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  • Writer's pictureSophie Bostock, PhD

Why I'm disappearing for 3 months into the Wild

Last summer I rowed 1500 nautical miles around Britain in an ocean rowing boat. The trip involved a few blisters, limited personal hygiene, and an average of 4-5 hours sleep per night, I loved it. It was ‘adventure lite’ in the fact that once a week over 6 weeks we stopped off in a different marina, went to the pub, and had a hot shower. Since I returned, I’ve had a hankering for a more extreme adventure..

The mission: To paddle 1500 kilometres, from Canada’s Hart River in the Peel Watershed, down and up 6 rivers, in and out of the Artic Circle, to Alaska.

We’ll be attempting to follow the route of 6 pioneers who created the documentary Paddle for the North in 2013. (Worth a watch.) The route includes 130km of travelling upstream, and dragging all of our kit 10km across mosquito-infested dense bush to avoid impassable rapids, as well as 1800km+ of paddling with the current.

I will be joining 5 other much more experienced adventurers in Whitehorse, Canada, on 28th June, and our goal is to reach Fairbanks, unsupported, by 5th September.

We’ll load up a float plane with 3 Canadian canoes, provisions and essential items such as a fishing rod, bug spray, bear spray and foot powder. (Those of you who followed the GB row may be as disappointed as I was to learn that owing to weight restrictions, there will be very little room for Babybel cheese.)

We don’t expect to venture into mobile phone reception very often. This means that my updates will be intermittent at best.. but if I’m completely honest, that is part of the appeal.

I’m a last minute addition to the trip.. I learned that the crew needed a replacement and I jumped at the chance.

Right now, as I wait for my flight to Vancouver, I'm asking myself why????!

  • Because the Peel Watershed is thought to be one of the most unspoilt wilderness areas in the world?

  • Because I realised one evening last summer in the drizzle in the Highlands of Scotland, exhausted, wet and cold, that I was quite inexplicably happy?

  • Because I want to learn how to live off the grid, even if only for 10 weeks?

  • Because Adventure is Addictive?

When I got home last August I reflected for quite a while about why I had enjoyed the GB row quite so much. The sense of a shared mission, the joy of being physically active and outside, the sense of mastery as we got stronger.. or perhaps the break from work…

Since then, far from my business dwindling while I left on my out of office for 2 months, the last 10 months at TheSleepScientist have been my most productive to date. I have also had the best life-work balance of my career so far - culminating in a silver medal at the British Rowing Champs this weekend. The timing isn't great.. I really ought to be training for the Coastal Rowing World Championships in October, but we can't do it all!!

I’ve still got a lot to learn but I’m getting better at seizing the moment, and prioritising what is most important to me.

I realise that I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to take time off (and have a very understanding boss). I know if I had kids or caring responsibilities, my scope for adventure would be much narrower, but I would like to believe.. still not impossible.

Adventure doesn’t have to be long, or foreign, or dangerous - but adventure does involve unpredictability, novelty, challenge. It involves pushing yourself a little way out of your comfort zone, and learning that you can deal with the consequences. I’ve been getting braver, in big and small ways, and every time, it has made me feel alive.

So.. really, what I wanted to say is.. that if there is an adventure you have been thinking about, but you’ve been waiting for the right time to make it happen.. I think you should go for it!

I’ll share some photos when I can.. if the bears don’t get my iPhone.

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