Dear Sierra Sage,

What I know about you is that you are 14 years old, you love whales, you are an EcoHero, and that a few days ago you had a bad head injury at a horse riding event. Your mother tells me that you are doing well now, and that one day soon you will need to get back on the horse. She thought maybe I could say something useful to you about courage and perseverance.

To be honest, I’d feel a bit of a hypocrite writing to you about overcoming fear, as I’m having a bit of a struggle with fear myself at the moment. In fact, you may not be scared at all of getting back on a horse, as younger people don’t suffer from many of the fears and anxieties that adults manage to create for themselves. So this letter is at least as much for my benefit as for yours.

I headbutted the wall of my cabin yesterday, when a huge wave struck. Not as bad a head injury as yours, but it still hurt like hell as the impact travelled down my spine into my chest and back. And I’m a long way from the nearest ER. Luckily for me, I don’t need the ER.

I wish I could say that, like any truly rufty-tufty adventurer, I immediately set my jaw, stiffened my spine, and went back to the oars, but I would be lying. I spent last night in my cabin, strapped to my bunk, feeling rather sore and flinching every time another big wave clobbered my boat.

However, today I am feeling better and a little braver. After all, there’s only one way to get to the other side of the ocean, right? And it’s the same ocean, and the same boat, and the same me, as before my mishap. The only thing that has changed is how I feel about it. Before mishap, not scared. After mishap, scared. So I can go back to “not scared”, just by choosing to adjust my mindset. But that’s sometimes easier said than done.

So I’ve thought up a little trick to give me extra resolve. Writers often talk about the smell of fear (probably not a very nice smell) but I’ve never heard of the smell of courage, which probably smells better. So I’ve decided to fill this niche in the market. The smell of courage is (cue roll of drums)…. Tiger Balm.

I was rummaging through my First Aid kit yesterday, and found a little pot of it amongst all the more sophisticated medications. It’s a very pretty pot, glass with a metal lid (no plastic!), with an oriental design featuring a tiger and Chinese characters. On the label it says it is “Effective in relieving headaches, stuffy nose, insect bites, itchiness, muscular aches and pains, and flatulence. Apply gently on the affected area.” (Wondering what the “affected area” for flatulence would be – suggestions?!)

I rubbed some on my neck, shoulders and back, massaging it in well, as they had absorbed the impact of the headbutt and were very sore. I don’t know what the balm has in its “secret herbal formulation”, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have tiger-derived ingredients. It is named for its inventor, whose name in Chinese means “tiger”. It smells good. Not the kind of fragrance you’d want if you were going on a date, but clean and invigorating.

Even just inhaling it makes me feel better. It seems to clear my head and make me feel calmer. Maybe you can get some, too. You don’t have to put it on – just take a good deep breath of it before you get back on that horse, and remind yourself that it is the smell of courage. Your mother could probably do with a hefty lungful of it too – I think she will be more nervous than you are.

Good luck with the horse-riding. Be careful, Be courageous. The world needs you, and so do the whales.

All very best
Roz x

Other Stuff:

Conditions continue extremely rough. I took the day off from rowing today to allow the bump on my head and the ache in my shoulders to ease. It’s dangerous to be out on deck with such big waves on the rampage, so I’ve mostly been in the cabin. Very stuffy in here, and the air now heavy with the scent of Tiger Balm. Phewee!

Will keep this blog short(ish), as don’t want laptop and self to go flying across the cabin again. Sooner we are returned to the safety of Pelican case and bunk respectively, the better.

Quote: “There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.”
(Andre Gide)

Photo: Keep on keeping on – the Atlantic

Sponsored Miles: Thank you for contributing: Tom Pollack, James Malone, Leslie Fish.


  • There are only 2 ways I can think of to apply Tiger Balm for flatulence, one wouldn’t taste very good and I don’t have the courage for the other.

    • If you have flatulence, apply liberally to the noses of those around you, the true sufferers. 
      Quote Mike Myers as the character Fat Bastard in one of the Austin Powers movies: “Everybody like their own brand!”

  • What a beautiful letter, Roz, I felt quite moved. I too have sore shoulders and back after abusing myself with heavy boxes. I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself and join you with the tiger balm. I hope you have a far better day tomorrow and I can just imagine Sierra back on that horse looking triumphent.

  • In response to complaints, a local grocery chain (Trader Joe’s) was obliged to add this note to their displays of Tiger Balm viz “This product does not contain any material from tigers”. To which someone had surruptitiously added “Our Baby Cream is another matter”.

    Dear Roz: A hard head banging must be one of your major hazards and also one with major potential consequences. No point in telling you to be more carefull; only sympathy and prayers that it doesn’t happen again.

