 20/20 and I really should have seen it coming. All the signs were there: lack of sleep while we were travelling (immune system is shot); 45 hours of transit home from Malta (sitting in airplane air that sucked all the moisture out of me); jetlag (now we’re really not sleeping); a toddler with chickenpox (that was like having a newborn all over again); me getting hit with a flu and fever (sweating is not great for eczema-prone skin); and external circumstances that pushed my stress-load right off the charts.
On top of this – and my life as a writer, mom, wife, business owner – is the daily regimen I keep up to avoid a flare. I keep a gluten- and dairy-free diet and take a supplement of fish oil, omega 3, 6, and 9s, and other oils to help manage the disease from the inside-out. I moisturize like my life depends on it, many times a day. I avoid triggers, especially when my skin is very dry. The list goes on. Last week, I let things slide.
No wonder it flared.
I feel the same way, kid. [Playing at Keem Bay, Achill Island, Ireland. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.]
Where to go from here?
As devastating as this flare-up has been, it also lit a bit of a fire under me. I’ve come to a few realizations, some related to managing the disease, but I think all of these are transferrable as tools to avoiding burnout:
1. I need to take this condition seriously. A flare-up takes weeks or months to heal. My friend Robyn calls her MS her “sidekick,” and I think I need to reframe the way I view eczema. It’s a nuisance, yes, but it’s also a unique tool I can use to keep myself in check. The trade-off if I pay more attention to it, and prioritize myself more, is that I won’t only have fewer flare-ups, but I may also heal my system.
2. I need to make some adjustments to my external circumstances or the stress-load will never come down. This is something my husband and I are working through together.
3. I complain all the time that I lose my creative time to admin work and life logistics, so I need to create more space for the things that make my heart truly sing. No one else can do that for me.
4. I need to get my “team” back together and get back on my supplement train. My team includes my naturopathic doctor, massage therapist, and yoga instructors. As a creative entrepreneur, I absolutely cannot do my job or pursue my passions when I’m running on empty.
5. I need to listen to my body and the people who are holding me accountable. How often do we resist words of caution or “symptoms” when they arise? Often I just need to listen to what I’m saying to others: “It’s a little too much right now” (usually with a nervous laugh) or “Yeah, things are pretty crazy around here.” These are words of caution to heed as much as any others.
6. I need to simplify my life, even if it means making hard choices. I think many entrepreneurs will relate to the idea that you need enough on your plate to feel motivated and productive. Finding the right balance is tough, but I plan on taking some time to identify the pinch points in our lives, what I can say “no” to moving forward, and putting together some goals for the next year.
So, whatever your “sidekick” is or the mode your body and spirit go into when you’re running full tilt into a brick wall, I hope you’ll take the steps you need to get back on track.
This is my work for the year ahead. 😊
Feel free to share with me in the comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this very important topic and how burnout affects other creative entrepreneurs.
I recently received an email announcing that You Won’t Remember This: Travel with Babies had been published! This book, edited by Sandy Bennett-Haber over in Scotland, has been a major work in progress. But that’s how these things roll when you’re working to accomplish a behemoth task with kids in tow (good on you, Sandy!).
The book includes twenty stories from writers around the world, including one I wrote about our first two days in New Zealand when we embarked on our 70-day journey through the South Pacific. I called the chapter “Finding Our Bearings on the Banks Peninsula” since it was based largely on a post I wrote here on this website back in 2014.
Here’s an excerpt!
The room is finally quiet. Cries have subsided and transitioned to the soft, rhythmic whistle of a baby soundly sleeping. I can’t tell if my husband, Paul, is asleep on…
I resisted writing this post today for various reasons. Busyness. Fatigue. Repetition. Mainly, I wondered if these more personal reflections are better kept in a journal.
But, as usual, my keyboard called me back.
