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Adventurer Sarah Outen on motivation and the journey

Alia Parker's picture
Adventurer Sarah Outen and her bicycle Hercules, cycling the world. Cycle Traveller

It was expected to take two years – a journey long in itself. But four years on, solo adventurer Sarah Outen is still making her way around the world – completely self propelled.

Having cycled 17,700km (11,000 miles) across Europe and Asia on her bike Hercules, rowed solo for five months across the long and daunting North Pacific Ocean – becoming the first person to row from Japan to Alaska – followed by a bike ride across North America through the current icy-cold winter, Outen is about to embark on the home stretch: rowing across the chilly North Atlantic back to the place it all began, Tower Bridge, London.

Sarah Outen. Cycle TravellerEssentially, her route on the 'London2London, via the World' forms a neat ring around the planet; a tidy line that disguises the battles she as fought to make it happen.

“It is a huge project to activate and then to keep it going too, through setbacks and failures,” she says.

And there have been setbacks. Since starting in April 2011, the 29-year-old has been forced to take two significant breaks, one of which was caused by Typhoon Mawar and rescue on the Pacific Ocean. Despite these, she stays motivated and committed to the journey, in which she aims to raise funds for four charities: Water Aid, CoppaFeel, Motor Nuerone Disease Association, and Jubilee Sailing Trust.

“The journey drives me: to see, to learn, to discover,” she says. “I will always explore, wherever I am. I am motivated by the journey itself – that doing and being the journey is a cool thing, one which will last with me forever.”

So far, Outen has travelled 33,800km by bike, boat and kayak, and still has some way to go before reaching London, which she expects to do in September 2015.

Sarah Outen on the North Pacific Ocean. Cycle TravellerBut the mental challenges are often harder than the physical. For Outen, whose fiancee, Lucy, recently cycled beside her for two of the months while crossing North America, the switch back to being alone has been testing.

“Being away from home and my fiancee is now my biggest mental challenge,” she says.

As she lamented on her blog following Lucy's departure: “At first I slumped into an emotional, angry, numbed grief period and then I climbed back up and settled into something more manageable and remembered – the steady self-reliant routine of talking to Hercules, the clouds and myself more than anyone else.”

That's not to say the physical aspects have been a walk in the park, especially given she has had to endure blizzards, icy roads and temperatures as low as -40°C. Hercules has also suffered in the freezing cold conditions, with brake failures forcing Outen to resort to the good old foot to floor stop.

"The North American cycling has been hugely challenging at times and also really rewarding,” she says. “I loved the drama of the mountain ranges in the west and the space of the Canadian Prairies.”

Sarah Outen on the icy roads on North America. Cycle Traveller“Weather has dictated my progress, forcing me to push hard and be patient. The cold has been intriguing, exciting and intimidating – it is a good teacher. We don't have winters like this at home."

Now, having just rolled into New York after cycling across the continent, home is “just across the water”.

But home may feel close, relatively speaking, it's still a good four-month solo row across 3,000 nautical miles on the North Atlantic.

“The North Atlantic is a shorter route than the Pacific, but equally as rough and likely not as warm as the first part of the Pacific run, which ran off the coat of Japan in relatively warm waters,” Outen says.

It's true, the crossing is shorter, but it has been weighing on her mind more than the others.

“I am more wary this time, seemingly more nervous of the consequences of things going wrong and the idea of not coming home,” she says, putting it down to past experiences, the sudden onset of never-before-had allergies while at sea, and the desire to return to her fiancee.

Sarah Outen and Lucy. Cycle TravellerBut the desire to explore -- the tug of the journey -- pulls hard. And through her journey she has come to view the world differently.

“I am more open minded, more humble, keener than ever to spread good energy, calmer and more accepting of the idea that there are things we cannot change and things which we can,” she says. “And I'm reminded that life and health are finite, and life is inherently a lottery.”

Sarah Outen is about to leave New York and cycle to Cape Cod, from where she will hit the water bound for Britain. You can follow her journey on her blog London2London: Via the World, or donate to her charities on her Donations Page.



I recently purchased a DVD called Kayaking the Aleutians by Justine Curgenven and Sarah Outen.
As well as cycling, I am a kayak paddler and racer.
I would recommend this DVD to anyone!
You don't have to be a kayaker to understand and appreciate the effort that Sarah has put in to her trip. She is a truly amazing person.
Justine is probably the best expedition kayaker in the world - male or female, and she was in awe of Sarah's determination and stamina.
If you can afford it, get a copy of the DVD. You will be amazed.



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