In the summer of 2004 I was in a very uncertain phase of my life. I was separated from my husband, had no job, and was living rent-free in a Dickensian (aka grungy) flat above an antiques shop in a narrow flagstoned passageway in Richmond. My only sources of income were from baking organic cakes that I sold at a local farmers’ market, and occasional photographic work. The previous year I had been on my first adventure, a three-month trip to Peru, and had written a book about my travels (as yet unpublished). I had left behind my materialistic lifestyle, and was experimenting with a new, more intuitive way of living, exploring new ideas and new freedoms.
It was into this fertile void of uncertainty that the idea to row across oceans to raise environmental awareness exploded like the Big Bang, and the course for the next 7 years of my life was set. These years have been incredibly busy, organising, fundraising and executing one major expedition per year as well as speaking, writing, and campaigning.
This year had looked set to be equally busy, first with Trashmobs and then the North Atlantic OAR project slated to take up most of the summer. When the OAR was postponed indefinitely, I was pleasantly surprised to find I had a bonus three months on my hands. Of course the diary didn’t stay empty for long – a book deal came along, as well as various professional and social commitments. But spending the summer on dry land rather than slogging my way across yet another ocean has presented me with a welcome opportunity to re-create the summer of 2004. And I hope that it may similarly lead to a blinding flash of inspiration that will determine the course of the next chapter of my life.
I think of the process this way: in 2004 I took a whole load of ingredients and put them into my mental melting pot: the sense of adventure engendered in Peru, a desire to do something useful in the world, curiosity about new places and new experiences, and the need to make a grand gesture about my new personal and environmental values. The melting pot bubbled away for a while and then one day out popped an idea that met all my criteria. Almost immediately I had a clear vision of where I wanted to be several years hence, and after a few days of battling with the little negative voice inside that was telling me I had absolutely no qualifications or experience for this task, I bowed to fate and announced my intention to row the Atlantic. 7 years later on, that vision is now my reality.
Maybe it’s too optimistic to hope to have two blinding flashes in one lifetime. But it’s worth a try. So I am reading books, and spending time with my journal, and allowing my curiosity to take me where it will. And with a bit of luck inspiration may strike again.
We are still finalising the publishing contract for my book about the Pacific. As soon as it is signed and sealed, I will be able to let you know more details about the publisher and publication date. Stay tuned!
I’ll be seeing my friend Sarah Outen in a couple of weeks time. Sarah had a traumatic experience recently when she was severely beaten up by a tropical storm during her attempt to row solo across the Pacific. She was picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard, and sadly has lost her boat, Gulliver. Read about her harrowing experience here. But you can’t keep a good woman down for long, and I know for sure that Sarah will be back out there just as soon as she can.
Next week I have several interesting meetings and events, two at the Houses of Parliament and one at 10 Downing Street. Exciting times!
[Featured image: a mountain in Peru]