It is now a week since I arrived in Madang. Which means it is a week since I became the first woman to row solo all the way across the Pacific. Which you would have thought would be a pretty amazing feeling. Maybe I could even be forgiven for being just a little bit proud of myself.
But to be honest, this is not really so. I have a number of theories about this lack of self-congratulation, and it’s probably a combination of all of the following:
– The Indian Ocean: I am already busy planning for the next adventure – the Indian Ocean, pencilled in to start in March 2011. So I have to get the boat ready for shipping, decide what goes with her and what I ship back to the US, get her all cleaned up and shipshape. There is equipment to be replaced, supplies to be sponsored, and money to raise. This doesn’t leave much time for resting on my laurels.
– Comparison with the Atlantic Ocean: now THAT was a feeling of accomplishment. My first ocean, and the hardest thing I had ever done. The highs and lows (mostly lows) of crossing the Atlantic in officially the worst year ever since weather records began pushed me to and beyond my limits, and the feeling of relief when I arrived in Antigua was immense. Imagine finishing a marathon, winning an Oscar, and getting out of jail, all rolled into one. Since then I have found ways to make my ocean life more comfortable, and of course there is the greater confidence that comes from having done it before. So arrival no longer has that same level of euphoria.
– I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member: hey, if I can manage to row the Pacific, just how hard can it be? I suffered the same sense of anticlimax when I got my place at Oxford. Oxford went from being the pinnacle of my aspirations to something I had achieved – and duly dropped several notches in my opinion. This probably says something bad about my self esteem or excessive natural modesty. Ah well.
– The eco mission continues: Rowing is only half the story. I can’t sit back and congratulate myself on a job well done while there is oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, and weak legislation staggering its way to enactment while the daily assaults on our Earth continue. This is no time to be patting myself on the back – there is much work still to be done, and as ever, I am trying to figure out how I can be most effective in making a difference.
– If I ever get too impressed with myself…. then it will all go horribly wrong, I am sure. This must be the Yorkshire side of me – thanks, Dad – where self-effacement is seen as just good manners. So my feet are most definitely still firmly on the ground (so to speak), and I am still just the same person I ever was – just a bit more weatherbeaten and with a few new experiences under my belt.
So although it is very nice to bask a little in the afterglow when accosted around town by people wanting to shake my hand, or to do interviews, I’m in no danger of getting too big for my boots anytime soon. But lest this all sound rather subdued, rest assured – I am happy. Content, without being complacent. Smiling, without being smug.
Papua New Guinea is celebrating the Queen’s Birthday this weekend. I am being treated to a trip to the island of Karkar on board Sir Peter Barter’s beautiful cruise ship, the Kalibobo Spirit, along with a group of friends. It will be a delicious contrast to be on board a boat with hot showers and comfortable beds and a fully stocked bar. Just like mine – NOT!