London2London: Via the World
When I set out from Tower Bridge in my kayak on April 1, 2011, I never anticipated that three years later I would be sitting on a tiny island in Western Alaska, getting ready to head out on another phase of the same expedition. Three years ago I imagined I would be home and dry already, after 2.5 years of journeying. That was the plan initially, but you never can tell what’s going to happen or where the journey will take you, in spite of that plan.
I think the biggest thing I have learned since then is the value in embracing the journey and everything it throws at you. I think it’s not so much about where you are going, as it is how you are getting there – in what spirit, with what values and in what way are you relating to the world and yourself as you go. For my part, I have learned and gained more from the hardest parts of my journey, the parts which haven’t gone as planned. Here are a few thoughts on what’s happened so far and the road ahead, and a shout out to you to remember, ‘the journey is the reward.’
My original mission was to loop the world by land and sea using human power: rowing, cycling and kayaking from London2London: Via the World. Why? Because I love it. I love adventure and challenge and seeing the world from the perspective of a bike or boat and, following my Indian Ocean row in 2009, I wanted more of it.
My other goals, ones that continue beyond my journey, are to share the stories, especially with young people, and to raise money for four brilliant charities: CoppaFeel!, Jubilee Sailing Trust, MND Association and WaterAid. I have been lucky enough to be supported and encouraged by people in my goals and I want to share those benefits with others.
Journey so far
The journey so far has been everything I had imagined and more. I wanted adventure, lessons and memories and challenges, and I have certainly had them in bucketloads. With half the journey still ahead, there are more to come, too.
The first year of the journey saw me kayak from London to France with my kayaking partner Justine Curgenven, before biking across Europe and Asia to the edge of Russia. The coolest story of the journey happened in China when a young Chinese lad asked if he could join me for the journey across his country. With him on a new bike and never having cycled more than six miles, it was a bit of a gamble on both our parts, but such a great adventure for both of us too. The story of Gao is universal and his message to the world, perfect. He told me, “If you want to do something, just do it. Don’t worry about anything, just do it.”
From Russia I kayaked and cycled to Japan, before attempting my first crossing of the North Pacific the following year. My first attempt rowing across the ocean ended in rescue after I got caught up in a tropical storm and returned home with no row boat and a lot of psychological fallout from the experience. The months that followed were some of the darkest of my life as I battled to get control of the depression and work toward another attempt on the Pacific with a new row boat, Happy Socks. After five months at sea, she and I made it to the tiny island of Adak, Alaska in 2013.
My goal had been Canada, but poor weather hampered my efforts and Adak seemed like the only viable option for landing safely and being able to continue the journey by kayak. The goal is still the same, even if the route and timings have lengthened from my original plan – get home to London safely using a row boat, a bike and a kayak. For this next island chain we are taking sails for the kayaks with us, which breaks my initial strictly human-powered goal, however as I said at the start of the piece – the journey is the reward.
The heart of the mission was to have an adventure, so that still holds true, even if the sails help us to have it. We’re taking them for safety as they will hopefully help us make it across passes and increase our chances of a safe and successful route to the road.
My words are few for this piece, so I thought I’d finish with a final few bullet points:
Standout memories so far
- A blue shark visiting the boat as I was rowing across the Pacific Ocean in 2013, just as I was thinking of having a swim!
- Watching a brown bear on the beach in 2012, in the Russian Far East.
- Reuniting with my fiancée in New York on the way home in 2013 after six months apart.
Worst moment so far
- The tropical storm in 2012 on the Pacific – I hope not to go through that again. The fallout afterwards was tough to deal with, but taught me some valuable lessons on mental health and supporting someone through depression.
- Lessons from the journey
- The journey is the reward.
- Live in the moment.
- Embrace changes and making new plans.
- Be true to yourself.
You can follow Sarah's progress using the live tracker.