Today we spoke with the brilliant Sarah Outen. Sarah has completed multiple impressive expeditions; from rowing solo across the Indian Ocean to embarking on her 4 and a half year London2London journey, which involved her completing a loop of the world using only a rowing boat, bike and kayak. She has since gone on to write a number of books documenting both her epic journeys and also the tough mental battles that have accompanied them. She is a huge inspiration to so many and we are honoured to share some of her story below...
What was the path that lead you to today?
As a youngster I loved being outside and challenging myself, and learning about myself and the environment I was in. Clubs and school and family experiences really got me started and from there I've taken it further, incrementally and in leaps as well! After university I rowed solo across the Indian Ocean and then went on to a 4.5 year journey to loop the planet using a rowing boat, bike and kayak. I've written books about those journeys and am making a film of the London2London journey. Curiosity drives my journeys and that feels like a positive feedback loop. The more I journey, the more I want to experience, understand and see. But I also have a strong sense of wanting to share and inspire and enable, too.
Who inspired you to do what you do?
All sorts of folks inspired and continue to inspire me. My Dad's attitude to his illness inspired me as a youngster (and still does) - he made the most of what he could do and encouraged my brothers and I to make whatever we wanted to happen, happen. Ellen MacArthur's sailing exploits inspired me as a teen and let me imagine a journey of my own one day. Her move from sailing into sustainability and driving the transition to a Circular Economy from our currently wasteful linear one, continues to be inspiring today - that vision and commitment in both projects/lives is very powerful.
What have been the biggest obstacles you have encountered?
Just getting to the start line of big expeditions has been hugely challenging at times, and during the journeys themselves I have often faced weather conditions which have curtailed my efforts or forced big changes. Coming home from long, intense journeys has also proved extremely difficult at times and I have experienced some really dark depressive episodes.
My marriage to my partner Lucy is my proudest achievement - I feel so lucky to have been able to marry the woman I love, especially as for some their ability to marry who they want is limited.
Surviving the physical and mental storms of - both in and out of my life journeying. Just surviving those and coming out of the other side with more insight, wisdom and strength feels like a massive triumph.
My London2London journey and all that has happened around it has been a huge part of my life for nearly a decade. I am proud of what we achieved both in terms of the journey, the stories and the connectivity that we created. The legacy of inspiring folks, especially school children, is something I am very proud of.
Nothing lasts forever - so make the most of the good times and hunker down during the not-so-good. But remember that something can be learned from everything, even if it takes some time to settle and process it.
What are the things that help you get through each adventure and why?
On a physical level I always choose kit relative to the environment I am going in to. But really the most important 'things' are the internal ones - it's about humility, adaptability, perspective, patience, courage, tenacity and an infallible sense of humour. It's also knowing about when to let go.
What scares you and how do you deal with fear?
Cats and deep water. I'm really allergic to cats so I just try and stay away from them... But for everything else I try and acknowledge and embrace the fear but also contain it so that it doesn't overwhelm me. That's about rationalising it, perhaps visualising most likely outcomes, breaking down whatever needs to be done in getting through it into easy steps and trying to be my own cheerleader. The power we hold within us is huge, so boosting that positive inner voice in difficult times is really important.
Why is getting outdoors so important in modern life?
Nature is real and essential to me - I find it connecting and balancing and a space to be whatever I need to be. It challenges me and teaches me, it inspires and pleases me. And it makes all the hours spent at a desk or computer worthwhile! I think a lot of our issues - physical and mental - can be healed outside, so I would say time outdoors is essential.
Amongst all the adventures you have been involved with, which is the most unforgettable and why?
The ocean phases of my London2London:Via the World journey are among my most memorable - for the vistas and scale of it, the dynamism, the storms and the calms and the wildlife. I remember one day on the Atlantic Ocean in 2015 when I stepped out on the deck of my tiny rowing boat to see a herd of four sperm whales, logging and rolling and spy hopping at the surface. They were a boat length away and we watched each other for about twenty minutes - that sense of connection was very humbling. Both way out to sea, me in their realm - and one which we as so-called humanity have degraded so terribly.
Who has been an unsung hero in your life?
My Mum has always been there for me and supported me through the highs and the storms.
What's next for you?
I am so excited to be releasing our documentary of my London2London journey this year – it is called Home and directed by award winning film maker Jen Randall. It has been quite the journey getting to this point.
I am also about to start training as a child psychotherapist.
Do you have a motto you live by?
Be here now.