Known as the ‘human swan’, Sacha Dench is an Australian-born conservationist, adventurer and motivational speaker who certainly knows how to enhance and amplify an expedition. After noticing how swan numbers have nearly halved in 20 years, Sacha decided to do something about it and bring awareness to the problem. An astonishing paramotor adventure is what resulted with Sacha essentially flying with the swans on their migration path.
This unexpected journey has changed Sacha’s life and given her the opportunity to bring her conservation work to an entirely new level. From this experience, Sacha has learned numerous lessons on what it takes to do the seemingly impossible and take on incredibly unique challenges.
Train Your Mind to Calm
In addition to her paramotor adventures, Sacha has an exciting history with freediving. Freediving is all about testing the limits of your breath hold and depth capability. “It’s all about learning to understand how your body behaves as you get lower in oxygen and higher in carbon dioxide,” Sacha explained.
At the end of a breath hold, the brain slowly starts to malfunction. This starts with losing fine motor control and continues with short-term memory loss. With this knowledge, Sacha made sure to test her fine motor control with small finger movements and stop before she got to the point of memory loss.
Putting yourself in situations where your body is being tested can lead your body to involuntarily put out adrenaline and cause a bit of a panic. As part of her freediving training, Sacha had to learn how to stay calm and shut down any form of adrenaline that would increase heart rate and prevent her from staying underwater.
While holding her breath for long periods of time, Sacha became very aware of her body and what entered her mind. She learned to scan her body, relax tense muscles, and control her mind with thoughts that wouldn’t cause adrenaline. How you train your mind to calm in the challenge of your choosing may be different, but it’s equally important. Keeping calm can help you make the right decisions in crucial moments.
Tell a Story
As a conservationist with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Sacha and other researchers found the declining number of swans making the migration from Russia to Northern Europe a concerning predicament. This issue wasn’t on anyone’s radar, especially those rural people on the swan’s path. While flying her paramotor to take images, Sacha realized she was flying at the same altitude and speed as a swan. She was suddenly inspired to embark on an expedition to fly with the swans on their migration path, use the opportunity to speak to remote communities about the swans, and get people excited about this fascinating aspect of nature. In her own way, Sacha would get inside the head of a swan and tell their story for them.
Sacha’s ‘Flight of the Swans’ expedition is an incredible example of what’s possible when you bring together your passion for adventure and desire for change. Adding an element or focal point of storytelling and purpose to your expeditions can make for an extraordinary experience.
Find People to Make it Possible
As she set out to make her ambitious paramotor dreams a reality, many dismissed her idea as ridiculous. Other paramotorists thought it couldn’t be done, but Sacha knew the expedition should be possible with the flight broken up into numerous parts. Finally, Sacha found a paramotorist who had similarly stretched the possibilities of flight. With his help, she was connected with many people along the migration path who could help her with the flight. Reaching out to just one person connected her with many who made the expedition possible.
Still, planning the trip wasn’t easy. Getting flight permission was particularly difficult, especially in Russia. There were several regions in Russia along the migration path where people weren’t allowed at all. But with a load of local partners and unexpected connections, Sacha was able to make it through.
Facing so many barriers at the planning stage of an adventure can make many back down, but Sacha persevered. She started out by writing down all the possible issues in an excel sheet and began tackling them one by one. She found that because she had an inspiring aim, lots of people volunteered their help.
Make Yourself Flexible
As Sacha prepared to take off for her journey in the Arctic Tundra, an unexpected surprise came her way. The birds started leaving days earlier than expected. Researchers told Sacha there was a reason the birds were leaving and she should leave immediately because the Arctic winter could come fast. To avoid getting stuck, she packed up as quickly as she could and left the next day.
Her decision paid off. The flight began and Sacha was wowed with the heavenly feeling of flight. On one occasion, she came by two birds flying to her right, heading in the same direction, migrating together. The swans came closer and Sacha thought she would have to get out of their way, but they tucked in behind her wingtip and rode with her as though she was a lead bird. This magical moment of being accepted by the swans was a highlight of Sacha’s expedition.
Sometimes unexpected events can lead to the most magical moments. Even if things don’t go your way, they can still be amazing. Stay flexible with your plans and your next challenge will be even better than the last.