These 3 adventurers like to set off alone for months or years at a time. They’ve crossed continents on foot and rowed across the world’s oceans. Each of them has a driving force, be it discipline, the craving of a zen-like state, or growth. And they all have chosen to live a life outdoors, accomplishing feats few –or none- have attempted before.
Sarah Marquis walked from Siberia to Australia: 3 years
At eight, Sarah Marquis terrified her parents when she went for a walk in the Swiss Alps and did not return until the next day. At seventeen, she crossed Turkey on horseback.
But it was at twenty when Sarah understood what she was after. She went for a four-day trek in New Zealand. And though it was awful and it rained all the time, she felt a connection with nature that she craved to repeat.
Since then, she has been walking alone for months or years a time. She has crossed lonesome landscapes where she is hundreds of kilometers away from the closest human being.
She loves the moment, after weeks of walking, when all physical pain disappears, when her mind lets go of the past and the future and she becomes completely present, self-less, in tune with all that surrounds her.
In the year 2000, the Swiss walked from Canada to Mexico for four months (2,650 mi/4,265 km). Two years afterwards, she began her hike through Australia. It took her 17 months to complete (8,700 mi/14,000 km). And in 2006, the solo adventurer spent eight months walking the Andes Mountains. She walked from Chile to Peru (4,350 mi/7,000 km).
Then, in 2010, she embarked on her longest trip yet: a trek from Siberia to southern Australia (12,000 mi/20,000 km). Since Asia and Australia are separated by water, she traveled that tract on a boat. Once on Australia’s northern shore, she walked to the country’s southern tip. The entire journey took her three years.
Since then, this adventurer has solo-walked many more miles. Her last completed trip ended in May 2018. It was a three-month walk through the jungles of Tasmania, where she broke an arm.
Sarah gets ready for an adventure
Sarah says she loves the mix of freedom and fear she feels at the beginning of her adventures. And she does not take her trips lightly; she prepares thoroughly before. For the three-year trip, she prepared for two years.
She examines topographic maps to learn the terrain and choose the routes. She learns about the local plants so she can recognize edible ones and reads about the local culture to know how to behave when meeting people.
Sarah also checks the weather in the region for the last 20 years to determine how much condensation she can expect. The information helps when crossing a desert, like the Gobi, as she relies on condensation to gather water drops to drink. Although during a dry spell in Australia, she had to drink snake’s blood.
On the road
Once on the trip, she walks for 10 or 12 hours a day, sometimes covering 20 daily kilometers, others, if it is too rocky, only 3. At around 4 pm, she looks for a safe place to camp. Unless she feels she is in unfriendly territory, then she travels at night and hides during the day. Like once in Mongolia, when a group of horsemen followed her for days.
She has also been stricken with jungle fever, held against her will for hours by men with automatic weapons, and been rescued by helicopter from wildfires. But she has made it through.
And the 46-year-old dreams about new trips, this time to Africa.
Roz Savage rowed three oceans: 502 days
For this adventurer, it is all about getting out of her comfort zone. She wants to find out what she is capable of achieving. It is about the growth that ensues every time she faces a challenge, whether she succeeds or fails.
That is why Roz Savage, a native of England that until her thirties had a safe job, chose to row across the Atlantic Ocean alone and unsupported.
Roz set new records
In 2005, she left the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. And she rowed west for 103 days until she reached Antigua, in the Caribbean (2,935 mi/4,723 km). She had crossed the Atlantic.
In 2008, Roz challenged herself again. This time she crossed the Pacific Ocean. The first leg of the journey was from California to Hawaii (2,324 mi/3,740 km). It took her 99 days. On the second try, that is. For in 2007, she had already set off to do the crossing, but the weather was not on her side. She capsized three times in one single day and lost all her necessary equipment. So 10 days into the journey, she was forced to turn back and wait until the next year to accomplish her goal.
In 2009, she began the second leg of the crossing. She left Hawaii and rowed to Kiribati. And in 2010, from Kiribati to Papua New Guinea. She had rowed across the Pacific for a total of 250 days (8,000 mi/12,874 km) and had won two Guinness World Records while doing so.
