Jess and the guys, field expedition 1999. From left: Lou Sang, Paul, Mike, Jess, Doje, Zhou.
Girl on the Roof of the World
Girl on the Roof of the World is the story of one woman’s search for self-acceptance by way of an incredible adventure into what was for her the antithesis of her usual life—living off the grid in the wilds of Tibet to pursue scientific research, something she never would have believed she could do. In taking that chance, Jess found that not only was she able to hold her own among a group of men, both as a geologist and as an outdoorswoman, but she unearthed from within her an unlikely passion for the rocks, rivers, and remarkable landscape that would become the backdrop of her personal transformation. With each passing day it became easier to decipher the hidden geological mysteries held in the rocks, and the hidden strength within her. In exploring the untouched geology in the farthest reaches of Tibet, she found a way to explore the farthest reaches of her limitations and tap into untouched potential she never knew she had. Connecting with surroundings that felt so foreign, she began to understand that what had seemed true—that she wasn’t meant to be a field geologist or maybe even a scientist—wasn’t true after all. Through the pursuit of science in such a beautiful and isolated environment, Jess found exactly what she needed to move beyond her doubts and define for herself who she wanted to be.
At its heart, this story is a fervent declaration that in taking risks, no matter how scary or out of character they seem, we can find hope and self-acceptance: Hope that in doing what we choose to do instead of what we are told to do we will find our true purpose in life, and self-acceptance that only comes when we break free of our doubts and push beyond our comfortable boundaries. Jess’s story is a call to action for any woman who has ever questioned her worth, her capabilities, or her place in the world. It is encouragement for women to take risks. It is permission for women to choose fulfilling careers, fight to move up, go back to school, take a gap year, find their true calling, or simply try something they never thought they would. It is evidence that ignoring doubts—our own and others’—and trying something that challenges everything we think we know about ourselves can reveal who we really are. In surrendering to an experience that went against all of her natural instincts, Jess found that the middle of the Tibetan Plateau, over seven thousand miles from home, was exactly where she needed to be to find self-acceptance. What began as an effort to merely survive became the best months of her life, in which she learned that she could thrive—emotionally, mentally, and physically—in one of the strangest, most remote places on earth, among people who were nothing like her, farthest from where she thought she belonged.