‘Will to Wild’: La Jolla native’s new book explores the power of adventure

La Jolla native and former local surf instructor Shelby Stanger is the author of "Will to Wild."
(Sarah Lee)

Shelby Stanger offers inspiration and guidance on how readers can embark on their own potentially life-changing adventure.


“One person’s swim at La Jolla Cove is another person’s swim across the English Channel,” according to La Jolla native, journalist, author and former local surf instructor Shelby Stanger.

Inspired by the concept of going on adventures in nature — however big, small or personalized — and the impact they can have, Stanger’s new book, “Will to Wild: Adventures Great and Small to Change Your Life,” will be released Tuesday, June 6.

Part stories and part how-to book, “Will to Wild” features examples of adventures people have gone on — from a suburban mom who became an ice climbing guide at age 55 to a bird watcher and everything in between — and how they changed their lives. It also offers bits of advice and professional tips to get readers started on their own adventure.

Stanger has had plenty of adventures herself — surfing in Canada, Costa Rica and Fiji; sand-boarding down dunes in South Africa; paddling on a remote part of the Amazon River and interviewing countless business executives, athletes, activists and others.

“I wrote this book because I always wished there had been a guidebook to pursue an adventure whenever I felt stuck or scared,” said Stanger, who now lives in Solana Beach. “When I taught at Surf Diva [in La Jolla], people would come for weekend or week-long clinics. They would ride a few waves and then I would get a call from them later ... telling me that they ended a relationship or they were moving or were making a major life change. I was intrigued by the phenomenon of adventure changing your life and the power of adventuring in nature as a catalyst to change your life.”

"Will to Wild" by Shelby Stanger will be released Tuesday, June 6.
(Shelby Stanger)

In hosting “Wild Ideas Worth Living,” a podcast with a similar theme, she realized that an adventure can be personalized, and she explored that concept for the book.

“I’m never going to climb Mount Everest, nor do I have any desire to bike down the California coast. But pursuing ‘wild’ — whatever that means to you — can be really impactful and profound,” Stanger said. “That’s what is so beautiful about it. There is a lot you can do to change your life, but the most exciting way is to go on an adventure in nature.”

In doing so, she said, “there are so many chances to experience awe. It’s such a beautiful emotion because it takes you out of your head. If you are stuck in traffic and then see a bird or a sunset, it changes your mindset. Some adventure is seen as selfish, but pursuing your adventure is self-love, which is self-care.”

Thus, a big part of the book, she said, is a how-to guide on developing an idea for an adventure and seeing it through.

“Most people start by being stuck, so I tell vulnerable stories in the book,” Stanger said. “I talk about signs [that an adventure might be beneficial] and what they can look like, then about how to start [and] what to do when everything goes wrong, using humor as a salve to get them through hard times.”

“Some adventure is seen as selfish, but pursuing your adventure is self-love, which is self-care.”

— Shelby Stanger

She also wanted to include the occasional malaise that can come when an adventure is complete.

“A lot of adventure books glorify finish lines, but I have talked to enough people that experience grief and fatigue when they finish the adventure, so I want to help people get through that period with more grace,” she said.

Stanger will discuss and sign her book at 7:30 p.m. June 6 at Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla. The book can be purchased online at ◆