A suburbanite in the wilderness learns to fend for
herself and her pals—and to treasure the silence
YOU CAN DO I T!
By Chris Gardner
Lisa LaFosse loves the
outdoors—she kayaks near
her hometown of Beaumont,
Texas—but she never
imagined she would spend
a week at an Ontario lake
armed with nothing more
than starter provisions, a
map, and some fishing poles.
For LaFosse, a retired IBM
executive, vacations had always centered on family visits. But at 57, a recent widow
with two grown sons, she
was ready for adventure.
When her floatplane
landed, though, LaFosse
worried. Would her boat
stall? Would she—a newbie
enough fish to feed her group of seven friends? The friends’ bare-bones
cabin had no electricity—how would they entertain themselves? LaFosse
had packed a chessboard, playing cards, a jigsaw puzzle, and three books.
“Our own minds limit us,” LaFosse now reflects. On the lake none
of those problems mattered. Yes, the boat stalled, but they found a way
to start it. They caught plenty of northern pike and walleye. Nights they
spent on the dock in the birch-scented air, looking at the stars and
marveling over the silence, broken only by the calling of loons.
And the distractions she’d packed? They didn’t need them. “At the end
of the week,” she says, “we’d played no games, we’d read no books, and
we’d laughed more than any of us had laughed in years.” —Darcy Courteau
HOOKED La Fosse sho ws off the day’s catch.
IS IT TOO LATE TO
BECOME A NURSE?
Ever since I can remember,
I’ve wanted to be a nurse. I’ve
always regretted not pursuing
this goal. At 51, I’ve enrolled in
community college to study
nursing. I’m excited, but I keep
second-guessing my decision:
I wonder whether it’s too late.
If I graduate, I’ll be the best
nurse ever, because it means
so much. —Sharon from Ohio
FROM LEF T: BRIAN SMI TH; AR T STREIBER
“Fly-in fishing” outfitters
will drop you at remote
lakes in Alaska and
Canada. Lisa LaFosse
used Canadian Fly-In
.net), where US$1,012
pays for a week in a cabin
plus boats, fuel, and
flights from and back to
the municipality of Red
Lake, Ontario. For lake
fishing closer to home,
find state-by-state infor-
mation at takemefishing
.org, the website of the
and Fishing Foundation.
For those who use wheel-
chairs, the volunteer
group Arsenal Anglers
day trips in Wyoming,
Colorado, and Montana
You are about to become one of
my heroes: someone who couldn’t
pursue their passion earlier in life
but is doing so now.
Going back to school can be
hard, but you must have had some
life experiences that will make any
classroom challenges seem easy.
Use all the help you can get: tutors,
online classes, and mentors.
Also, stop saying “If I make it.”
Know that you are taking the baby
steps required to reach your goal.
Good training and your passion for
the job will make you a valuable
member of any health care team.
The world’s oldest college grad
was 95! You, my friend, are still in
preschool. So have yourself some
cookies and milk, and get started.
The film The Pursuit of Happyness
chronicled Chris Gardner’s rise from
struggling single fatherhood to success
on Wall Street. Now he advises others
on reaching their goals. Got a question?
Ask Chris at aarp.org/chrisgardner.
Planning to fulfill a longtime dream? Let us
photograph you doing it. Go to