It’s hard for many people to nail down one favorite book, but I settled on mine several years ago and have stuck to it—J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Unlike its successors in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, at its core, is a lighthearted tale of adventure and friendship in which a band of unlikely heroes follow a wizard’s advice to recover a lost treasure from a mighty—and very narcissistic—dragon. The protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, is a small, homely hobbit who never wanted anything to do with adventures, thank you very much. Of course, he is dragged into the journey anyway and learns along the way that he’s capable of more than he ever thought possible. We can all learn from that.
Merriam-Webster defines adventure as “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” What I’ve learned while we created this issue of VIE and through witnessing people embarking on different journeys throughout life is that adventure doesn’t always mean going on a grand voyage to faraway lands. Adventure doesn’t mean doing something that no one has ever done before. Adventure is defined differently for each and every person. If an undertaking involving risk for someone means taking on a new job, making new friends, or even just successfully navigating through a single day in our tumultuous society, who are we to say otherwise?
Whether you are hiking the Grand Canyon’s most dangerous trail like writer Steve Larese in “The Gift of Adventure” or giving up a comfortable yet unsatisfying life to move across the country and work on farm or in the far reaches of Alaska like the young women in “The Everywoman” by Lizzie Locker, adventure is out there and it can take many forms. Perhaps the most courageous adventurers in this issue are artist Heather Haynes, philanthropist Shay Bell, and the rest of the team working to provide relief to people in Central and East Africa through the projects in “Wall of Courage: Shining a Light on Africa’s Forgotten Children,” the teams bringing clean water to impoverished areas of Nicaragua through Filter of Hope in “The Water of Life,” and the people at Sandcastle Kids in Northwest Florida providing vacations for families with children enduring cancer treatments in “A Day at the Beach.” Even braver and more incredible are the children, women, and men in these stories who, no matter what hardships they have gone through, have not lost hope or their enthusiasm and love for life.
As you read, I hope you take a little adventure of your own through the voices and lenses of the storytellers, photographers, and other creatives who make each issue of VIE a brand-new and exciting journey. Their stories and passion inspire and help us see that no matter how small we might feel or what form our adventure takes, there will be a few dragons along the way; but courage, kindness, and willingness to affect change can vanquish them all.