Story by David Rutter
When you’ve shaken off this mortal coil, how do you think you will be remembered? How would you like to be remembered? How would your obituary read? Roz Savage asked herself exactly that question, and then set out to lead the life she wanted to be remembered for, throwing in a safe life for a life of adventure. She has rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, and is two thirds of the way on the journey across the Pacific Ocean. Recently, she walked from London to Brussels to help raise awareness of the COP15 meeting that took place in Copenhagen in December. Far from living a safe corporate life, she is raising awareness of the plight of our natural world.
The Outdoor Type recently posed a few questions for Roz as she attended the COP15 meeting. Here are her answers:
Tell me about your current journey. Why did you choose to row across the Pacific Ocean? When do you hope to reach Australia?
I haven’t always been adventurous – in fact, I spent 11 years as a management consultant before going through quite a radical change of direction. I’d gone into management consultancy as a stop-gap until I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life, and 11 years later I was still in the stop-gap, not enjoying it, but addicted to the income that I thought I needed. But I was feeling increasingly unhappy and unfulfilled in my job. So one day I sat down and wrote two versions of my own obituary – the one I wanted and the one I was heading for. And they were very different. I realized that if I wanted to have a life I could be proud of I had to make a major course correction. I realized that I’d been doing a job I didn’t like to buy stuff I didn’t need, and that there had to be a more sensible and more enjoyable way to live!
I hope to reach Australia in July or August 2010.
Why ocean rowing? What do you like and dislike about it?
I like having the time and freedom from the hassles of everyday life to think about the big questions. Although having said that, I do spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner! But with 100+ days at a time to think, I do eventually get around to the big stuff too. And there are some stunningly beautiful skies out in the middle of the ocean – sunrises and sunsets are my favourite times, but the night sky is pretty amazing too. Impossible not to be impressed. And a good wildlife sighting (dolphins, turtles, whales, sharks) always makes my day.
What is dislike is usually the last 30 or 40 days. Up until then I’m enjoying the detox, the fresh air and exercise. After that I start feeling that the ocean really is rather too big, and there have to be less labour-intensive ways to get across.
What have been the major challenges in getting the adventures underway? And what challenges do you expect to face once back on the ocean?
Raising the finance is always an issue. I spent my life savings to buy my boat for the Atlantic, and have been using the same boat ever since, but I still have to find additional funds to pay the satellite phone bill (typically USD 10,000 for each 3-month crossing), logistics, labour costs, etc. So I got sponsorship for Pacific I, used my book advance for Pacific II, and Pacific III – the third and final leg – is still very much TBF (To Be Financed)!
At The Outdoor Type we have delved into our memories to find our earliest memory of being in the outdoors. What is your earliest outdoor memory?
Appropriately, it was near the ocean, although I’m actually more of a mountains person. I was about 2, and we were on family vacation. I decided to toddle off along the beach, and refused my mother’s entreaties to turn back. I would probably have toddled all the way to Scotland, but I got distracted by a shell and Mum persuaded me that I should go and show it to my father. And so I was sidetracked from my bid to become the youngest person ever to walk the length of England.
How did you become an “outdoor type”? What were the formative or defining experiences that lead to the journey you’re on today?
Don’t tell anybody, but I’m really not an outdoor type at all. If I could, I’d quite happily spend all day sitting on a couch eating cookies and emailing my friends. But around the time I did my obituary exercise I also became environmentally aware. Before then, in my materialistic life, I’d never even thought of our relationship to the Earth. But I was reading about the Hopi tribe of North America, and their belief that we have to look after the Earth if we want it to look after us. And suddenly it made blinding sense, and I realized I had to do all I could to reduce my own impact, and hopefully to influence others to do the same. And that led me indirectly to ocean rowing – and now to Copenhagen for the COP15 conference, which is where I’m writing my replies to this interview.
Roz continues her journey across the Pacific Ocean this year, when she will row from Kiribati to Australia. We are certainly looking forward to welcoming her to our shores.
Image courtesy of Roz Savage