One of the questions I get most often is: Aren’t you scared to die?
The easy answer is, I guess, of course I’m afraid to die, who wouldn’t be? In my mind, the question is rhetorical. What people are actually trying to say is: “Do you think there’s a chance you could die while out there?” To that I also say yes, but qualify it with this fact: I have a greater chance of being hit by a car (as I have been) walking across a road in a major city and dying that way than I do, statistically, on the ocean. In other words, as an amazing woman (ret. Navy Seal, Peter Naschak’s, mother) said during her presentation at Red Bull: “I wasn’t born with the worry gene.”
This is a picture of her skydiving with her son for her 80th birthday. #rolemodel
I deal with situations as they happen and feel comfortable with the idea that I’ve prepared appropriately with my team to handle a lot of different scenarios.
I am in control of my world [to an extent].
Something many people don’t think of is this question: “What happens if someone you care about dies while you are on expedition? Do you want to be told?”
Last month, I had to put my dog and best friend of 9 years down. As a single lady, it was a particularly painful thing to deal with alone. She’d been with me through college, my masters program, a few boys, and my parents had dutifully taken care of her throughout all of my expeditions and travel over the past 4 years. My being gone so often was something I felt incredibly guilty about with her passing. I was grateful for the last full month I got to spend with that little snozzle. After she was gone, I survived on a diet of bloody maries, coffee, red wine and depression pizza for about a week. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more self-sufficient pup.
This is when Lula graduated from the University of Wisconsin.
The reason I mentioned Lula is because it serves as an example. The emotion involved with losing someone so close to me was debilitating. It made focusing on anything else almost impossible while coping with the loss. Maybe not everyone would react the same way, but it’s the way that I react… to turn in on myself, sleep a lot and generally fall down a short depression spiral before dragging myself back to the light of life. The way I cope with death would be extremely dangerous to go through when you have to be on your “A” game 24 hours a day on the ocean.
It’s a reason why no one on my direct team dealing with day-to-day stuff or responsible for rescues is a family member. It’s also the reason why I’ve chosen to not be told by anyone if someone close to me, family, dog, or friend, dies while I’m on the ocean.
It’s an incredibly sobering idea, but I have to be tactical and unemotional in my decision making. I have to protect myself if there’s a situation that’s completely out of my control. Mourning is not something that would be safe for me, however important that person may be to me. I wouldn’t be able to safely return from the middle of the ocean; even if rescued - the return trip could still take just as long for me to get back; and I likely wouldn’t be able to make a safe decision in that situation.
If I’m honest, it’s an incredibly scary idea to leave and come back 6 months later with the possibility of losing someone close to me. My father. My mother. My grandparents. My dogs. My friends.
I don’t often talk about this side of the planning process, I try to not think about this in pursuit of daily positivity. But, it’s an unavoidable reality. One more part of the planning process that maybe will help you better understand what goes into Expedition Pacific.
P.S. I promise, no Debbie Downer on the next blog. I will return to the regular scheduled bumbling stream of consciousness!