Imagine you are on the adventure of a lifetime, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean alone in a 24 foot rowboat to test yourself against the elements. You are completely isolated except for a satellite phone a GPS transponder and the occasional visit from one of the support craft. Halfway through, your two primary oars (plus both backups) have snapped, your camp stove has stopped working, and your satellite phone is cold dead.
Lashed by fierce storms and the occasional rogue wave, your only connection to humanity is a small GPS blip that charts your daily path to friends back home. There is no going back.
How do you cope with isolation and loneliness when you still have two months worth of rowing in front of you? With a fist full of calluses and a body that is wracked by aches and pains, do you even consider rowing across the Pacific? Of course.
The Luncheon Society ™ has been home to those who have climbed life’s tall peaks. Jim Sano led treks that followed the footpaths of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Didrik Johnck snapped the Time Magazine cover photo of Erik Weihenmeyer, a blind mountain climber who successfully made it to the summit of Mount Everest in 2001. When you add the mix the astronauts, cosmonauts, and other space pioneers that have joined us over the years, we’ve cheered them all from the safety of a private room at a great restaurant.
When Roz Savage began her 3,000 mile journey across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands in November 2005, she never realized it would be the gateway to a larger journey, to that of a global rower and eco-warrior. She pushed herself in way she could not imagine when she began. She recounted her adventure of a lifetime in her memoir, Rowing the Atlantic, Lessons Learned from the Open Ocean, which was published in 2009.
With only her GPS beacon as her guide, she made it through the challenges of the Atlantic and arrived alive but 25 pounds lighter during her four month journey. After an exhausting effort, she docked in Antigua in March 2006 as the final participant of the 2005 Atlantic Rowing Race .
Roz was one of the few women to row solo across the Atlantic. Now she is working to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific, which has been broken into three parts. In 2008 and 2009, she completed the first two legs of her journey. She leaves for Tarawa in April to finish the final portion of her journey in April 2010.
The daughter of a Minister, Roz gravitated toward the materialistic side of life after a family trip to California. She was quite proud to have earned far more than her father after graduating from Oxford. However, these good feelings soon became illusory. Starting off as an IT Professional who worked in the London offices of Accenture and UBS, she quickly realized that her daily activities were at odds with her life’s goals. She felt out of sorts in a corporate environment and worried that her fragile self esteem was wrecked due to, “pandering to bosses or walking through the political minefields of work.”
How Roz transformed herself from a cube-farming Project Manager to one who tamed the Atlantic is the charming subtext of her tale; it is a lesson we can all learn as we manage our commutes or handle our humdrum confines of suburban living. It’s like that great line from The Shawshank Redemption; “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Sitting alone one day in London waiting for a train, Roz Savage felt emotionally lost in London’s Financial District. Plagued by her own self doubt, she wondered aloud what she would to do with herself. In desperation, she wrote two obituaries, the first based on the life she was presently living. A second was written on the life she wanted to live.
After finalizing a painful divorce and walking away from her high paying job, she gradually became the adventurer she always dreamed she could be. After spending several months as a Fellow for the Royal Geographic Society where she studied Inca ruins, she settled on rowing across the Atlantic.
Alone but never alone. Being alone on the high seas was the perfect place for Roz to confront the demons that haunted her from childhood. Hypercritical to a fault, she found that her inner voice would often sabotage her efforts, which was the case for most of her life. She moved into rowing while a student at Oxford because she wanted to find the best way to deal with her weight problem. She took to it naturally, excelled, and helped Oxford beat rival Cambridge.
Rowing completely naked for most of her trip in order to escape the painful chafing that comes with salt water rowing, Roz was able to quiet those self critical inner voices, self doubt being chief among them. The isolation gave her a new calm. When she lost communication with the outside world, it gave her a sense of true serenity. It laid bare her discomfort zone, and exposed the area where she wanted to grow most. She faced down her inner demons and emerged victorious.
The 2005 Atlantic race was not without real dangers. Several ships capsized, one the result of repeated shark attacks that damaged their hull. A hurricane and tropical storm breezed by. One crew capsized and were found holding on to dear life throughout the night until they were rescued by support craft.
Loneliness can spur depression in the sunniest of people. When she found herself in the cups, she fantasized about the soft towels found in plush hotel rooms, the taste of a burger, or the sensation of taking her first hot shower. As she dealt with depression, she kept thinking about reuniting with her mother in Antigua and regaling friends with tales of life alone on the high seas.
The lesson. “It does not have to be fun to be fun.” Certain challenges may be difficult and other journeys may be dangerous, but Roz Savage was never more alive than her first trip across the open seas.
On her flight to England, Roz Savage looked out the window on her transatlantic return as her journey of a lifetime replayed endlessly through her head. What took four months of arduous rowing was now replaced by a 6 hour flight at 40,000 feet, complete with watchful flight attendants and all the accoutrements of first class. However, in this case, the journey is the reward.
The Pacific in three legs. Starting in 2008, Roz Savage began the next adventure, this time to become the first woman to row across the Pacific Ocean. She headed off from San Francisco and made it to Hawaii in 99 days. The next year, she picked up where she left off in Hawaii and headed to Tuvalu but aborted her second leg in Tarawa when she ran low on supplies.
In April, Roz Savage will begin the final leg of her Pacific quest. She will begin where she left off and if things go according to plan, she will arrive in Australia in roughly 3 months time. We shall cheer her on.
If you would like to purchase a signed copy of Roz Savage’s book, please let us know and we’ll make sure one is shipped to you—via dry land of course.
Roz Savage’s website http://rozsavage.com/
The Luncheon Society™ is a series of private luncheons and dinners that take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manhattan, and now Boston. We essentially split the costs of gathering and we meet in groups of 20-25 people. Discussions center on politics, art, science, film, culture, and whatever else is on our mind. Think of us as “Adult Drop in Daycare.” We’ve been around since 1997 and we’re purposely understated. These gatherings takes place around a large table, where you interact with the main guest and conversation becomes end result. There are no rules, very little structure, and the gatherings happen when they happen. Join us when you can.
I have read Roz’s book (twice) and can heartily recommend it to anyone of any age. Many such books concentrate on the authors’ achievements in isolation, but Roz puts her story in the perspective of her whole life, including details that many authors would prefer not to reveal. It is not just a gripping story; it is inspirational on so many levels.
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