Last night I was interrogating Jim Shekhdar about his Pacific Ocean experience. I found myself falling into the same trap as I did before the Atlantic - screening out what I didn't want to hear. I didn't want to hear about huge waves, shark attacks, pitchpole capsizes, running out of water and having to drink their own urine. I remember smugly thinking: 'That won't happen to me. I'm a lucky person.'
Fortunately none of those things DID happen to me, but clearly there's a balance to be struck. Forewarned is forearmed, but it's easy to get hung up on things that are either statistically unlikely, or which are so totally beyond my control that there is no point in worrying about them.
On the Atlantic, my expectations were definitely too optimistic. Even though there were no major crises, I had expected the experience to be enjoyable and life-changing. It wasn't, and I was disappointed. It was a disappointment entirely of my own making, because reality was unlikely to live up to my excessively high expectations.
So I'm trying to implement two lessons learned:
- if I'm going to do something crazy, do it in a sensible way - hope for the best, but plan for the worst
- keep my eyes and ears open for the bad news as well as the good, so I have more realistic expectations the next time around.
I was sure there was a quote about this. I couldn't find it, but while I was searching I did find these fantastic quotes from Andre Gide, French writer, humanist and moralist. Food for thought...
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore
To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one's freedom.
There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.
He who makes great demands upon himself is naturally inclined to make great demands upon others.
(this one especially relevant to anyone in my 'team' of helpers!)
[photo: Jim Shekhdar at the Eddystone Cafe yesterday evening]
Jim Shekhdar rowed solo across the Pacific, from Peru to Australia. Currently he is washed up in Whitsands Beach, Cornwall, at his Eddystone Cafe. I came here to talk to him about Pacific rowing.
We'd been chatting for a while on the cafe terrace when he said, 'Time for a swim. Are you coming?' As with my reluctant row on the Columbia River, I pleaded fractured hip as an excuse, and went inside to catch up on my emails. But I kept looking out of the window at the spectacular beach and rolling waves. I got a growing feeling of being in the wrong place.
My swimming costume is in California, so I cobbled together a bathing suit of strappy top and knickers, and ventured down to the (thankfully deserted) beach.
It was great - invigorating, refreshing, elemental. Jim found me and we swam out a way, bobbing about in the waves, sometimes just treading water while we talked. Our conversation seemed much more relaxed in the water than it had been on dry land.
As with the Columbia paddle, I was really glad I'd done it, and wondered why I never like the prospect of exercise, but once I'm doing it I really enjoy it. And when it's over I enjoy it even more.
[photo: sunset on Whitsands Beach]
I received these words in an email from Frank Betush of the Adventurers' Club in LA. I was so impressed with his succinct summary of the appeal of solo adventuring, I wanted to share.
"I religiously enjoy solo bike touring - miles days and weeks of open road, long periods at a repetitive task. You used the term, 'liberating'. Yes. Turning pedals or pulling oars becomes a mantra as deep parts of the Cortical Dominion are exposed, purifying introspection. I concur with your view of solo journey psychology. It is not 'aloneness', but a sacred time to speak to 'self'.
Some brows furrow when you speak of another trip, though few among those seasoned faces at the club who share your addiction. It is not wonder-lust. I leave on each new tour, not desperate to see the opposite side of the globe, but to spend more quiet time with that human within. Once introduced to that internal persona, failing to embark, might we not forget our mental-selves?
Best luck and may 'The Oar-Force' be with you on future trips.
[Photo: I don't have a photo of Frank, but here is one he took of me]