Two years ago today, 25-year-old English adventurer Sarah Outen set out to row the Indian Ocean solo, becoming the first and only woman to do so when she finished in August 2009. Today, she's upping the ante by setting off on a two-and-a-half-year, 20,000-mile human-powered journey from London back to London via fourteen countries of the world. She starts by kayaking down the Thames from the Tower Bridge in London and across the English Channel to France. Then she'll jump on a bike, cycle across Europe and Asia to far-eastern Russian, kayak to Japan, and load up the rowboat for a four- to seven-month trip across the Pacific to Vancouver. Once she crosses the U.S. and Canada on bike, she'll row the Atlantic, then kayak back up the Thames to London. I caught up with Sarah before she kicks off to talk ocean rowing, going solo, and conquering the world one stroke at a time.
How was it rowing across the Indian Ocean?
It was the biggest journey I ever made in my life. It took me one failed attempt and four months at sea. It was huge and every bit the challenge you'd expect it to be. It had all the drama and excitement of a massive expedition, too--all the highs, lows, and scary and sometimes monotonous bits and wonderful moments of being at one with the world. It's brilliant.
How did you decide on the Indian Ocean?
I first heard about the idea of ocean rowing in late 2005. I was a student at the time and had initially planned to go into the army on a scholarship. Then I damaged my knee playing hockey. So all those plans for the army had been wiped away, and I didn't have a plan. Ocean rowing completely captured my imagination, and I thought, one day I'm going to do this. The Atlantic is the most widely rowed ocean, but I wanted to be different. And the Pacific Ocean is obviously massive. The Indian is really the forgotten ocean in all respects, so I decided that would be my ocean. No woman had ever attempted it.