Make Time For Travel: Laura Dekker, Challenging Yourself And Exploring The Unexplored

I won’t say I forget it, or lose it, because it never goes far; it never sleeps for too long before it’s up and roaring again, filling my body with hot energy, pulsing through me like an electrical current. But I sometimes allow it to get shifted onto the backseat, I let other matters get in the way and it takes something, a line in a book, a photograph, a film, the glow in the eyes of a story teller, to bring it back to life like a forest fire, ferociously fast and determined.

Adventure.

Trying to explain to a non-adventurous person what it’s like to be an adventurous one is like trying to convince someone how to like a food they can’t stand. You just cannot fathom why someone would want to eat it, but to the other person it’s the best thing since sliced bread. You want to see my eyes light up like the aurora borealis? Get me talking about travel.

I have been ‘on the move’ now for the best part of five years and in that time I have been to over 30 countries, lived for more than three months in three of them. I have hiked, sailed, driven, ‘mopeded’ flown, ran, swam, travelled by sleeper train, cycled and simply walked through every type of environment imaginable. Natural wonders check. Natural disasters, check. Serene beaches, check.

Mountains, cliffs, hills, coral reefs, rock pools, capital cities, abandoned towns, cosy villages, christmases and birthdays in strange places, check, check, check. Africa, Asia, North America, South America, Europe, Oceania and Antarctica. Check. Thousands of different beds (I’ve not had spent more than a week in the same bed for god knows how many months) and three backpacks, three different sizes for three different types of trip. Weekend, short and long. I have packing down to an art form, taking minimalism to a whole new level. I have spent long periods without technology, showers and the worst- hummus and peanut butter.

Don’t get me wrong, there has been some seriously hellish times, most of which are down to the people who I’m with when I do certain things, which is why one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt at twenty one is the blissful art of solo travel (see old posts back yonder about the pleasures of that!). I can’t express the freedom you feel when you’re on my own, with your own itinerary making your own decisions. Choosing where you want to go and when, when you want to socialise and when you just want to close your eyes and immerse yourself in your surroundings. To have no one know where you are or what you’re doing, no one’s opinions, questions or remarks tainting your decisions or influencing your plans- it’s the most liberating feeling in the world. I have never felt more at peace than when I’m travelling alone.

So here I was this evening sat cross-legged watching old Ocean Film Festivals and my eyes were as big as dinner plates as I watched 14 year old Laura Dekker become the youngest person to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe. This girl, this child really, sailed 27,000 nautical miles over 518 days on a 40ft two-masted Ketch. She departed Gibraltar on 21st August 2010 and arrived in Simpson Bay, St Maarten on 21st Jan 2012 aged 16, thus completeing her circumnavigation. Well fuck me. Now I don’t have a boring life by any means and I am extremely proud of the things I have achieved but when you watch things like that you can’t help (well, I can’t help) but feel as though I am not doing enough in life. I watch things like that and I feel every emotion she feels, every tear, every frustration, every desire and I soak up every ounce ofclarity she experienced throughout the duration of her trip. I get that, I want that, I need that.

It’s so easy to let things get in the way of what is truly important. The things that matter. Nature, laughing, smiling, love; I forget the rest. These four things are literally the only things you need in order to feel successful and fulfilled in life. Screw money, screw material possessions, screw small towns and their small town problems. Life is so massive and filled with so many possibilities, there are so many experiences that will bring you incredible happiness if you step far enough out of your comfort zone to test seek them.

Going for an early morning swim in that freezing cold sea will make the cup of tea you have afterward taste 1000x better. Climbing the mountain, nursing those blisters will make the clean fluffy socks you put on at the end will bring you comfort you didn’t know you could feel. Washing your body after wild camping, sleeping in a comfy bed after weeks of brutality from the infamous ‘roll mat.’ That first tub of hummus you crack open, that first piece of sushi you put in your mouth, that first big bite of a crunchy apple after you ran out of fruit and veg after 40 days at sea- my personal favourite. We take these things for granted so much in everyday life, in this day and age we are so fortunate to have things so readily available to us that everything loses its value. We take convenience and accessibility for granted and we forget to enjoy things that for us in the western world are now just common luxuries.

We don’t push ourselves hard enough. When you put everything you’ve got into something, when you do go out of your comfort zone, put yourself through some shit, sleep rough, eat garbage, make do- you reap the benefits like fresh, cool water in the desert. Life becomes this indescribable emotion. Think of the excitement you used to experience at Christmas as a child and X it by 1000. That is how I feel when I stand on top of a mountain, when I close my eyes and feel the sun on my face and hear nothing but the meditational thrum of natural silence. When I’m down diving 18 metres and I’m given a glimpse of a new, unfamiliar habitat. When I’m sat in a bar laughing with a group of new people I’ve just met, people who have been scraped together by the same urge to explore as I have, the same itchy feet. All of us sat there in our scruffy clothes with our odd hairstyles and an infectious twinkle in our eyes.

When the monotonous nature of everyday living weighs heavily on you, it takes a little shove to lift you out of it and allow you to see clearer again. There are also things, now that I am older, I have realised that I need in order to maintain a healthy mental state while travelling/working etc. I know that for all my spontaneity and here-there-and-everywhere-ness I am actually a creature of habit and I need a routine. My work schedule consists of large portions of ground hog day repetition and long stretches of free time off. To make sure I keep my mental health in check I set an alarm each day regardless of whether I have plans or not, for me an early morning is a crucial part of a positive mindset and I will try to get the majority of my exercise done in the first half of the day so I can then spend my evenings relaxing, reading, spending time with friends/family etc.

I know now, after a fair whack of backpacking, that aimless wondering is not for me. As wonderful as it may seem, the thought of having 0 plans and all the freedom in the world to do whatever you like- it’s just not healthy. We all need a purpose and we all need to feel as though we are doing something of worth- well I do, anyway. Therefore another lesson learnt is that I need to have something planned every single day that I know will keep my mind active and working. Even if this means just sticking a film on a baking a cake- I need to have something on the timetable so my next big adventure will definitely have an end goal that I will work hard to achieve. I’m feeling something physical… any ideas?

Another beauty of travelling alone is having the freedom to completely change your mind on something without having an effect on others. I can plan these big trips that take months, I can decide to do this and go there and be here- but at the end of the day if I want to just book a flight back to the UK so I can spend the evening with my grandma then that’s okay and I shouldn’t feel like a failure for doing so. Life is about balance, a balance between adventure and comfort, both of which the indulgence of I fully encourage.

But watching the film festivals today I realise I need more. I need to pull back the burning desire for adventure that fuelled me in my teens and use it to propel myself further than where I’ve been before. I want to set goals and challenges for myself, things that will continue grow my knowledge and better me as a person. Like I did when I read Patti Smith ‘Just Kids’ and I remembered how important art and creativity is- I need to bring adventure back into the forefront of my mind.

The best part is that I have an entire planet full of possibilities and the only thing I have to ask myself is- What should I do next?

C.J.R xox

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