Vol. 110 (2021)

Five Questions for Author Kim Brown Seely



Kim Brown Seely was named the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year in 2016. Her columns have appeared in National Graphic AdventureTravel & LeisureTown & CountryOutsideCoastal Living and Sunset. She served as a Senior Editor of Travel & Leisure for a decade and was one of the founding editors of Microsoft's online adventure magazine, Mungo Park.


Her book, Uncharted, an adventure memoir about a couple who became empty-nesters and decided to set out on the voyage of a lifetime, won a 2019 Nautilus Silver Award and was named one the "Best Books of 2019" by The Wall Street Journal.


Stay Thirsty Magazine was excited to visit with Kim Brown Seely for these Five Questions about her book, her life and her career.



STAY THIRSTY: In your memoir, Uncharted, you chronicle a sailing adventure with your husband undertaken after your children left "the nest." Your ultimate destination was the Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada, to see a very rare spirit bear in the wild. With no experience as sailors, what went through your minds as you embarked on purchasing a 54-foot used sailboat and plotting a course into the harsh waters off the western coast of Canada?


KIM BROWN SEELY: Are you suggesting we were unprepared?! Well, in many ways we were since you can never be fully prepared for everything the sea throws at you. But that’s what makes for a true adventure. In all fairness, my husband had plenty of experience as a sailor, but that was years before we met. We’d never sailed together just the two of us. And we’d certainly never sailed a 54-foot boat. That’s a lot of boat for two people to handle, even when they know what they’re doing. What went through our minds was that we were hungry for a big, shared adventure. I thought, “How hard can it be?” Well, some days were horrible! Of course, those are the days that make the best stories.

Kim and Jeff Seely

STAY THIRSTY: You speak about having a weakness for "the remote." With ancestors who drove a "prairie schooner" West to California in 1864, has the lust for wandering always been a part of who you are? Before your sailing voyage, were there other adventures of like kind in your past?


KIM BROWN SEELY: My parents were big-time wanderers, especially of the West. I inherited the explorer’s gene and lust for vast landscapes from them. “Vacations” for my sister and me meant climbing 11,000-foot mountain passes lugging packs. We also ran rivers and backpacked down the “Lost Coast” of Northern California and camped out on beaches in Mexico. My parents were amazingly adventurous. I then spent decades as a travel journalist. My favorite assignments were those on the far edges of the map: Antarctica, Patagonia, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda. Still, I’m always drawn back to the North American West. The Pacific edge of Canada is fantastically wild. 



STAY THIRSTY: With the guidance of the indigenous people's concept of the "Four Winds," how did your journey draw you closer to nature and the ways of the "uncharted" world?


KIM BROWN SEELY: What we learned was that if you slow down and spend enough time in a place, the place eventually not only seeps into your consciousness, but changes you. For us this happened gradually. It had a lot to do with living more in tune with the rhythms of nature, and also because we had much less connectivity. (There’s no Wi-Fi most of the time on the boat.) At first that was painful. But then it was wonderful. It felt “uncharted” in every sense.

STAY THIRSTY: You have had a long and successful career as a travel writer. Did your background make writing this memoir easier or more difficult since it centered on you and your husband rather than other people or places? What did you learn about yourself?


KIM BROWN SEELY: As a travel writer, you’re highly attuned to writing about the nuance of place; much less to writing about the nuances and emotions of people. I started writing a travel memoir, but in the end, realized it was the human story that drove the book. Writing about our marriage was excruciating! But in the end very freeing. I learned how liberating it is to reach the point – especially with memoir – where you don't care what other people think. I’m lucky that my husband doesn’t care, either. Around the tenth revision, I understood that what I most wanted to do was write a book that was true and captured both the beauty and the intensity of this wild coast – and of a marriage on the edge of it. Once I understood that, the writing was easier.



STAY THIRSTY: Did witnessing a spirit bear in the wild kindle a lasting spiritual awakening in you? Was it a metaphor for something deeper in your soul?


KIM BROWN SEELY: Witnessing a spirit bear in the wild was like seeing a unicorn! It seemed like a mythical creature. Or a creature that lives deep in the pages of a fairy tale, comes to life, and emerges momentarily from the pages. What it did was rekindle a sense of possibility and awe. In that sense it was a lasting spiritual awakening. I still can’t believe we were lucky enough to see one.




Kim Brown Seely    



All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.