In a recent visit to the Twin Cities, National Geographic adventurer Erika Bergman, a submarine pilot, and author Trudi Trueit spoke to Minnesota Women’s Press about their careers, and the new Explorer Academy book series they worked on for young people about nature and exploration.
What does it mean to be an explorer?
Erika: Adventure is the first step in science.The scientists come after the adventurers. Why? Because, while scientists are looking for answers, adventurers are looking for questions.
Trudi: To be an explorer is to be curious, not just about the world, but also about yourself. It is to participate in the world — to try to make a difference in any way that you can, and to follow your passion. Pursuing that curiosity and that passion is the definition of adventure. If you want to explore the world, read a book. If you want to explore yourself, write one.
What has been the value of mentors?
Trudi: I’ve been almost entirely mentored by women when it comes to my writing. I think about Mrs. Olinski, my fourth grade teacher, who I used to bother to let me write plays and perform them in front of the class. She was happy to do it, and would arrange it so we could put on my work in front of the entire school. Throughout my career, it’s been women who have put their trust in me. There are also the women in my profession — like Judy Bloom, Adele Griffin, Lois Lowry — who have been so excellent, who have shown how good you can be, and that you can always strive for better in your work. These are amazing women.
Erika: My industry, as a submarine pilot, is very small and very male-dominated. So, my mentors have all been men. I have always been lifted up by my mentors and co-workers. I hope to see the gender gap close in my industry. I founded Global Engineering and Exploration Counselors (GEECs), which runs girls science and robotics camps all over the world. More than 500 girls have gone through the program.
Describe the book series.
Trudi: Explorer Academy is an action- packed fiction series inspired by real life science and exploration. I hope the series gets readers more curious about the world. I want to communicate the value of contributing and participating in the planet. We have so many issues, like species extinction, climate change, and pollution that this generation will have to potentially solve. There are 24 explorers in the book. One of the characters is a Maori woman, one is from Iceland. Our main character is Mexican-American.
Erika: Through the series, kids can see at a young age that there are other people with the same interests and passions, and that those people can come from all over the world. One of my close friends is from Chad, which was a country I barely knew before I met her. We have more in common than many of the people I grew up with.
Recommended Adventure Books for Adults
“No Horizon Is So Far: Two Women and Their Historic Journey Across Antarctica,” by Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft, with Cheryl Dahle
“Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North,” by Blair Braverman
“Women of the Boundary Waters: Canoeing, Guiding, Mushing, andSurviving,” by Justine Kerfoot
“Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure,” by Elaine Lee (editor)
“All That Glitters: A Climber’s Journey Through Addiction and Depression,” by Margo Talbot
“Find Where the Wind, Goes: Moments From My Life,” by Dr. Mae Jemison