Envy. More than a pang of it, too, is the overwhelming emotion most readers will feel even before they start Sarah Outen’s excellent tale of circumnavigating the globe under her own steam. She opens with a prologue describing the closing stages of her successful attempt to row from Australia to Mauritius; once on shore, she fields a variety of questions, but one plants itself inside her adventurous mind: ‘what next?’.
Three months later, Outen finds herself sat next to Prince Edward at a dinner at Windsor Castle when the prince asks what, precisely, she plans to do. She offers a vague response, suggesting she may take up the teacher training offer she once deferred after finishing university, but when pressed, the author realises it’s time for a more substantial reply. She tells Edward of her tentative plan to travel around the globe using nothing other than a kayak, a rowing boat and a bike.
“Pressing me for a date, I felt a bit under pressure,” she writes, so responded with a “2011, 2012?” which not only appears to have satisfied the prince but triggered the strong sense of wanderlust that must lurk inside Outen’s head.
What follows is an extraordinary journey, prefaced with a couple of sentences that insist you read on. “The years ahead became some of the most vivid, most treasured and, at times, the most difficult of my life. But setting out, all I knew is all we ever know – that I knew nothing about how the story would unfold.”
Her journey begins in earnest in April 2011; the rather loose, almost nonchalant plan is to leave London, kayak and cycle to Japan, row the North Pacific to Canada, cycle across North America, row the Atlantic to the UK and, just for good measure, embark on a triathlon between Falmouth and London. It’s the type of trip many readers will have mulled over at various points in their lives, but Outen had the courage to tackle it.
Underneath a map showing her proposed route, she quotes the French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire:
“Come to the edge,” he said. “We can’t. We’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said. “We can’t. We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said. And so they came. And he pushed them. And they flew.
Inspirational; much like Sarah Outen’s wonderful book.