    And to our young equestrian Hero: Falling off a horse, or even being thrown off, especially in public, is at best embarrassing and at worst serious. But it happens to the most experienced of us; you have the advantage of youth so will mend quicker and get back up sooner. I hope your mount is undamaged! (I gave up horses when age stiffened my joints).

    • Baby Cream … LOL ROFLMAO … just too funny, John!
      As for everything else you said … ditto, ditto, ditto !!

  • Fantastic letter, Roz. And I had no idea Tiger Balm was a treatment for insect bites and itchiness. I am going to try that remedy. I think its best application to relieve flatulence might be just below the nose on your upper lip. 

    For Sierra Sage, I too have fallen off a horse and got the biggest knot on the back of my head ever. My advice, turn the experience into a great story you can tell people for the rest of your life. Make it dramatic, exciting and funny. Then brag about how soon you were riding again.

    • Falling off a horse for the 8th time means you just about know how to ride. The HURTING bit is not so much fun though.
      My most memorable tumble was into a patch of thistles while herding cattle. No choice but to get back on …. cattle had to be moved and horse was the only way home 🙂 Jim Bell

  • Dear Roz, You truly are so brave. Brave certainly for your tremendous accomplishments, but even braver for your honesty, integrity, humility, and willingness to simply put it all on the line and tell it like it really is! As for Tiger Balm, here is a great opportunity for a sponsorship or some other marvelous marketing idea. I’ll have to run to Trader Joe’s and get some today to pull out for those moments of trepidation and fear.

    You are my hero…

  • Dear Sierra Sage, It is a well known( maybe) fact that you must fall or be thrown from a horse 7 times to become an expert rider. This makes me an expert many many times over. For you and Roz Please remember a famous John Wayne quote   “Courage is Being Scared to Death, But Saddling Up Anyway!”
    Roz, continue to saddle up each day as you make your way to your destination, for the betterment of all of Us and the World. Godspeed.

  • First they came for the trees, and I did not speak out – because there were plenty of trees;
    Then they came for the oil, and I did not speak out – because I had places to go;
    Then they came for the sea turtles, and I did not speak out – because I knew of no sea turtles
    Then they came for the birds, and I did not speak out – because I thought birds could fly away
    Then they came for me – and there was no planet left to accompany me.
    Diminish your use of a plastic bag today and also bring your own water bottle. Find, nod and smile to someone that is doing the same.If you do this, I promise it will make Roz’s day!

    Roz Rowing!

  • Sierra, I too fell off my horse, but I broke my wrist, not my head! Luckily after a while it healed. I got back on my horse the next week and have been riding since. Little setbacks like that should not stop you from enjoying life!!
    Roz, I know that you have a helmet, but I do not think that it would have helped though. Wish I could do something to help. Wishing you a fast recovery. All the best.

  • Roz ,Good luck on recovery from your bashed head ….Sounds a horrible spell you are having but then just remember the song “Things can only get better ” and you will be through it before you know. Seeing you mention Tiger Balm reminded me of a several visits I made to Singapore..more specifically the “Tiger Balm Gardens” or Haw Par Villas as I gather its now know  built by the brothers that created Tiger Balm…which featured some of the most grotesque statues and scenes of mutilation I have ever seen put into about a thousand statues.Worth a visit if you have never been !!  No wonder they needed some form of pain killer ( I believe the original Tiger Balm included something dodgy like Morphine which was removed many years ago ! Would have been even better for your bashes  than the current version …link attached for info Wishing you happiness and a calm sea…. . 


  • Roz: Do you have any Arnica Montana (homepathic pills, capsules, whatever) on board?  In addition to being good for the actual bruising, it’s also valuable for “the shock to your system” that getting bruised or hit can cause to your nerves, emotions, etc.

    You’re doing fantastically.  Rest, as you need to.  And then just keep going.  These are just small bumps on the overall road of life.

  • Dear Roz,
    Thank you for the great support.  I’m getting a bit shy, now realizing this is a big blog, and that hundreds of people see it. lol And yeah, I actually have a little pot of Tiger Balm in the cupboard.  (Let’s hope whatever magical ingredients it has in it, it keeps it from spoiling. It’s been in there for at least over 9 years now lol).  I’ll remember to use that little trick before I go riding again next weekend.  c:   Thank you for some sound, encouraging advice. You wouldn’t believe how many people simply expected me to be done with riding forever and thought that somehow that was the courageous thing to do! (?)  So, thank you not just for great advice but sanity as well. lol  c: (And thanks of course to everyone who commented in support, too.)
    Anyways, thank you 1 hundred and 12 times over, hope your head and back heal up soon, have a great journey, and that your, our, cause may triumph.
    Sierra Sage

