Updated: Apr 29, 2019
In Nansens Footsteps
Greenland Film. watch now
How it was for me!
Greenland was a whole new challenge for me. A new environment, new risks and new dynamics. I am used to being cold, uncomfortable, wet, hungry and fatigued. My body goes into survival mode and my mind goes where ever it wants to…because it has always been me, just me. All of my expeditions have been solo, so being a part of a team posed all sorts of new difficulties that I hadn't necessarily considered.
Expeditions and adventures can be challenging in so many different ways. They can be physically draining, mentally exhausting and sometimes just downright emotional. Due to my ADHD, I am pretty much a dopamine seeking missile. This means I crave a challenge, so the harder the expedition seems, the more I lust after it. This creates challenge numero uno...
1) Not everyone has ADHD.
Not everyone feels the need to walk until their legs give out, just so they can feel like they have really accomplished something. Other peoples brains work just fine and their dopamine receptors are alive and well, so they feel good after finishing a long cold day on the ice cap. So when I start asking Bengt (our local guide, man he was awesome) 'Why have we stopped for the day?' 'Why aren't we making the most of the good weather?' It doesn't sit well with everyone... well, anyone.
Since I had never worked as a team member before, I learnt so much about myself, how I interact with people and how my struggles are so different to the struggles of others. I hadn't gone into this expedition expecting to learn about my mind, my social skills and my weaknesses.
Greenland was also tough mentally, for all the reasons I thought it WOULD be, challenge number two...
2) There was a huge lack of mental stimulation.
There was hardly anything to break up the view of endless white. The odd hurricane was the only sound to break up the scape of our skis in the snow, well, there was also my singing but that wasn't exactly encouraged after a few days. But seriously, the days dragged on into oblivion. It was light for most of the day with only a few hours of dusk to give the illusion of night time. All of these things sent my mind into over drive!
Everyone is fighting their own battle right, each individual has their own struggles, their own weak points and their own strengths. Greenland demonstrated our individual strengths and weaknesses very well. Often when big expeditions are talked about its the physical strain that is of biggest concern. We were preparing to be walking huge distances each day, dragging a heavy sled, going weeks on end of limited food and be in the coldest temperatures any of us had experienced.
These are things that I love! Pushing yourself to the absolute limit and really testing what you are capable of.
Physical challenges have always been the least of my worries, but when you get to the ripe old age of 24 some things start to catch up with you.
3) My back
So two years ago I perforated a disc in my lower back. I tried all sorts of physiotherapy, massage and meditation... anything someone suggested, I tried! But, when Ngaio put her foot down and got me to have an MRI it became apparent that surgery was the best way forward. I had the surgery, and after a longer than expected recovery period I was back to myself. Fast forward 18 months and i'm falling down a cliff, twisting myself at an ungodly angle (in an attempt to try to preserve my face as I plunge to the ground) and I end up injuring my back again, same injury but at a different level in my spine. This was a few months before I was due to depart to Greenland. The pain was there but it was manageable.
Our days in Greenland would basically be, wake up, pack up, walk, rest, walk, lunch, walk, rest, walk, set up camp. With varying amount of walking and resting. Our lunch break was the most challenging aspect of the trip! We would all sit, in a small tent, on the floor, our knees bent up around our chests. From this position we would cook and eat our lunch for around an hour. This was the worst possible position for my back. When I would stand up from the sitting position I would stay bent over like an old man, dreading the moment I would have to straighten my back up. I have a high pain tolerance but this was, and still is, absolute agony.
Crossing the worlds second largest polar ice cap was an adventure for sure. It was an extremely well organised expedition, all the variables and unknowns were taken care of. It wasn't up to me to check the weather or to assess if the conditions were safe. At first I was disappointed, I felt that it took the adventure or excitement away from the expedition. But what it really meant was that I was able to spend that time, when I would usually be doing weather checks, safety checks and orientation, learning. I learnt how to navigate using the wind and how to tell the time by looking at the sun. I learnt how to support others emotionally, without making them think less of themselves and I learnt how to function as an effective team member. I learnt about the native people and their connection to the land. I rediscovered myself and I found an unsettled part of my soul that needed healing. I learnt about the mistakes from my past that my former self couldn't and I worked through feelings of love, hate, regret and despair. I was able to step away from myself and see the impact that I have on others, I told myself that from this point on, it would only be positive. Greenland was able to sow seeds of knowledge in my mind, wisdom in my soul and love in my heart.
2018 Inspiring explorers Expedition Greenland with Antarctic Heritage.