And in 2011, Roz crossed her third large Ocean: the Indian.
Originally, she wished to start further up north, but on that route, she could encounter Somali pirates. So she heeded advice and chose a southern route: from Australia to Mauritius, in Africa (154 days, 3,657 mi/5,885 km).
The now 52-year-old also prepares thoroughly for every trip. She has a written plan of what to do in every imaginable situation since once in the ocean, she is alone for months.
During her voyage in the Indian Ocean, she did not see land or a human being for five months. But she does keep connected. Roz carries a satellite phone and another phone that works with her laptop. She calls her mom regularly, posts new entries on her blog, and keeps in touch with a weather expert on land.
She also travels with tracking equipment, iPods, radio, camera, solar panels, and compact food.
Since she is a passionate reader, in the ocean, she listens to audiobooks, especially science fiction and novels. She cites as her favorites: book 1 of Game of Thrones, Nobody’s Fool, Chainfire (book 9), Vets Might Fly, Neverwhere, or comedic Round Ireland. And on land, she prefers books that keep her driven: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, The Celestine Prophecy, Conversations with God, The Alchemist.
The best part
All in all, the Oxford law graduate (where she was in the rowing team) has spent 502 days rowing in open water.
On her first trip, the crossing of the Atlantic, she lost all communication for the last 24 days. It was a “privilege,” she says, as it allowed her to experience silence and peace.
One of her favorite moments at sea was in the Pacific. One night, when Roz looked at the stars, she felt insignificant and connected to all.
When she is in her boat, she is quite aware that she is just one more animal. And Roz loves it when turtles and whales approach her with curiosity.
Mike Horn bodyboarded the Amazon River: 6 months
Mike Horn believes in discipline. “Who is motivated to jump into a river where you might be eaten by crocodiles, piranhas, parasites, things like that? What you need in life more than motivation is discipline.” It is not a random example; he is talking about his own experience. In 1997, Mike did jump into a river with crocodiles and piranhas. And he stayed there for almost six months.
At the time, Mike was bodyboarding the Amazon, the second largest river in the world (or the first, according to some). He bodyboarded the South American river from its source to its mouth.
The adventurer started the journey in Peru. He trekked 372 mi (600 km) through the Andes Mountains and climbed Mt. Mismi, the source of the Amazon. Then he bodyboarded the river until it became too wide (24.8 mi/40 km) and the currents too strong. At that point, he switched to a pirogue (a type of canoe) for the rest of the journey.
During those months, Mike spent the day in the river or hunting in the jungle. And he spent the nights resting on the riverbanks.
He made the trip alone and unassisted. Others had tried the feat, but the South African was the first one to accomplish it (4,250 mi/7,000 km).
Mike was born in 1966 in Johannesburg. Growing up, his parents gave him a lot of freedom. He could roam the surroundings on his bike. The only condition was that he was to be back home at 6 pm.
As an adult, Mike joined the South African special forces, where he learned to track animals and to survive in the jungle.
Circumnavigating the globe
The Amazonian expedition was his first great adventure, but many others followed.
In 1999, he set off to circumnavigate the world around the equator by himself. He would have to cross two continents by foot and bike and sail across two oceans.
Mike started in Gabon, Africa, and sailed towards South America, crossing the Atlantic Ocean. He landed in Brazil and made his way to the opposite coast of the continent. To achieve that, he had to cross the Amazon Jungle and the Andes Mountains. He finally reached Ecuador, on the western side of South America.
From there, he sailed west, to Africa. This time he crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed on Africa’s eastern shore, in Somalia. From there, he walked across the continent until he returned to Gabon, in Western Africa.
The circumnavigation took him 18 months. Mike covered 24,845 mi (40,000 km).
And in 2017, the South African crossed Antarctica by himself, and in less than two months (3,168 mi/5,100 km).
Mike thinks, “you owe it to yourself to live each day to its fullest.” And for him, that means to continuously face new and greater adventures.