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Message to Book Clubs

I would love to visit your book club using Zoom. If you are interested in having me join in on your club's discussion about Becoming Fearless, please send me an invitation. Let me know the date and time your book club meets and how many members are in your club. Also, let me know what time zone you live in-I’m in the Eastern Time zone. I’ll do my best to accommodate your requests.

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Becoming Fearless Discussion Questions

  1. This book begins with Brenda blaming Jimmy Buffett’s song for inspiring her to do something that led to a situation in which she is terrified (though at the end she is more than grateful for it). Has a song’s lyrics or a passage in a book or a phrase from a speech you heard ever inspired you to do something you otherwise wouldn’t have done?

  2. Richard justifies his motivation for exploring terra incognita by explaining, “There is only one first time for seeing and knowing something previously unknown. Only one chance to experience discovery in its purest form. The more that is known about the world, the more limited and obscure opportunities become for unprecedented encounters. We are running out of time for unearthing those rare novel prizes.” If you had been in Brenda’s shoes when her boss Richard proposed traveling to a place about which she knew nothing, to raft in a river full of hippos and crocs, what would you have done?

  3. When Brenda first arrives in Tanzania, everything is strange and unsettling, reinforcing her fears and doubts. What things did she encounter that exacerbated her fears? What things made her feel more comfortable?

  4. As the youngest, and only female crew member on the trip, Brenda’s describes herself as the low man on the totem pole. She doubts she has the requisite qualities to be the pioneer adventurer that her older, stronger and more experienced crew mates all possess. What glimpses do we get she is wrong about her self-characterization?

  5. Fear is the most powerful of all human emotions. In this book, Brenda seeks to understand why she feels far more fearful of what the expedition will face than her expedition mates. She digs into her past for an explanation and has an epiphany. She realizes that being fearful is a personal choice. Do you agree or disagree?

  6. Each of the five guides on this trip (Richard, Conrad, Bart, Slade, Michael) had unique skill sets and distinct personalities. Which of them did you find most interesting? Why?

  7. In Brenda’s dream, Richard says, “For me, it’s the quality of the life you lead that matters more. Imagine experiencing awe, excitement, and exhilaration every day you’re alive. Beats a long life of tedious, repetitive, mind-numbing work.” How do you feel about that statement?

  8. When the time came to climb for Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit, Brenda faced a quandary. Should she try for the summit despite her lack of sleep and frozen body, knowing she would likely fail in her attempt? Or should she voluntarily admit defeat and likely always regret her decision? What would you have done? Have you ever faced this type of difficult lose-lose decision?

  9. Brenda formed some unlikely friendships on this journey with Solomon, her Ifakaran rafiki, and Williness Julius. These friendships helped her to feel safer and gave her insight into Tanzanian culture. Have you ever experienced this type of unlikely friendship while traveling? How did it affect your experience?

  10. Brenda had the rare opportunity to travel through a place on planet earth few humans had ever been, a place she never imagined existed. Her eyes opened to the marvels of the natural world. In the final chapter, she brings us up to date with the impact human “progress” has had on the areas she traveled through. How do you feel about how human progress has changed the Selous game reserve and Mount Kilimanjaro in just the last 40 years?

  11. Early in the story, OARS, Inc’s owner, tells Brenda, “We save what we love, and we love what we know. Our job is to show people how truly special these rivers are, so they will engage with us to preserve them forever.”  At the end of the book, Brenda urges the reader, “While there is still time, run to the wilderness.” Does reading this story make you want to see and experience true wilderness while you still can?

  12. Brenda’s journey took place four decades ago, yet she says it would not have been the same story if she had written it back then. Is this story more powerful now, knowing that her specific adventure can never be repeated?

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