B.C. senior credits list-making for adventurous life of motorcycles, orangutans and sailing cats


For as long as she can recall, Sharon Stevens-Smith has been compelled to make lists.

“You write everything down that you want to do in your life,” Sharon recalls being told at an early age. “It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is.”

From childhood through to her early 20s, Sharon’s list of life goals was relatively consistent.

“Ride a motorcycle, go to Africa, study primates,” Sharon says, remembering items on her early lists. “And one day, I’m going to write a children’s book.”

While she worked as a nurse for a few years, before becoming a realtor for almost 40, Sharon always returned to her list — like when she bought a motorcycle, sight unseen.

“I didn’t have my licence,” Sharon recalls with a laugh. “Never even sat on a motorcycle.”

Yet three weeks later, Sharon says she had taken lessons, earned her licence, and rode from Vancouver Island to a major bike rally in South Dakota.

“It was very unusual to see a woman (riding a motorcycle) in those days,” Sharon smiles. “The (truckers) would go by me and give me a thumps up, like there’s a crazy woman on a bike!”

Sharon crossed “Go to Africa” off her list three times. After returning to university as a mature student, she travelled to the continent to participate in archaeological digs. During one visit, Sharon says a high-ranking local proposed marriage.

“The chief wanted to buy me for three camels and four goats,” Sharon smiles. “I said, ‘First of all, before I commit, is that a good price?’”

As for “Study Primates,” Sharon travelled to Borneo to support the research of one of the world’s leading ape experts, and befriended a rescued orangutan named Herbie.

“He was a real character,” Sharon says, showing pictures of the ape embracing her. “We had lots of fun!”

Now, 20 years after crossing “Offshore Sailing” with a pair of calico cats off her list, the expedition has inspired the now-80-year-old to check off “Write a Children’s Book,” too.

“You better get cracking. You don’t have many years left, that’s what I was thinking,” Sharon laughs, explaining why she decided to publish her first book. “Before I go, I wanted to leave it for my grandchildren.”

But Sharon is also sharing “Runtie and Trudie’s Grand Sailing Adventure” with the public — with the hope that the true story of the fearless felines braving the high seas will inspire readers of all ages to embrace the unfamiliar and live a courageous life.

“We have one life,” Sharon says. “Let‘s make (it) the best we can.”

And no matter what’s on your list, Sharon says, just commit to do it. 

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