One day, when Hermosa Beach resident and pilot Ramona Cox was reading a flying magazine, she saw a photo of an airplane in a field. Next to the photo were the words “There comes a time when you’ve put off your dream for long enough.”
She took in the image, and a dream blossomed within her.
“I thought, that’s what I’d like to do,” she said. “I’d like to barnstorm.”
Like the pioneers of aviation, Cox flies into remote North American wilderness areas, spending as long as three months camping and photographing wildlife, while keeping alert for bears, mountain lions and wolves.
“How do you do that?” others asked, and eventually, “Aren’t you afraid of being alone?”
As she shared her experiences with others in speaking engagements, Cox found her listeners craved both education and motivation. She teaches pilots about bush flying and inspires everyone to overcome their fears and achieve their dreams.
“I’m like a farmer,” Cox said, “and I plant seeds of inspiration into the minds of my audiences. What is most gratifying is when I watch those seeds grow and people begin pursuing their passions and living their dreams. Even more gratifying is when I watch them pass those seeds onto others.”
Cox praises her parents for instilling a “can-do,” “go-for-it” message when she was young.
“My mother was a good role model, as much as I can remember, because she passed when I was young,” Cox said. “One of her favorite sayings was ‘If there’s a will, there’s a way.’ So when there was an obstacle, I would focus on those words with the determination that there always was a ‘way’ and ponder solutions.”
Her father’s message was “If you can think it, you can do it.”
“A lot of parents do the opposite, they instill fear in kids,” Cox said. “He was the opposite: Try it, and even take it to the next level. He was a pilot, a diver and a climber, and he encouraged me to do a lot of things that would be fearful for other people.”
Cox was never afraid of flying, simply seeing it as something she would do someday. She also had a goal to explore every element on the planet — air, land and water. And she took baby steps to make her goals a reality, flying into ever-more-challenging airstrips and building her confidence level.
Looking for a way to support a lifestyle that included months of flying and camping, Cox paid attention to technology, watching as cell phones, laptops and Internet retail businesses evolved to the point where she could take her work with her on her barnstorming trips.
“When it all came together, I started an Internet company,” she said. “I took off June first, and I didn’t come back until September, and I spent the whole time air camping, exploring from strip to strip, but during the day I would always take time to run the business. So I might be sitting on my kayak with a little laptop in my lap, and I’d have a fishing pole in one hand, and bing! I’d get a bite and I’d stop and catch my dinner.”
Cox now works at MotoArt, an El Segundo company that transforms historic aircraft parts into artistic furniture (www.motoart.com).
When she started attending the Oshkosh air show, she met people who had heard about her air camping trips and wanted to learn more — specifically, how to do what she did.
“There aren’t many people out there (in the wilderness), because it takes a very specific kind of plane, specific kinds of skills, and it’s extreme flying,” Cox said. “I was asked to speak at aviation associations, and my audience was usually about 95 percent men, because they were the ones curious about how to do it. But what happened was in some of these organizations, they would bring their wives, and the wives loved the talks, and they would say, ‘Will you talk at my women’s group? And I’m going to bring my teenage daughter.’ So what started out as educational became motivational seminars using flying and adventure as the metaphor. It was a very natural transition.”
The theme that repeatedly arose was facing fear, that dreaded obstacle to achieving goals and dreams. Cox learned many ways to address fear, and this began with a realization she had as a 10-year-old whose mother had died of cancer.
“When she passed, it was really a transformational moment,” Cox said. “I watched her slowly pass while taking care of her. When she died, I realized that there are no guarantees regarding our lifespan . . . a realization that normally comes much later in life. Recognizing that none of us can predict our fate, I decided to go for it in every way possible.”
Cox refused to assume she had years to live her life and became a goal-setter at an early age.
“I started making very specific goals and plans of action for accomplishing them,” she said. “It’s so sad when you think of a 90-year-old rocking in a chair, and they voice the shoulda-woulda-couldas, the ‘Oh, I wanted to,’ and my first thought is, ‘Well then, why didn’t you?’ We can always come up with excuses, and some may be valid. But in general, if it is that important to you, you need to figure out how to make it happen.”
Cox has devised systems to protect herself when she’s camping alone in the wilderness, including remote-controlled lanterns that allow her to see if a predator is stalking her, and guns, which she has never had to use. She does not allow fear to immobilize her, instead taking action to address the situation.
She addresses fears that the mind dreams up by asking “What if?”
“What if I lost my job? What if this? What if that?” she said. “And I ask myself, what is the worst thing that can happen? Death. And that is a given anyway, right? So for any other problems, I ardently believe that there’s a Plan B, C and D, and that they’re all good. I don’t think the universe ever closes a door unless there’s another wonderful door waiting for me to pass through. As long as you really believe that, you’re not afraid when a door closes.”
Long ago, Cox started a visual goal book to see her dreams laid out. She clipped pictures from magazines showing what she wanted in life and pasted them into her book.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It plants the seeds of desire in your mind in a much stronger way than just saying to yourself, oh, I’d like to do that. With a visual goal book, you see it before your eyes. And if you look at it daily, your mind starts figuring out how to make that happen. I also believe there are other forces in the universe that kick in to help you achieve your goals once you actually pinpoint what you want.”
A recent decision Cox has made is to return to the beach cities. She has just moved to Hermosa Beach, and she lights up as she talks about it.
“The ocean makes my soul sing,” she said, “and the beach community, I love the people. And I need the water, almost like a mermaid — if I don’t get in the water, I get uneasy.”
Her next goals are to fly in Africa and scuba dive in the Maldives. She’s also writing a book that she hopes will be ready by 2014. After giving motivational talks and hearing listeners’ heartfelt responses, she wanted to deliver her message of inspiration in a bigger way.
“My motto is ‘Spreading Joy Across the Skies.’ And my personal mission is to encourage others to overcome obstacles, pursue their passions and live their dreams. My book will focus on helping others accomplish that task, which usually leads to living a happier life.”
The path toward happiness is lit, she believes, by rekindling dormant passions that people have had from childhood.
“At some point in your life, you’ve let your dreams sit for long enough,” she said. “It’s time to reawaken them.”