Once a ballerina, Sophie Hollingsworth is now an award-winning explorer. Her interest in discovering cultures and remote areas around the world has led her to uncharted rivers in Madagascar, desert treks in Namibia, and ethnographic research in the Republic of Vanuatu.
Sophie’s goal is to use exploration to achieve a sustainable future. She does this as the Founder of AquaAid International, in her work as a Health Security Specialist, as the Youth Representative for the Explorers Club in the UN, and more.
On the Tough Girl podcast, Sophie gave an inside look into her adventures and the insights she’s had along the way.
Do What No One Else is Doing
Determined to find a job that could allow her to explore and make money, Sophie worked as a deckhand on a superyacht. She logged a massive amount of sea time travelling all over the world for several years and became the youngest female to obtain a 200-ton MCA Yachtmaster Captain’s License.
Through this experience, Sophie visited many remote places and communicated with the people there. She was shocked by the water crisis she encountered and the hours young girls would spend simply collecting clean water. Sophie began to do her own research about water and sanitation.
When working with some friends to try to get clean water to a remote village, Sophie found that no organization would go that deep into the jungle. So she started her own non-profit, talked to the community about how they would design the solution and worked to help them achieve their goals.
Sophie shows us what incredible experiences you can have when you pursue your desire for adventure and natural curiosity.
Become a Leader
Searching for a like-minded community in New York City, Sophie found the Explorer’s Club. There she met a man who was planning an expedition to the Republic of Vanuatu in search of a tribe of female chiefs. When Sophie heard there were no women on the expedition team, she pitched herself and joined the group.
This experience documenting the Vanuatu tribe of female chiefs opened Sophie’s eyes to the wide gap in historical knowledge about the role of women. Most expeditions of the past didn’t have women present so they lacked that equally important perspective.
From the female chiefs, Sophie learned about being resilient. These people had faced numerous challenges from colonialism to living off the land of their tiny remote island. Though we may think of cultures like this as simplistic, Sophie found them to be complex with important critical leadership skills.
Sophie was brave enough to step up and join an expedition in order to share her perspective and input. Putting yourself out there for once-in-a-lifetime experiences can pay off in unbelievable ways.
Commit Despite Your Fears
After university, Sophie applied to tons of jobs and didn’t get an offer because of her ‘eclectic resume’. With nothing fitting right, Sophie booked a trip to Madagascar using money she’d saved and spent some time off the beaten path. It was here that she started The Sofia Log.
Sophie’s goal was to embrace the true Malagasy spirit, so she paddled the length of a river in the southern central part of the country. Here there were communities who hadn’t seen foreigners for decades.
Everything on the river was challenging for the explorer. Whirlpools, crocodiles, and quicksand terrified her, but she did it anyway. She shared, “Just because you’re scared of something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.”
Sophie believes that there’s great value in committing to something. It’s not enough to say you’re going to do something, you have to see it through no matter what. There may be variations in your plan, but don’t second guess it and keep going to make it happen one way or another.
Sophie’s message for those who desire more adventure is to find what works best for them as they seek to experience the world. There’s no one-size-fits-all pathway, she believes. It may be as simple as checking out a different community around the corner or something more audacious. Take baby steps to get out there and don’t let the setbacks deter you.