She’s changing the environment, one stroke at a time.
Roz Savage – a British ocean rower – became the first woman to row across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. That’s over 15,000 miles and 500 days of pure ocean!
But even more brilliant is why she did it…
Roz braved the world’s largest oceans to inspire people to take action and make a different in the environmental challenges we face today. She believes that if the seven billion people of the world made a few simple changes in their daily habits, it could have a significant and positive impact on the environment.
Her outstanding accomplishments have earned her the title of an United Nations Climate Hero, Athlete Ambassador for 350.org, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, International Fellow of the Explorer’s Club of New York and Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic.
Read about Roz’s oceanic journeys and accomplishments in this exclusive interview…
Interview with Roz Savage
How did you get into rowing?
Well, there’s rowing, and then there’s ocean rowing.
I got into crew rowing when I started at Oxford University, motivated to take up a sport because I wanted to be able to eat more without getting fat. And somehow I proved to be quite good at it – although at 5 foot 3 I was really too short to ever make the big time.
Then there’s ocean rowing. I met a guy through the Royal Geographical Society, who had rowed across the Atlantic with (of all people) his mother. That gave me the inspiration that rowing across an ocean might be something I was vaguely qualified to do.
Why did you want to row across the largest oceans in the world (Pacific, Atlantic and Indian)?
I was trying to get the message out there that we need to take better care of the Earth if we want it to take good care of us. And rowing across oceans seemed a good way to get people’s attention – and I could blog, tweet, write and talk about my adventures to further talk about how important this is.
What was your favorite oceanic row? Why?
Hard to say.
In retrospect, the Atlantic is the one I feel most emotional about – although it was absolute hell at the time. It was my first ocean and I had so much to learn, not only about ocean rowing, but about myself.
It was without a doubt the hardest 103 days of my life, but also the most worthwhile. I really came of age on that crossing.
Did you ever feel a little crazy being out on the water – all by yourself – for such a long period of time? How did you overcome it?
I think I actually have quite a robust sense of sanity. It was certainly tested to its limits at times, when I was hitting my limits of frustration, boredom, discomfort, even pain. But I never really feared I was losing it. Sometimes I wished I would – it might have made life easier!
But I always stayed very firmly anchored (so to speak) in reality.
What was the most shocking thing you saw on your ocean journeys?
It’s always disturbing to see plastic pollution hundreds or even thousands of miles from dry land. When I haven’t seen dry land or a human being for months, it is particularly strange to see the evidence of our messy ways.
What motivated you to keep going on days when you felt you couldn’t?
There were three main things – the first was the environmental mission. I felt it was so important – much more important than one small woman having a miserable time in a rowboat.
I would also think of the people back on dry land who had supported me. Literally thousands of people over the years have given time, money, and energy to support my adventures. Even if I couldn’t do it for myself, I had to keep going for them.
And if the worst came to the worst, I would remind myself of my intense desire not to go back to the office job!
What challenges have you faced being a woman rower?
It’s difficult to answer that, as obviously I’ve never been a male rower for comparison!
I think that in the early days I may have had a credibility problem, as I just didn’t look the part of a typical adventurer. But as time has passed and my achievements have added up, people have given me greater respect. I don’t perceive it as being a big problem.
What was your biggest epiphany on your ocean rows?
There have been so many! There is so much time to think out there – it’s the world’s best crash course in personal development.
There have been lots of personal epiphanies, but on a global scale, my biggest insight has been that the world is not as big as we think it is. It’s difficult to get the scale of it from a plane, but from a rowboat you really get a feel for it, and you realize it’s not big enough for us to keep abusing it.
There are 7 billion human beings now, and we can’t keep taking all the good stuff out of the Earth, turning it into stuff that we use for a short while before throwing it into landfill.
Whichever way you look at it, that is simply not sustainable. And it’s not the future of the planet that’s at stake. The planet will be just fine, thank you very much.
It’s our own future as humans that we need to worry about.
How did rowing all three of the world’s largest oceans change you?
It has given me a lot more courage to face up to big challenges.
There were so many times when I felt like I had reached my absolute limit, but I had no choice but to stay with it, and get past my limit. Then I would look back on what I had thought was my limit and realize that it existed only in my mind.
So now, if I find myself thinking “I can’t…” I remind myself how many times I thought that on the ocean, and yet I could and I did.
What advice or tips can you give women considering getting into rowing?
Just do it! Enthusiasm and dedication can get you a long way. Find a fun local rowing club, make new friends, and get fit!
What words of wisdom can you give our women readers who might be facing a challenging time?
Just take it one day, one hour, or one oarstroke (metaphorically) at a time.
When I’m facing a big challenge, I find it best to write down everything that needs to happen to get through it. Once it’s on paper it seems more manageable. Then divide it into the things you can control, and the things you can’t. Ignore the second list. It will just have to take care of itself.
Go back to the list of things you can control, and put the things in the order they have to happen. If anything seems too daunting, break it down into smaller steps.
For example, if you have to call somebody, but you don’t know their number, make “find out phone number” the first item, not “make phone call” – or else you’ll probably find yourself stuck.
Once you’ve broken it down into tiny bite-size chunks, start doing it and ticking off the list items. You’ll regain a feeling of control over the situation, and start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What are the three things you always pack no matter where you travel?
iPhone and MacBook. And passport, of course!
What is your favorite book, movie, and album?
If I had to pick one book to take to my desert island, I’d probably choose Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is so thought-provoking and multi-faceted, I find something new in it every time I read it.
Movie – would have to be Monty Python’s Life of Brian. It never fails to make me laugh!
Album – I just love Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. It’s old now, but I love the complexity of the music and the lyrics.
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, where to?
No rowing trips, but lots of travel. Over the next couple of months I’m speaking in Scotland, England, California, Florida, DC, and various countries around the Baltic.
Quite looking forward to relaxing and enjoying an English summer after that!
Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?
One of my favorite quotes (and I’ve got many) is by the actor Denholm Elliott:
“Surprise yourself every day with your own courage.”
If you push your boundaries, just a little, on a daily basis, a year from now you will look back and be amazed at how far you have come.
It will boost your self-esteem, your self-belief, and your happiness, I promise you!
Thank you Roz for participating in this interview.
For more info on Roz Savage, please:
- visit RozSavage.com,
- buy her books Rowing the Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean or Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, or
- watch this inspiring video…