British adventurer Sarah Outen set out from Tower Bridge in April 2011 on her London2London: Via the World expedition. Her goal: to row, bike and kayak around the Northern Hemisphere, inspiring children and fundraising for charities.
A typhoon on the North Pacific forced a mid-ocean rescue from her rowing boat in 2012, and a hurricane on the Atlantic forced a pre-emptive evacuation after 143 days at sea. She has also kayaked some of the most treacherous waterways in the world and cycled across North America during one of the harshest Winters on record.
Finally, after 4.5 years and over 25,000 miles, Sarah is now back home. The final leg of the journey saw her cycle and kayak from Falmouth to London, paddling under Tower Bridge at midday on 3rd November 2015 to complete her journey.
Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Please tell us about the best adventure you’ve had in the last 18 months…
My partner Lucy and I recently spent a week paddleboarding in the fjords of the beautiful and rugged Musandam Peninsula, Oman. The silence and space was peaceful and the crystalline waters mesmerising. We saw dolphins, sharks, turtles, birds and fish – it was wonderful.
Sounds gorgeous! So, what is next?
This summer Lucy and I are going to Alaska for a month of pack rafting, hiking and biking before we get stuck into harvest for the summer. (I say that with all the enthusiasm of a farmer’s wife excited at learning more of the trade).
What an amazing summer that’s going to be! What does it mean to you, to be able to fill your life with adventure?
Adventure is so many things to me. It’s about fun and friends while also being about space and solitude. It’s about expanding my view of the world and also learning more about specific things. It’s about challenge and limits and growth. It’s about curiosity and being with what is unknown.
How do you feel when you complete a challenge or a project?
The end of one thing and the beginning of another can feel like all sorts of things. My adventures have taught me that transitions can be a real riot of wobbles, packed alongside huge excitement and energy which doesn’t know what to do with itself, as well as a tiredness that can’t quite be sated until the adrenaline wears off. Sometimes there is relief, hopefully pride and gratitude and no doubt lots of memories. I have learned that the processing can take some time – months, even years for big projects.
You are an inspiration to women everywhere, but tell us, who inspires you?
So many people inspire me. My late dad for all that he taught me in his life. My mum for her strength and stamina through all sorts of storms. My partner Lucy for her quiet strength and big heart. Ellen MacArthur for all that she has done in and out of the sailing world and now in her efforts to help accelerate a transition to a circular economy.
They sound like amazing role models. What are you most proud of being able to do today that you could not do a year ago?
Being able to say that I am married. I married Lucy in June last year and feel so lucky to be paired up with such a wonderful woman.
That’s lovely, congratulations! What is ‘enough’ for you in life?
Health and to have a gorgeous crew of friends and family. I feel very lucky to have both of these.
For you, what does adventure bring which enriches your soul and makes you happy?
It brings me space and time in nature which is, for me, one of the best healers and teachers. I love the beauty and energy, the dynamism and cycling timelessness of it all. As well, of course, as happy hormones from exercise.
Tell us, what are you doing for yourself right now, which is just to improve your adventure?
I am learning to skateboard and slackline to improve my core stability, balance and coordination.
Amazing, let us know how you get on! If you could make a 30 second speech to every woman, who is interested in adding more adventure into their life, what would it be?
Remember that lovely quote from Winnie the Pooh when Christopher Robin is assuring Pooh about how fab he is?
‘You are stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and braver than you believe’.
This is my shout to women. Don’t let the niggling voices hold you back. The power and wisdom for everything lies within you if you have the courage to step out and get started. Connect with others for some confidence and advice and then, just , GO!
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! What do you think makes women feel more confident about planning their own adventure?
Women seem to thrive from connections and the power that it brings, especially in acknowledging their own fears and knowing that they are not alone in that. Run with that – seek connections and the confidence you gain from knowing you are part of a sisterhood.
What is the top piece of advice you would pass on to a women traveling independently?
Trust your instincts.
Do you think as women we speak to ourselves and accept things about ourselves, which we wouldn’t allow or like someone else to say to us? If so, how do we stop?
Try and be kind to yourself, as forgiving as you would to anyone else, as encouraging as you would to a child, as loving as you would to your favourite person in the world.
Such lovely words. What are the three biggest lessons adventure has taught you?
- To embrace changes in the plan.
- Not to be afraid of being afraid.
- The value of failiure.
With reference to how adventure is commonly portrayed, how do you feel the Gender Gap should be addressed?
I think that one of the areas where the gap is greatest is in the TV world. I think that the major channels would do well to add some diversity to their adventure programming to make it more inclusive and stop the hyperbole.
Sarah, thank you so much for speaking with us.
If you have been inspired by Sarah and would like to hear more about her adventures then check out our WAExpo Takes to the Water Event being held at M Shed, Bristol on 22nd April. Don’t miss out!