Wednesday, 21 November 2012

#belikeGao

Last Friday night Chris, a couple of friends and I popped along for a civilised evening at the Royal Geographic Society. It was the opening night of their "Explore 2012" conference and Sarah Outen, youngest woman to row solo across the Indian Ocean, was talking about her recent attempts to travel around the world using only her own human power (cycling the land bits, rowing the oceans and canoeing the small watery bits). Pretty epic stuff!

Just being in the RGS makes me feel excitable. Everywhere around you people are talking of expeditions and adventure and you can almost feel the history of all that exploration seeping out of the very walls. Unlike other private clubs there is little snobbery here, just a collection of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, all like minded and hungry to push the boundaries of discovery be it in a supremely outdoorsy, or more bookish fashion.

Sarah's story was emotional, funny, but most of all inspirational. She really managed to convey that sense that anyone can be an adventurer...you just have to want it, to believe in it, to have the determination to see it through, in good times and bad. Having returned from our own rather tame adventures (in comparison) it made me want to jump on the road again asap and do something crazy!

The most memorable part of her talk was when she described the story of a young Chinese man, Gao, who spontaneously joined her on her cycle ride from his town in western China all the way to Beijing. He didn't own a bike, had never cycled further than 10km and yet was so inspired by her story that he joined her there and then. He made the full 4000km ride to Beijing against all the odds and Sarah's overwhelming message was for us to be more like him and to follow our dreams no matter how ridiculous they might seem. If you have the determination to succeed you will.

Sarah's "London2London: via the world" challenge hit an unfortunate glitch in June of this year when she and her row boat, Gulliver, were caught in a violent hurricane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Sarah was incredibly brave and tried to ride out the storm strapped down inside her tiny cabin but finally had to be rescued by the Japanese coastguard a couple of days into the ordeal. Perhaps the most upsetting thing of all was that one of her kindly rescuers proudly presented her with what they thought was an important bit of kit they had salvaged from her boat...the yellow transceiver box which was her only way of recovering Gulliver post-storm. It was a devastating blow all round but, not one to give up,  Sarah will be continuing her adventure in another attempt come Spring 2013. If you'd like to follow her progress you can check out her excellent website where she regularly posts about her experiences and can even be tracked via GPS.

I will definitely be watching with avid interest and wish her all the luck in the word!

Our evening ended up a little less civilised with far too many Old Rosie ciders in the pub where we thought up hair brained ideas for our own travelling adventures (all good plans start in the pub I find). My favourite suggestion involved creating a pimped up pedalo that would be our vessel for crossing any seas or oceans we encountered on our journey and for travelling down rivers. Sounds like something the team over at The Adventurists might make something of...!Have you ever had any crazy adventure ideas? What would you do if you could do anything and go anywhere?  

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