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How to Follow an Unconventional Passion: 5 Tips from Expedition Seakayaker Justine Curgenven

Justine Curgenven has been named one of the UK’s top living explorers. She is an award-winning adventure filmmaker and expedition sea kayaker whose programmes have aired on National Geographic and the BBC.

A few of her incredible kayaking adventures include being part of the first all-female team to circumnavigate Tasmania and taking a solo trip around Iceland’s West Fjords. To top it all off, she’s even been invited to meet the queen at a Buckingham Palace reception for adventurers.

The outdoors opened a whole new world for Justine. Her love of travel and adventure combined in sea kayaking.

“You can carry everything you need for a month’s journey in your kayak instead of on your back. The people that you meet along the way are always so curious about this person that lands on the beach from the wild ocean.”

1. Relish Each Little Success

In Justine’s early career she was a TV news journalist. Later she became a multi-skilled programme maker, and there she was trained to use a camera and edit film in order to create a story. With her heart in sea kayaking, Justine realised there wasn’t enough time in the day to do her job and the cool things she wanted to do.

She her quit job, bought a camera, and started creating stories for TV, but success didn’t come quickly. In her first year, she didn’t get any breaks. Countless companies would turn her down, but occasionally she got a yes.

It was a difficult first year following her passion, but she ended up working with National Geographic. These little successes gave her the confidence to keep going.

As you follow an unconventional passion, rejection may be inevitable.

Cling to every small success to continue pursuing your dream.

2. Give Yourself a Big Break

It wasn’t long before Justine tired of going to company after company asking for a chance and money to create a programme. Then she realised, she should create her own sea kayaking video. There were dozens of inspirational videos for skiing, mountain biking, and other outdoor sports, but no one had made one for sea kayaking.

Justine filmed a few of her trips and a number of cool people to create an hour long video and started to sell it. That was her break and how she was able to sustain her adventurous lifestyle.

Reflect on Justine’s experience of making a big break for herself.

How can you jumpstart your passion on your own? Self-publish, self-produce, and self-motivate your way to your big break.

3. Ask for What You Want

Luck and determination played a big role in Justine’s ability to make money doing what she’s really passionate about. Combining her love of adventure with her media background was just the beginning. What really made a difference was determination. In a seemingly small moment in Justine’s life, she learned to ask for wanted she wanted herself.

“Give things a go. What’s the worst that could happen?” Justine said. She learned from a young age that asking for what you want is crucial. It seems like a small thing to do, but it’s an important step to take.

These small steps slowly build up over time until you’ve accomplished incredible things. Commit to asking for what you want as you follow your passion. When you see an opportunity or have an idea that requires help, ask for it.

During her school years, Justine wanted to play for the English hockey team, but she was afraid to share that dream. By not sharing, she couldn’t give everything to her dream. She was so afraid of failing that she didn’t go out their 100%. Now she recognises that because she wasn’t wholeheartedly pursuing her dream it wasn’t going to happen.

We fail by not even trying.

With this realisation, Justine gives everything to her dreams.

“If I don’t succeed, I don’t succeed, but at least I’ve given it a shot,” she remarked.

Are you afraid to tell your friends and family about your dream?

When someone asks what you do, do you tell them about your passion or hide it under general statements? Let go of your fear of how people might respond and give everything to your passion.

5. Have Faith in the Currents

Kayaking along the Aleutian Island chain with her friend, Sarah Outen, was one of the most difficult things Justine has ever done. The Aleutian Islands are known for the strong currents, which haven’t been documented. The currents could take you in any direction at any time, making it difficult to plan whether to fight the current or let it move you away. You have to react to what’s happening at the present time and prepare for what it will do next. These currents slow your progress.

This adventure was tough physically and mentally. Justine had to travel slower than she usually did for 101 days and when you can’t get into the zone, it’s difficult to keep going.

People said it was impossible, but Justine and Sarah did it. “It’s a question of just going through it,” Justine noted. “We were prepared to set out and see what happened and have faith that whatever the currents did, we would be able to get there eventually.”

Do you have faith in the unexpected currents of life?

Every obstacle and challenge presents an opportunity for perspective. You decide whether you fight the current or let the current move you. Either way, you have to have faith.

Listen to Justine’s incredible story of sea kayaking and pursuing her passion on the Tough Girl Podcast!


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