After 1,657 days, adventurer Sarah Outen is back in England. She's the British woman who undertook a round-the-globe odyssey, all powered by her own energy. Here & Now spoke with her in April when she was in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, preparing the final leg of the journey - a row across the Atlantic Ocean.
Before that, she biked and kayaked 11,000 miles across Europe and Asia, spent 150 days alone at sea rowing between Japan and Alaska, kayaked 1,500 miles through the Aleutian Islands, and finally crossed North America on her bicycle.
But her journey across the Atlantic was thwarted earlier this month by Hurricane Joaquin. She was rescued by a passing freighter and her row boat, "Happy Socks," was lost at sea. Outen joins host Robin Young by Skype from the U.K. where she's planning the final leg of her four-and-a-half-year journey.
What was it like rowing in such a small boat across the Atlantic Ocean?
“I love the ocean, I’m probably quite biased in my description. But it’s so intense and immersive to be in such a small vessel, so close to the water, and to an extent at the mercy of the elements. So you really feel every storm, you appreciate every good moment that counteracts the tougher moments in the weather that’s pushing you backwards or off course. I sort of said, this ocean was the ocean to end all rows for me. I’ve now rowed on all three of the world’s major oceans, and it was just stacked with dolphins and whales and sea turtles and bird life. But it was a particularly poor year for weather.”
You’re absolutely alone – existential moments?
“There are definitely frightening moments out there and really challenging moments, and moments where I think ‘I’d like the easy bit to happen now’ instead of going from one tough patch to another. However, it is really beautiful and I’m very at ease with my own company. I’ve spent over a year of my life now alone in little rowing boats like that on the big oceans. I listen to lots of music and podcasts, but then my iPod charger broke, so for the final while I had to ration my iPod and absorb every note and every sound. I read lots of books. You spend a lot of time just keeping the boat going, keeping yourself going.”
What happens now?
“The journey starts and finishes in London under Tower Bridge. So I’m not going back out to the ocean for another attempt. That just wouldn’t work financially, logistically or emotionally. This is the year to end the journey now. I’m going to start cycling from Falmouth, southwest of England, next week. I’ll cycle 300 miles up to Oxford, and then kayak from Oxford down to London on the River Thames to finish under Tower Bridge on November 3 and thus complete my journey.”
How much will it nag at you that you made it two-thirds across the Atlantic, and had to stop?
“It won’t nag at me, I did my best out there. And nature is always boss, I’m not going to argue that. So it’s out of my hands, I’ve learned to accept a lot of things on this journey that I can’t control. I’ve always really enjoyed the quote, ‘the journey is the reward’ and I’ve had a really enriching, enlightening and challenging journey the whole way through, so for me it’s just part of the story now.”
This segment aired on October 15, 2015.