Tina Susman
Whether it's taking a yearlong trek or surviving a kidnapping, these women know what draws them to life on the edge.
Tina Susman
Day job: national correspondent for Newsday
"I think everybody is born with a certain degree of chutzpah, and we choose whether to develop it."   Reporter Tina Susman, 43, spent ten years in some of the world's most terrifying war zones: Rwanda, Zaire, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone. In 1994 while working in Mogadishu, Somalia, she was kidnapped and held captive for 20 days. She's now a national correspondent for Newsday in New York.

Where her nerve comes from: I think everybody is born with a certain degree of chutzpah, and we choose whether to develop it. When I was a girl, it wasn't considered admirable to have balls or to stand up to threatening people. But the public school I went to in Oakland wasn't an easy place to be—if you did well in class, you were teased or even harassed by gangs. At an early age, I learned how to navigate threats.

What she felt when she was kidnapped: I assumed I was going to die. Because Mogadishu was at war, my fear was that a stray bomb would come crashing through where I was being held. My kidnappers weren't abusive—in the mornings they gave me bread, and at 2 or 3 p.m., a plate of pasta. They realized that if they were going to get a ransom, they'd better produce a healthy-looking person.

How she handles fear: Anxiety is the word I'd use, not fear. For instance, before I got on the plane to Liberia, I secretly hoped the flight would be canceled. But the minute the plane took off, the anxiety evaporated and I got excited thinking about the things I could accomplish. Once you're there, you get an adrenaline rush. I want people to understand terrible things are happening and ignoring them does no good.

The secret to her joy: The great thing that came from traveling overseas is that I am content now. I don't have to worry about a sniper shooting me when I go to buy milk. I have clothes. I have a family. I have an apartment I can go home to. I've never had to watch my family being butchered. I am extremely satisfied.
Jill Yesko
Jill Yesko
Day job: writer and yoga instructor
"My yoga teacher gave me her best piece of advice: 'Always go toward love.'"   After traveling solo all over the world, Yesko, 43, embarked on the defining trip of her life two years ago: a yearlong trek beginning in Curaçao in the Caribbean and ending in Spain.

Why she's so adventurous: When I was 6, my mom and dad bought a World Book Encyclopedia with all these fabulous maps, and they put it next to my bed. Every night before I went to sleep, I read a couple of pages. To me the world was this big, extraordinary, and interesting place. Later on what often compelled me to visit a place was the sound of its name. When I was looking at a map of Chile, there was a city called Arica near the Atacama Desert. Something in that desert's name just called out to me. I was 28, and I knew I had to go there. So I went to South America by myself for six weeks.

What prompted her yearlong trip: I had just left a job as a reporter, I had no major commitments—and this was something I had always wanted to do. Even preparing for the trip was liberating. I put a few things in storage, but I sold almost everything else. All I took with me was a backpack, two pairs of shoes, and a book with photos of my family and friends. My yoga teacher gave me her best piece of advice: "Always go toward love." I hooked up with other yoga people along the way and stayed in Buddhist monasteries.

How traveling changed her: I'm very noncompetitive these days—and I used to be a total Type A-plus. Competition can create a lot of anxiety where there doesn't need to be any. For me it's better to ask: How have I challenged myself today? The intention of my trip was to see if I could be at home in the world, and that intention was fulfilled.


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