I have been doing a year-end review online for nearly ten years, in one form or another. And every time it forces me to sit down and count my blessings, to recount the moments that made me smile. I have also enjoyed reading the annual reflections that other people are posting and think it’s silly to keep these thoughts to yourself. Putting them out there helps to spread positivity in this world, and I think there can never be too much of that.
I recently heard that it’s in being grateful that we find joy and not the other way around. So, call this year-end round-up my way of expressing gratitude for yet another year of memorable, sometimes miraculous, things. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but sometimes the ‘top-of-mind’ items stand out for a reason. In no particular order…
If you’re wondering who inspires me, it’s my husband, a guy who chases his dreams with relentless passion. Seriously. I don’t know anyone else who, among many other things, stays up all hours of the night waiting to shoot dramatic and innovative photos of the Northern Lights, plans photography workshops in his dream destinations like Greenland, keeps up with a massive social media community, and manages to find an amazing amount of time for his wife and daughter.
Paul under The Milky Way over the mountains in Mount Assinboine Provincial Park, British Columbia.
My Dream Job.
A “dream” job does not imply that everything is easy. While it’s quite the opposite, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful way and sink my teeth into an exciting project. Many of you have already seen a bit of what Crowfoot Media is up to, but I can’t wait to release the first volume of the Canadian Rockies Annual, our beautiful print magazine (if you’d like to have it, order a copy!).
This is a mock up. Yeah, we make you wait for the real thing. ;)
This little rock star is growing up to be a beautiful human, inside and out, with the most vibrant and vivacious personality in 100-square-kilometre radius. She calls me to be my best self each and every day and opens my eyes to new ideas and possibilities I often overlook. I love her spirit and can’t wait to create some new memories with her in 2016.
My mother sewed this quilt for my daughter for Christmas this year. It makes me grateful for the family ties and the love that flows through the generations. I don’t take this lightly as I have a number of people in my life who don’t share in this privilege. So here’s my shout out to anyone who has (or is married to someone with) Ward or Moore blood running in their veins, including my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews.
Our Trip to Belize.
It was an ‘easy’ trip by our standards, in that we didn’t rough it or explore as much as we usually do. But it was exactly what we needed. We learned the hard way that on previous trips we had pushed our little girl a bit too far past the limits of her temperament. (On that note, you can read about that in The Difference a Year Makes).
Biking to The Split on Caye Caulker, Belize. iPhone snap by Paul Ziza.
My Business Partner.
The very term feels a bit too stifled since I’m lucky my Crowfoot Media business partner and I work insanely well together and we get along! Dee Larosa (Medcalf) is one of the most talented designers I know (check out Phaneric.com), and I am eternally grateful for her attention to detail and self-motivation. Knowing we can lock ourselves up for hours on end for a work retreat or take off in the backcountry for four days and come out still talking is totally awesome!
Me and Dee (left) and our volunteers at the Spindrift Sessions back in June. Photo by Kurtis Kristianson/Spindrift Photography.
It has been a long journey back to this point, and one I’ve written about in depth over on AdventurousParents.com. This past year, I went on three backcountry trips (to Lake O’Hara/Abbott Pass Hut, Skoki and Egypt Lakes) and climbed Mt. St. Nicholas, Mt. Cory, Mt. St. Piran, Fairview, Mt. Lawrence Grassi, Lesser Pharoah Peak, Cirque Peak, Wastach Peak (am I forgetting a bunch?). The best thing was I fell right back into my stride as if I’d never taken a break.
Coming down from St. Nicholas Peak. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.
And to complete the list…
I am grateful for my house, my friends (who shall go unnamed so that I don’t forget anybody!), my writing nook, the gym with the awesome views, cappuccinos, chocolate, hiking, biking with my little girl, yoga, skiing, Paw Patrol, gluten free baking, Wild Women Magazine, Aventura Clothing, our Crowfoot Media contributors, the last light on Cascade Mountain, and everything else, even the ugly stuff that made me stronger.