South Charlotte

Testing herself helped open the road of life

Janice Holly Booth is an amazing, accomplished and accomplishing woman.

I say "accomplishing," because though she has already packed a lot into her 52 years, she is far from finished.

As a child, Booth had a problem understanding - and following - rules she thought were unjustified. Labeled "rebellious," Booth turned away from "mean people." She developed a love for horses, dreaming of the day she could have one of her own.

Her dream came true at 10, when her parents bought her a ramshackle horse for a dollar.

"People didn't always treat me well, but I could escape from it all when I was on horseback," Booth said.

After breaking one too many rules in high school, Booth's parents gave away her beloved horse, Rocky. Booth's life took some wrong turns after that. She struggled to find herself and what she wanted.

Booth ultimately found what she needed to satisfy her soul. She discovered that by facing her fears, she could master them and move on.

"So many negative things had happened to me in my life that I had turned into a fearful person. The point finally came where I was fed up with fear," said Booth.

The story of how Booth became CEO of the Girl Scouts Pioneer Council in North Carolina, an executive director of Young Audiences of Western New York, equestrian, author, adventuress and motivational speaker can be found in her book, "Only Pack what You Can Carry" (National Geographic). The book leads the reader through Booth's travels and experiences.

"Traveling solo for many years, I unlocked what I call the four keys to personal and spiritual fulfillment," said Booth.

When I first read the book, which describes her traveling alone, rappelling down perilous mountains, hiking dangerous slot canyons, taking trapeze lessons and riding horses again after a tragic fall, I thought she must be the most courageous, thrill-seeking, death defying adventurous woman ever.

"I'm not a thrill seeker," said Booth. "It took me two decades and 14 separate trips out West before I finally completed my dream of hiking a slot canyon. I built resilience within myself."

Booth believes it is crucial to test yourself on a regular basis. "It helps a person to fully become the human being they were meant to be. You don't just pray once. You don't tell someone you love them once. We repeat those actions."

There has been so much interest in Booth and her story that WTVI in Charlotte is going to start production of "Life's Lessons from the Edge," narrated by Booth, who lives in Gastonia, and based on her book. The program is due to air in spring and go national in December.

No longer a CEO, Booth now concentrates on lecturing, the television program and leading adventure trips. She will be the keynote speaker for the Girl Scout's Pioneer Council this spring in Pisa, Italy, and will be part of the group "Iconic Adventures" out of Colorado this fall.