One could say Author Vanessa Rodriguez and boyfriend Robert Shackelford live the ultimate adventure lifestyle. Last summer they purchased an RV, sold their San Diego home, loaded up their cat and dog and sought out the best trail runs and outdoor adventures this country has to offer.
Recently, Rodriguez published “The Summit Seeker” a book about her journey into, and inevitable love affair, with running and how it’s changed her life. SNEWS recently chatted with Rodriguez about her book, her adventures and what message she tries to convey to her readers.
In addition to her book, Rodriguez is an avid contributor to Trail Runner Magazine, Active.com and runs her own blog, vanessaruns.com.
Tell our readers about your background, in terms of writing and running?
I didn't start running until 2007, as a form of stress-relief during a really difficult period of my life. I didn't know anything about running, only that it made me feel better. I had no intention of losing weight or getting healthy – I just knew that running made me feel alive. My troubles eventually disappeared, but my love for running only got stronger.
I've been a writer for as long as I can remember, and was published for the first time at age 13. I graduated from journalism school in Toronto, Canada, and worked in the industry until I ended up in San Diego working as an online editor. I quit my job last year to travel full-time and write this book.
What was your inspiration for writing your book?
I've always suspected that many of my stories and experiences are things that other people can relate to, but aren't always able or willing to express for themselves. It's hard to talk about life's low points, but when we hear about other people's experiences and how those low points can be turned into positives, we feel less alone. All the books that I had seen about running were very heavily focused on physical training, but for me running is a deep emotional and spiritual experience. I know it is for others too, and I wanted to put that into words.
What is the significance behind the title?
A couple of people have commented that they thought it was about mountaineering, which surprised me because I meant "The Summit Seeker" more symbolically. Yes, part of it has to do with my love for mountains, though physically I'm no Killian Jornet (sorry to disappoint)! It really is about a deep drive to keep moving forward – to keep climbing, regardless of life's challenges. We all have our own mountains to summit, and very often it's worth the climb.
Tell us about your cross-country adventures?
I live in an RV with my boyfriend, dog and cat. We travel and live on the road full-time. This year, we are slowly headed north to Alaska. The plan is to spend the summer there. It's a very rewarding nomadic life, and I'm fulfilled by the constant movement. Next year we will explore Central and South America.
What inspired you guys to do this?
Our good friends Jason and Shelly Robillard live out of an RV with three young children, and they spent a lot of time traveling the country. Watching their adventures made us realize that we could do the same. It was always a lifestyle that appealed to us, but until we saw someone else living that way, it didn't really occur to us as a possibility. I'm so glad we made the switch.
What are some of the favorite things about life on the road?
The absolute freedom. Every day is an adventure, and full of possibility. The world is a gigantic, beautiful place, and we now have the time and freedom to explore it. We are never stuck in traffic, never have to wait in lines, and the trails are often abandoned during the times that we play on them (work hours for most). There really is a strong sensation that the world is ours for the taking. The days are so long when you're not stuck in a cubicle, and the opportunities are endless.
What is the message you hope people take away from your book?
I truly hope that people will realize that we don't have to wait around for our dreams to become a reality – there's no need to wait for retirement, or until the kids grow up – we can live the way we want right now. Our time here is short, and there's no time to waste.
What is the intended audience for your book?
Contrary to conventional wisdom, I didn't write it with a specific audience in mind. My goal was just to tell my story as open and honestly as possible. As a result, I've found that it's been warmly received by a very wide audience: women, men, trail runners, road runners, triathletes, non-runners… Although running links these stories together, my book is really about hope, resilience, and transformation. Those are things we can all relate to.
What is the best piece of trail running advice you've ever received?
Before we were dating, my boyfriend Shacky said to me, "Don't listen to anybody." That was by far the best advice I ever received. It gave me the freedom to look at things in a different light and think outside the box. I started to experiment and all the running rules flew out the window. I'm notorious for breaking all conventional running wisdom, from doing too much too soon (like jumping straight from a 50K distance to 100 miles), to almost always trying something new on race day (like a new brand of shoes for the last 50 miles of a 100-mile race). I have had great success with experimentation, so I strongly encourage others to trust their own instincts and do what feels right to them. Don't listen to anybody.