Visits to British schools, sixth form colleges, and universities, to listen to the hopes and fears, dreams and anxieties of young people aged 16-24, and collaborating to create a positive vision of what Britain could look like if we all step up and speak up for the future we want.
Roz Savage MBE holds 4 Guinness World Records for ocean rowing, and is the first woman to row solo across three oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. The purpose of her voyages was to raise awareness of environmental issues. She also holds a doctorate in systemic approaches to social change.
Her latest book, The Ocean in a Drop: Navigating from Crisis to Consciousness, summarises what she has learned over her 20 years as an environmental campaigner about why positive change is hard – and yet necessary, and possible. She is now planning to stand for Parliament, and this tour is a national fact-finding mission to find out more about the challenges facing our young people as they face an uncertain and unpredictable future.
1. Rather than a formal presentation or lecture, Roz would prefer a "fireside chat" conversational format with a faculty/staff member to share stories about her ocean-rowing adventures, environmental activism, and what she has learned about perseverance, resilience, and the importance of standing up for what we believe in. This format will allow the faculty/staff member to steer the conversation towards topics they know will be relevant to the audience, and strike a more casual, interactive tone - hopefully a refreshing change from classes and lectures!
Roz would like to focus specifically on mental health. She went through her own challenges on the ocean - depression, intense aloneness, overwhelm, inner critic, even suicidal thoughts. She figured out how to handle her inner dialogue to deal better with these daily challenges, and can offer some coping strategies that might be helpful to young people.
She would also be happy to share her insights on finding and following a purpose, having been through this process at least twice in her life (no, it's not a one-and-you're-done exercise!). The range of options can be bewildering for a young adult, and Roz would like to share what she has learned about crafting a life of purpose, meaning, and contribution.
2. Curated conversation with 2 key objectives:
- Find out what matters to young voters (and soon-to-be voters): research suggests that the current mental health crisis is due in part to anxieties about the cost of higher education, the future of jobs, living standards, and ability to buy or rent a home. How do the participants feel about these issues, and what ideas do they have about how the situation could be improved? We will use polls to capture the feedback (participants can choose to remain anonymous) and write up a report and related articles.
- Attempt to restore faith in democracy as relevant and important: the voting rate in this age group is around 50%, compared with 80% for older age groups, so the main political parties skew their manifestos and messaging towards the concerns of older people, which becomes a vicious spiral of increasing disengagement amongst younger voters. What would encourage young people to become more politically engaged and give voice to the issues that concern them? As above, we will document the feedback and incorporate into future strategy.
3. Data poll to gather perspectives from the students about their hopes and fears for the future, attitudes to politics and politicians, and other data points to enable Roz to speak on behalf of young people's desires and aspirations in her future campaigning.
4. Roz will donate a copy of her latest book, The Ocean in a Drop: Navigating from Crisis to Consciousness, to the school/university library. The book offers an interpretation of the mess we’re in, plus a positive vision of what a future civilisation could look like if founded on the principles of connection, collaboration, and compassion. Additional signed copies will be available for sale (if appropriate).
1. Invitation to attend events, to be primarily organised by the school/university, coordinated by Roz and her team. Please:
- Identify an appropriate person at the school/university to host the event (helpful information in this pdf, especially pp19-22). This may be a faculty member (e.g. politics, philosophy, economics, sports, etc.), a teacher, an official of the student union, or similar.
- Ensure that this individual is enthusiastic about the event, and willing to be the point person on the ground.
- Introduce them to Roz and her team, using the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Any legal or other guidelines relating to safeguarding, data privacy, etc to be organised by the hosting school/university, and notified to Roz’s team
3. Possibly also coordinate with a local bookshop to do a book reading event while in the area
4. Offer of accommodation in a hotel, Airbnb, or somebody's spare bedroom
5. Local media coverage via school/university and/or bookshop would be appreciated, e.g. local radio, newspaper, student magazine, etc.
Roz has spoken at countless schools and universities around the world, across all year groups, including:
- University of Oxford
- University of Cambridge
- Edinburgh University
- Eton College
- Wellington School
- Shrewsbury High School
- Caterham School, Surrey
- Stephen Perse Foundation, Cambridge
- Reed’s School, Surrey
- Lady Eleanor Holles School, London
- Cox Green School, Berkshire
- Baylis Court School, Berkshire
- Richmond Park Academy, London
- Dulwich College, London
- Newlands Girls School, Berkshire
- The American School in England
- Yale School of Management
- Purdue University
- Syracuse University
- University of Tulsa
- Sacramento State University
- Duke University
- Cornell University
- Paidaiea School, Atlanta
- Tenacre School, Boston
- Urban School, San Francisco
- GEMS Dubai American Academy
- Tusbab Secondary School, Madang, Papua New Guinea
Roz's Story - An Excerpt from Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman's Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific
“Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”
— Kate Chopin, The Awakening
If you rotate a globe until your view centres on Hawai’i, you will see a mostly blue view of our planet, a vast expanse of ocean barely besmirched by land. There is just a sliver of California visible in the top right corner, a glimpse of Australia in the bottom left, and a smattering of islands and atolls strewn like grain flung by a celestial farmer. The Pacific covers 65 million square miles, about a third of the world’s surface. In places the water is nearly six miles deep, although mostly it’s only about two miles deep. Not that it really matters to me. As soon as it’s more than 5'4" deep, I’m out of my depth.
