Sleep In The Dirt

The Story Behind the Story

Essays From the Field
Photo: Two campers settle into their Salt Creek tent, one reading an adventure book and the other, listening to one through her ear buds.

Whether you’re hiking the longest trail on your bucket list, climbing the highest peak in your state, or camping out every night of summer and going for the FKT (funnest known time), we all have adventure stories worth telling. Maybe you don’t identify as a writer, but the story is there. How you share that story is unique to you, through photos, videos or good old fashioned, around-the-campfire storytelling. But to read is an adventure of its own, while being transported to the places an author takes us through their writing, would you agree?

When our longtime friend Patrice La Vigne wrote and published her first travel memoir, Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike on New Zealand’s Te Araroa”we knew we had to get the story behind the story. We ask her about her journey from becoming a writer to now, a published author, her own literary inspirations, and what she’s planning next. If you need some motivation to reflect and write about your own epic adventures, you’ll find it here.

What was your journey to becoming a writer in the outdoor space?

“If there was any certainty in my adolescent years, it would be that I was a lover of the written word and wanted to BE a writer. When I was 12 years old, I called my local newspaper and begged the editor to give me an assignment (I was fortunate to cover the scintillating local town meeting, in case you are wondering). Everything thereafter worked toward my goal of turning writing into a career. I obtained a bachelor’s in English, I was Editor-in-Chief of my college newspaper, and I worked numerous jobs over the years as a writer, eventually worming my way into the outdoor writing world.

Photo: Author Patrice La Vigne proudly poses with the first copy of her book, “Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike on New Zealand’s Te Araroa”

Authoring a book was a whole other ball game. As my husband, Justin and I trekked New Zealand’s Te Araroa in 2014-15, I started thinking this could be the book I always dreamed of writing, especially because it was a relatively new trail with no trail/travel memoirs saturating the market. So I dedicated 2016 to writing the manuscript, then queried publishers 2017-2019, and the book released Nov. 15, 2020! Releasing a book felt like I had been treading water in the same puddle of talent all my life, and now there was validation that it was all worthwhile.”

What authors have inspired your writing and do you have any outdoor adventure book recommendations?

Ann Patchett and Anne Lamott are two female authors who really shaped my entry into writing; I love their style and advice.”

Patrice has a lengthy list of outdoor adventure books, these are a few of her favorites below. Ask your local bookstore if they carry these titles:

Photo: Patrice La Vigne takes a moment to unpack her gear, sitting in her Copper Spur tent.

What made you pick New Zealand’s Te Araroa to write about, over other adventures you’ve had?

“I didn’t go into the New Zealand hike knowing a manuscript would come out of it. I’ve always wanted to write a longer piece about our trail travels, and pursuing this adventure as a writing project organically fell into place. Te Araroa is a relatively new trail, and New Zealand is a unique country, so it was easy subject to write. There were also very few Te Araroa memoirs out there—none by an American—and I felt it was an opportunity to spread awareness.

But more than anything, trails always change people. Justin and I live a very nontraditional life in the way we live, work, and play together. We are a well-oiled machine in that way. However, I also lost a bit of my autonomy in our “team.” This trail helped me rediscover my sense of self and become a more adaptable partner in my marriage. ”

Photo: Justin and Patrice La Vigne high-five on New Zealand’s Te Araroa.

What advice would you give to adventurer’s out there who want to write about what they have experienced?

“Write for yourself. Don’t put pressure to ‘turn it into something.’ I find writing therapeutic. So on long hikes, I usually journal every night. It’s just one small page, but it helps me process the day. Then when I get home, I might write a longer piece, but with no pre-conceived notion of what it may be.”

What is your next big adventure and will you be writing about it?

“We purchased a dry cabin outside of Denali National Park on a whim and as an investment in the summer of 2019. Then the pandemic hit and it became “home.” After being nomadic for the last 10 years, it felt weird to be in the same place for more than a few months at a time, and quite honestly, I’ve been entranced by the spell of stability!

With that being said, Alaska is a big state, so there is much to explore of our new home. We still have a joint goal list, which includes MANY long trails, less than 10 national parks (of the 63) and 5 state high points to climb, so as soon as we can carve out the time and safely explore, we’ll be back out there.

I enjoyed the writing process so much, so I have hopes and aspirations to write more manuscripts. The publishing and book marketing process on the other hand, have been nothing short of arduous, so I’m not sure I will ever bring something else to print – but here’s hoping! I always gravitate toward writing about our personal experiences, whether it be on trail or life in Alaska, which it why I journal and blog regularly at wanderinglavignes.comI also devour trail and travel memoirs, as well as books about Alaska, so I have a lot of inspiration for my own adventures and writing endeavors  to come.”

Photo: Patrice and Justin La Vigne at their home in Alaska.

About the Author: Patrice La Vigne is the author of “Between Each Step: A Married Couple’s Thru Hike on New Zealand’s Te Araroa”. She is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured in Backpacker, Outside, REI Co-Op Journal, GearJunkie and Outside Business Journal (formerly SNEWS). Although she and her husband Justin, are self-proclaimed nomads who spend most of their time working on the road, their home base is a dry cabin outside of Denali National Park in Alaska. Patrice has hiked more than 6,000 miles, including the Appalachian Trail, and is close to her goal of visiting all the National Parks and climbing the state high points. Follow her on Instagram (@patricejustin) and wanderinglavignes.com

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