“They said I was crazy. They said I wasn’t big enough, not tall enough, not strong enough,” muses Roz Savage, recalling the comments made when she announced she was going to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Solo.
was in 2005. Direct the same comments at Roz just five years earlier
and she might have agreed with you. At the start of the 21st century she
had a well-paid job in the city of London, a comfortable home and a
little red sports car. But she wasn’t happy.
“I would sit on the commuter train on my way to the office, wondering if this was what life was all about,” remembers Roz. “I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t being true to my values.”
Roz knew she needed to change the way she lived her life, so sat down to write two versions of her obituary. One version told the story of her life as she was living it then. Conventional, ordinary and pleasant, with occasional moments of excitement, yet always within the safe confines of normality.
The second was the obituary that she wanted to have. “I thought of the obituaries that I enjoyed reading, the people that I admired. They were the adventurers and risk-takers, the people who seemed to have lived many lifetimes in one. The people who had tried lots of things, some of them successes, some of them spectacular failures, but at least they’d had the guts to try. I realized that if I repeated today’s actions 365 times, I wouldn’t be where I wanted to be in a year – or in ten years, or at the end of my life. ”
The exercise served its purpose, giving Roz the impetus to start changing the course of her life.
But even then it was an evolution, not a revolution. One by one, she shed the trappings of her old life. She began ridding herself of the possessions that she felt were weighing her down. “I had allowed the stuff to own me rather than me owning it. I pared life down to the basics to find out what really mattered to me - to find out what was left when I defined myself by what I was, not what I owned.”
Fast forward to March 2006 and Roz is alone in a tiny boat in the middle of the Atlantic. She hasn’t had a hot meal for two months since her camping stove broke. There’s been no human contact after her satellite phone stopped working several weeks back. All four oars have broken, leaving Roz to repair them with duct tape and makeshift splints. She has tendonitis in her shoulders and saltwater sores on her backside.
Oh, and don’t forget the twenty-foot waves, sleep deprivation, self-doubt and depression. But Roz has never been happier. “I’m realizing my dream, one stroke at a time.”
Rowing the Atlantic was, without a doubt, the hardest thing Roz had ever done. “I’d wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and that, by definition, is an uncomfortable place to be,” she explains. “Physically, it was tough, but psychologically it was even tougher. The ocean is scary and it’s daunting and most of the time I wanted to give up.”
But no matter how hard it got, Roz knew that the only thing worse than carrying on would be quitting. “I kept on pushing, kept on developing, kept on adapting. I had to show what an ordinary person can do when they put their hearts and minds and souls into it.”
Which is why, having rowed the Atlantic single-handed, Roz is now taking on the Pacific.