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Ordinary Sherpa: Family Adventure Coaching and Design

Feb 24, 2021

Driving home last summer after a particularly exhausting day, I was craving an escape, an adventure or some thought-provoking podcast to make the drive a bit more enjoyable.  I came across Johanna Garton as a guest on a podcast and my interest peaked.  I knew and had worked with her mom, Jane Garton.  Years ago I knew Jane was researching a book about a local mountain climber years before however Jane’s Parkinsons diagnosis got in the way of her completing the book. The local mountain climber was Christine Boskoff and ironically went to high school with her daughter Johanna.  Johanna picked up the story and released Edge of the Map in April of 2020.  

After listening to the podcast with Johanna I immediately bought Edge of the Map and loved getting lost in the adventurous life and stories from the thrill seeking, emotional roller coaster to an escape to Mt. Everest and beyond.  I reached out to Johanna and shared this crazy idea of a podcast I was launching.  During one of our interactions as we unwound the thread of the podcast episode she stopped and exclaimed “wait, your podcast is about family adventures?  You should probably know that my first book is about our family adventure story.”  I agreed to read the first book before scheduling our recording and boy am I glad I did.  As I read the first book, Awakening East, I got a better glimpse of the badass, adventurous mom that Johanna Garton is.  

Johanna Garton is a mother, author, and cross country coach who has played many roles throughout her life. A graduate of Syracuse University in journalism, and a law degree from DePaul University.  As an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Chicago, Johanna worked on behalf of refugee survivors of torture at the Heartland Alliance. She has served on the Colorado Governor’s Commission on Community Service and taught advocacy and legal issues for nonprofits at Regis University. Several years of living and working in Asia, including time in China with her husband, son, and daughter, inspired her to write her first book, Awakening East. She and her family live in Denver.

Key Takeaways

  1. When you are in the middle on an adventure, you can’t always see the story unfolding.  What started as a blog to connect with friends and family while living in China transformed into a book about 6-7 months later
  2. Allow for blanks in your plans to allow your partner to see themselves in your adventure story.  Even though Johanna had most of the concept planned out, she engaged her husband throughout and gave him ownership of different elements.  
  3. The typical refrain that children are resilient took Johanna by surprise as things didn’t land as expected when they shared plans with their kids.  It took almost 6 months for their kids to get their stride in China, so much so that they didn’t want to leave.  There is a balance between persistence and adaptation.  Each kid saw things differently and what resonated was different.  
  4. Living in China for a year was every imaginable adjective.  While Johanna would go in with fewer expectations, she also acknowledged so much of the beauty was in the messiness that she did not wish the experience to be different.  
  5. The year abroad changed the trajectory of Johanna’s career.  Today she is an author and can’t imagine doing anything differently.  
  6. The difference between is author and a writer is that an author is a fancy title with perhaps some luck in getting their writing published.  Since Johanna’s story is already written, she is now busy writing others stories and doesn’t find herself writing for pleasure as much as she previously did. 
  7. “I fail a lot, and my kids see me fail often. That trait may have been the ingredient to see me through the areas that induce fear.”  
  8. Finding your voice and the voice of the female climber allowed Johanna to bring more humanity to the Edge of the Map story.  “It was a very different experience to write my story vs. writing someone else's story.” 
  9. Document your life in whatever format works best for you.  It’s important to keep track of more than the highlight reels.  Johanna uses voice memos app on her phone to capture family interactions
  10. 2020 was not the year to release a book, however she found Edge of the Map has turned out to be a story of resiliency that has resonated with so many readers.  
  11. Buy the book and then leave a review on Amazon to help Johanna continue to rank higher and be exposed to more readers.  

Awakening East is an older book so it may be hard to find in independent bookstores.  I am including the link to it on Amazon:  However, if you purchase Edge of the Map from her website  and use the coupon code SHERPA for 25% off.  They are both great reads for on the beach or by the fire, wherever you might be right now.  To connect with or follow Johanna Garton on social media:



Facebook: Johanna Garton, Author

Instagram: @johannagartonbooks


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