Feeling the itch to explore for more than just a month? Embarking on a long journey can make a huge difference in the challenges you decide to take on and how you go about them. Here to help you plan an incredible journey is British Adventurer, Sarah Outen.
Sarah spent 4.5 years travelling from London2London, a journey of over 25,000 miles she took by kayak, bike, and boat. Through this expedition, she experienced some of the most extreme conditions and challenges, yet still made it through with life-changing lessons.
1. Map Out Your Journey to the Starting Line
Sarah’s first big solo expedition was rowing across the Indian Ocean in 2009. Once she was out there, she realized how much she loved being immersed in the wild. Sarah loved the extensive time she spent at sea and how she became aware of everything around her. She was inspired by the idea that you could live on the sea for months and watch as the landscapes changed along the continent. Months after this adventure, Sarah planned her great London2London expedition.
Putting together journeys that cover thousands and thousands of miles can be intimidating. Sarah said, “Big dreams are just like any other. You need to map out the journey that’s going to get you to the start line and be clear about why you’re doing it.”
Her secret to making it to the beginning of your grand adventure is to work through the process and persist with it. Learn all the time and be open to ideas. Many big projects don’t get to the start line because it’s difficult, but if you’re stubborn enough, you can make seemingly impossible things happen.
2. Think Ahead, But Stay Present
Setting off from Tower Bridge in April 2011, Sarah felt satisfaction in having made it to the start line. From there, the key was to not to be afraid of the nerves and the adrenaline but learn to embrace it as she began.
Sarah cycled 11,000 miles from Europe throughout Asia in about 6 months. From there, she paddled and cycled over Japan to reach her row across the Pacific. In order to embark on the mega challenge of solo-rowing from Japan to Canada, Sarah had to meet a certain time frame before the water froze. Time pressure like this can often accompany a long journey.
The biggest challenge for Sarah was to keep going at a pace that met that timeframe. She had to be constantly forward-planning the next phase while also trying to be as present as possible. This is one of the tricky parts of embarking on a long journey that leads up to a very specific moment. Sarah’s ability to constantly remind herself to stay in the moment and appreciate the journey enabled her to be both present and planning ahead.
3. Accept the Pain
One of the most frightening aspects of challenging yourself to something really strenuous is knowing that you’ll likely be in a good deal of pain. With all the rowing, biking, and paddling Sarah was doing, pain was no stranger.
But Sarah’s body became adept at endurance. She advised, “If you accept that a certain degree of pain is going to be there, that helps as you keep trucking along.” Sarah learned to train her mind and body to look after itself as much as possible. She learned when she needed to eat and drink, take care of physiological needs, and how to settle into habits and a routine that helped her plug on.
4. Get Back on the Bike...or Boat
During Sarah’s first attempt across the Pacific, she made it 20+ days in when she hit a tropical storm. For days she was trapped in her boat waiting for the storm to pass through. She was eventually rescued after the system passed and returned to the UK after losing her boat.
The experience was very psychologically traumatic and it took months for Sarah to be able to cope. But her goal was to get back out into ocean the following year in a new boat and she made it happen.
Sarah knew that she hadn’t done anything wrong. It was simply nature. There were still stories to be had and wonderful things to be found on the ocean. She was naturally nervous about going back but knew that she survived it before and could rely on her instincts.
Unexpected events like a tropical storm can make even the best plans go awry. Sarah is a great example of sticking through and completing a journey even when things don’t go as planned.
5. Embrace Solitude
In Sarah’s second attempt across the Pacific, she was hit by headwinds and currents that made her end goal of reaching Canada unviable. Talking with her team, Sarah instead planned to head for the Aleutian Islands off Alaska to land safely and continue the journey in its original intention. She landed after 150 days at sea.
Sarah spent this ocean journey in total isolation. Many consider solitude a difficult thing and it can be for different reasons. Sarah explained, “If you let your demons win without trying to get your mind back to a useful place, it can be uncomfortable. But you don’t always need stimulus from other people. Learn to be at one with yourself and just be.”
Solitude requires strength and discipline. When you’re comfortable with who you are, it can be like a meditation. Being alone means total peace and quiet from other people, something we don’t often get in our daily lives.
6. Believe in the Journey
As Sarah embarked on section after section of her journey, she kept her motivation to keep going by always believing in the journey. She knew that the next section was worth making and that she would see and learn incredible new things.
Over 4.5 years of adventure, Sarah embraced that it’s all about the journey, not necessarily the original plan. She recommends all adventurers learn to embrace change and redefine goals. Remaking plans and figuring out how to make things work is what will get you to the finish line.
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