From 2007 to 2010, this water world was my home, as I inched my way, oar stroke by oar stroke, from California to Papua New Guinea to become officially the first woman to row solo across the Pacific. My stated goal was to use my adventure to wage a campaign of awareness and action on the most important environmental issues facing our world today, communicating my message through blog posts and podcasts from the ocean, and through speaking and writing once I was back on dry land.
Yet just a few years earlier, nothing could have been further from my mind than fighting the good green fight from the deck of a 23-foot rowboat. Crank the clock back to the year 2000, and you would find me age 32 and living in London, supposedly happy. I had a well-paid job, a big house, a successful husband, foreign holidays, and a little red sports car. In other words, I had the classic materialistic Western lifestyle.
My childhood had been austere as the elder daughter of two low-paid Methodist preachers. My father’s quarterly stipend did not allow luxuries, so my mother grew fruit and vegetables to stretch her housekeeping allowance and made clothes for my sister and me with her sewing machine and knitting needles. As a teenager I had grown restless with this spartan lifestyle, and I yearned for a time when I would have money to spend, designer clothes to wear, and a big house to live in. After 11 years of chasing that dream in the City of London, I’d acquired everything that I had thought would make me happy.
But there was something wrong. The truth was that, despite all these material blessings, I wasn’t happy—not happy at all. There was a persistent and ever-increasing feeling that there was a mismatch between the person I was and the person I was pretending to be. The tension between the two selves was becoming unbearable.
What brought it home to me was a self-help exercise I did one day. I sat down at the dining-room table and wrote two versions of my own obituary—the one I wanted, and the one I was heading for if I carried on as I was. They were very different, and I saw that I was moving in completely the wrong direction if I was going to be able to look back and be proud of my time on Earth. I realised then that I needed to make a major course correction if I was ever to find happiness and meaning in my life.
That exercise was the first, irrevocable step on a path that would take me away from all I had held dear—my husband, my house, and my sense of security. I would also have to let go of all the things that were cluttering my mind—the possessions that had come to own me instead of the other way around, the preoccupation with what other people thought of me rather than what I thought of myself, and the voices in my head that questioned whether I dared to be different.
This may sound like a painful process, but at each point of the transformation I was moved to undertake, something would happen to indicate to me that I was on the right track. What might have looked like sacrifices actually felt like liberations.
[There then follows a description of my environmental awakening in 2003, and my subsequent call to adventure, to row the world’s oceans, using my adventures to raise awareness of our ecological crisis.]
IN THE 8 YEARS AND 15,000 MILES that have now passed since I first dipped my oars in the turbulent waters of my first ocean, I have spent more than 500 days alone at sea, as I crossed the Atlantic (2005, described in my book Rowing the Atlantic), Pacific (2007–2010), and Indian (2011) Oceans. And yet I don’t think I will ever feel truly at home on the ocean. It will always test me. I love it, fear it, hate it, respect it, resent it, cherish it, and frequently curse it. It brings out the best in me—and sometimes the worst.
Despite my uneasy relationship with the wet parts of our planet, I cannot think of any other activity that would have met my objectives so perfectly as ocean rowing. Besides my environmental mission, I wanted to find out who I am, what I’m capable of, and what life is all about. It was my quest for happiness that first got me out of the office and onto the water, and although happiness is an emotion in scarce supply while I’m at sea—my feelings usually ranging from resigned acceptance of my self-imposed travails, through low-grade stress, to moments of sheer terror—the resilience and life skills that the ocean has engendered in me have enhanced my existence on land beyond all measure. To embrace a cause, to feel passionate about what I do, to believe I am making a difference and leaving a legacy, to be part of a mission so much bigger than one small woman sitting in a rowboat—all these things have brought me enormous fulfillment. Truly, the sense of achievement is proportionate to the scale of the attempt, so to take on a challenge the size of the world and to patiently chip away at it, one oar stroke at a time, has been a tremendously rewarding experience.
The ocean has been a harsh but effective teacher. She has taught me the value of simplicity—without all the distracting noise of life on land, I’ve found myself clear and focused on the things that really matter. She has reminded me that we humans are not separate from the environment, but are completely interconnected with it, and any notions we may have that we’re above or beyond nature are dangerous delusions.
And she has shown me how an ordinary human being can achieve the extraordinary, by presenting me with challenge after challenge, pushing me to what I thought were my limits, only for me to find out that when I have no choice, I can go beyond those boundaries and achieve more than I would ever have dreamed possible.