I’m writing a book called The Grown Up Guide to Running Away from Home. My motivation is not so much wanting to write a book but wanting to read a book. I am sick of newspapers, sick of nervous talk and general discontent. I know there are people who love their lives, who wake up happy and go about the day with a sense of purpose – and not because they have a mansion, or a perfect body, or a vast investment portfolio. I want to know their stories. That was the big idea: find people who choose, in the words of Henry David Thoreau, to “live deliberately.” Talk to them; write about them.
Two months in and GUG, as I call it, has already changed my life. How do people cope who don’t pry into the lives of inspiring strangers? I’ve talked to a woman who cycled 25,000 miles with her pre-teen sons; a teenager who has climbed the highest mountain on each continent; a man who turned his love of the Transcendentalists into a remarkable education programme; a woman who transformed her life through movement; another woman who, at 76, belies every stereotype of aging and literally runs around the world inspiring people to not give up on themselves.
I hoped to be inspired, but I didn’t realise how profoundly this book would affect me. More than once I’ve come to an interview with a sunken heart. Too tired, too glum, too wrapped up in my own head, too stressed, too apathetic, too ‘can’t be bothered.’ Every single time, as the interview begins to flow, my spirits lift. No two of my subjects are alike. Different ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, nationalities. I wouldn’t necessarily invite them all to the same dinner party. Yet they have a collective wisdom. In different words, they repeat the same messages: be brave, cherish your life, love people, trust yourself, persist. They throw out lightning-bolt sentences and challenge my fixed ideas. I catch myself repeating their words and rereading my notes just for fun.
I feel privileged they are choosing to tell me their stories. And humbled. I have a responsibility to share their wisdom, kindness, generosity, insight and passion. I have to dig down and find words to express not just what these people do but how they make me feel. If I can do that, GUG will be the book I want to read.