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Book Review: Unbound by Steph Jagger

Sometimes, you work really, really hard for a really long time, and then you hit a wall. That wall may be one created due to burnout; it may be one that is created from trying to keep up with others; it may be one created when you realize you no longer care to live up to the expectations everyone else puts on you. 

That’s what happened to Steph Jagger, and she writes about it in Unbound. I can relate to her a lot. For a long time, in a male-dominated field (philosophy), I worked really hard to keep up with the guys around me. I was doing a great job! But, I wasn’t happy. Something was missing. Long hours, jumping through academic hoops, and the pressure to be “the best” and compete with others added up. Moreover, I was a single mom doing it all, and I felt like I was missing out on a TON when it came to my kid. So, I sought something else out. And now, here I am, 9 years after leaving grad school living a totally different life than I thought I’d be living right now (and that’s a good thing). 

Steph decided to head out and leave her job and her security and stability. Then, she decided to go and ski a bunch – four million vertical feet, in fact. 

“Who are you?” he asked, “and what kind of woman do you want to become?”

No one had ever asked me questions like that. I’d never thought about the who, what, and why questions. There hadn’t been room fort hose, not when I was so busy answering the where, when, and hows with my growing collection of shiny blue ribbons. (p. 151)

That’s the thing about chasing “success.” It becomes hard to know who you are when the spotlight isn’t on you. It becomes hard to know who you are or who you want to be. Instead, you get stuck in the mire of chasing one resume bullet point after another – without thinking much about why you’re doing it. And that’s why books like this are so important. It’s really easy to lose yourself when you think you’re on the path you’re “supposed to be on.” What’s harder is finding yourself on that same path and figuring out who it is you’re actually supposed to be. 

I think a lot of women go through this. I might be wrong. Especially those of us who grew up with the “girls can do anything” motto. It sometimes starts to feel like, “women should do everything” as opposed to an invitation to determine what course our lives should take. Add in entheusiastic mentors who push us and challenge us to fit into the success mold and lean in – and it can be easy to lose our way while on a paved road. So easy. 

I know I related a lot to Steph throughout the book. I think a lot of other women will as well. If you enjoyed Wild or Eat, Pray, Love, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re like me, and haven’t read them yet, you’ll enjoy this book. I think the most important takeaway from Unbound is that sometimes you have to get out there and get away from what’s comfortable. Sometimes, you really do have to start over again. And you know what? That’s okay.

About Unbound

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (January 24, 2017)

A young woman follows winter across five continents on a physical and spiritual journey that tests her body and soul, in this transformative memoir, full of heart and courage, that speaks to the adventurousness in all of us.

Steph Jagger had always been a force of nature. Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women growing up, she emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules of a masculine ideal. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.

Then the universe caught her attention with a sign: Raise Restraining Device. Steph had seen this ski lift sign on countless occasions in the past, but the familiar words suddenly became a personal call to shake off the life she had built in a search for something different, something more.

Steph soon decided to walk away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a bundle of plane tickets. For the next year, she followed winter across North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand—and up and down the mountains of nine countries—on a mission to ski four million vertical feet in a year.

What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life and get to the very center of herself. But she would have to break herself down—first physically, then emotionally—before she could start to rebuild. And it was through this journey that she came to understand how to be a woman, how to love, and how to live authentically.

Electrifying, heartfelt, and full of humor, Unbound is Steph’s story—an odyssey of courage and self-discovery that, like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices and pursue the life they are meant to lead.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Steph Jagger

Steph Jagger splits her time between Southern California and British Columbia where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive & life coaching practice. She holds a CEC (certified Executive Coach) degree from Royal Roads University and she believes courageous living doesn’t happen with one toe dangling in, but that we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.

You can find her at or on Instagram @stephjagger.

1 Comment

  1. I went through my own “starting over” period a few years ago, and it was the best – and most scary – thing I’ve ever done. I enjoy reading about other people who have done the same kind of thing!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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