    • Dear Sierra,
      From my experience, the opposite of fear is not hate, it is love. So I predict you are ready to get back in the saddle because of your love for horseback riding as well as for the relationship you have developed with, not only your horse, but with the action of riding and your faith in your own abilities. I am sure Roz will be in her rowing seat as soon as she can. She has great love for the world and solo ocean rowing is one of the ways she expresses it. She also had enough love for us to blog while in fear of getting clobbered with an errant laptop. We tend to be passionate about things we love. And we do things either because we are in love or out of love. But it is love, all the same. Just make sure you get back on your horse at your pace (sounds like a supportive family too, bravo!). When you do, smile extra big in your own personal triumph!

      As far as getting older and scared’ier; it comes with the territory:) I am less apt to make the same mistakes that I made in youth. So when mishaps happen, they do so more frequently during “whiskey tango foxtrot” (what the freak?!) moments. Moments that for some reason I did not predict (never saw it coming) despite my years of experience. It sure puts the humble back in, dilates the pupils and makes one look around for witnesses while aerating one’s ego. I definately pause before “getting back on” as my brain is in overdrive trying to discover a means to avoid similar future entanglements (sometimes to no avail). But I am sure as soon as I drop my gaurd one will be ready to pounce. Its part of the equation of passion for what you enjoy. Don’t lose it.

      We are all artists, musicians, dancers, dreamers and adventurers, at least until we begin to believe those individuals that tell us we are not.
      …but they probably never heard of Tiger Balm before either…

      Have a wonderful, triumphant ride! Thanks from the whales 🙂

  • Hi Roz. I can’t take much time out from work at the moment, but just wanted to quickly say that I take what you are doing for granted sometimes.  These crashing waves and need for a crash helmet in your tumble dry cycle give me pause … to think … about some of the close calls I have had, some much closer than others, some potential, some very near misses.

    It would be too grim to recount the near misses.  The least damaging could have been a devastating, had I been on different terrain … as it was my galloping horse shied to the left, and my body mass kept going straight, so on the way down to the dry, sandy creek bottom, I watched in slow motion a meat grinder of legs and hooves as I descended, thinking I was going to get tangled up in the whirling “mix-master.”

    The fear left me as I made a relatively soft three-point landing in the sand — had it been rocky, it would not have been so soft — on my forearm, shoulder and noggin.  No visible damage, but I had no strength in my arm for a couple months.Lesson learned: Some times we’re luck, sometimes not, so be prepared for “not.”Ride and row prepared, Sierra Sage and Roz!

  • The greatest courage is required when you cannot see your destination, or even make out the path ahead.  But if you can envision the destination and the path to it in your head, you can set your heart to it and very few things can stop you: a King’s Army (perhaps); a tidal wave (maybe).

    Is not having courage the ultimate triumph?

    Good luck to the sea and horse riders…

  • Evening or morning Wave cutter,

    Oh the ocean is asking for some payment for passage.
    How nature has a mind of its own? I hate to read your bleeding all over a
    beautiful purple vessel. But your are a bobber in the wind, dried by the sun
    and challenged by all that is …. this adventure. There is presently no man or
    woman making this journey but you. Perhaps none ever after you?  Every breath you exchange with your host is
    a commitment to continue until the next sunrise. Chances, risks and growth.
    Only a few ever grow to know a Savage. Determination, passion and yes
    stubbornness flows like the waters of the grand canyon itself through your
    veins. A drip on a leaf, a tornado, a thousand plus a thousand more miles under
    your kneel. You are a woman / friend with a destination to complete. Thank you
    in advance for your commitment to our shared planet. Your traveling truth is
    not a mystery or are you alone. There is only a single set of oars to be pulled
    Roz, Please know you have hearts and hands that believe and know your desire.
    Your extended family is one in the same. Heal, laugh and pull another stroke
    rainbow maker. I apologize in advance. The shore to shore roz savage weight
    loss vacation ticket sales are …. Uhm 
    pretty slow. The scenery is great, the food – one of a kind, the karaoke
    to cry for , laundry bill is pretty low , 
    its not a race. There is only one to continue and complete this journey.
    We look forward to your voice in the next message. We will leave the light on
    for you.BSavage

  • Everybody should carry the tiny pots of Tiger Balm, both in their pockets and in their minds.  Magical stuff I latched onto when in the Far East, and yes, brilliant for insect bites.  Maybe the inhalation of the fumes aids flatulence?

    Hope the waves ease for you soon Roz, stay safe.

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