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Lynn Dolven

It’s Never Too Late to Try Something New

Waking up one morning on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage in Spain undertaken both by Christian pilgrims as well as hikers seeking a spiritual retreat from the modern world, Lynn Dolven prepared herself for the day ahead. She would be covering about thirteen miles, a distance that would take her six to eight hours. The friend she had started the trip with had completed her leg of the journey and it would be a while until her other travel companion arrived, so for now she was on her own. She might meet new and interesting people along the way, or she might proceed in silence, peacefully and contentedly taking in her surroundings, freed from the intrusions of text messages and calls, which she always disabled on her trips. Either way, she knew she would end the day, and the trip, for that matter, feeling like she had cleared the deck, making way for whatever might come next.

Lynn was in her element—exploring, discovering, fully present—and she was, as she always was on her far-flung adventures, so glad she had seized the opportunity to go. She had, she realized, become something of a poster child for the mindset of, “Don’t wait. Life could all change in a minute.” Hers certainly had. More than once.

For Lynn, the first of those life-altering changes came on a weekend not out of the ordinary for her active family of four. Her husband and son were on a ski trip together when there was a terrible accident. Lynn’s husband was killed, leaving her alone to simultaneously cope with her grief while somehow holding it together for their two children, ages 12 and 14. There were days when it took all she had just to get the kids off to school, retreating to the cocoon of her bed the moment they left. Staying there, however much she might have wanted to, was never an option. There were plans to be made, schedules to be kept, and two shattered children who were looking to her to show her the way forward.

Buoyed by her tight-knit community of friends and family, Lynn began to find her way through the pain and upheaval. Certain facets of her old life needed to change. Her demanding career as a litigation attorney, for one thing, was no longer sustainable. Her children needed her to be fully present, so she stopped working to be with them. Years passed, the family began to heal, and eventually the time was right to return to work, but not to her legal career. Lynn wanted a new kind of challenge. She became a non-profit fundraiser, working with the Colorado Ballet and later the Florence Crittenton Services, a school that supports and empowers teen mothers.

While she found professional fulfillment, the curve balls that life throws at us had never stopped coming. Less than five years after the death of her husband, Lynn’s dearly loved cousin was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Lynn, along with other close family members, saw her through to the end of her life. Not long after, Lynn’s mother’s health deteriorated dramatically, requiring frequent visits to her home in Texas and, eventually, moving her to Colorado, where Lynn could offer more assistance. When her mother’s life came to an end, she found herself grieving in a way she had not expected. Even though she had long known the day was coming, losing this person who had always been in her life felt like an unbearable blow.

Those losses—her husband, her cousin, her mother—had each served as a stark reminder of just how fast life can change, whether you see it coming from a mile away or it blindsides you in an instant. Given that unpredictability, Lynn has become expert in filling her life with what makes it worth living. To her, that involves a wide circle of close friends and family, an endless supply of good books, dinner parties full of good food and laughter, a sturdy pair of well-used hiking boots and an unquenchable sense of adventure. She has traveled to Iran, hiked the challenging Haute Route in Switzerland, taken cooking classes with her daughter in Italy and gone on Safari with her son in Africa. Soon she will be on her way to a hiking trip in Ireland and a long-postponed wedding celebration for her daughter in Argentina. There is always somewhere new to explore and something new to try, and Lynn is eager to embrace it all.

That is why, she believes, whether your next adventure happens to be with a partner or a friend or all on your own…

It’s never too late to try something new.