Via the World: The transition from ‘normal life’ to expedition life is tricky

Sarah Outen

Indy blogger Sarah Outen is a British adventurer, on a mission to loop the planet using a rowing boat, bike and kayak. The last phase saw her row solo across the North Pacific from Japan to Alaska in 2013 and she writes now from the start of the next phase – a 1400 mile kayak journey through the Aleutian Islands in Alaska with another British paddler, Justine Curgenven. Here are Sarah’s thoughts ahead of the journey…

outen 300x225 Via the World: The transition from normal life to expedition life is tricky

Sarah in Adak

It’s that time again. The night before setting off and my tummy is turning a few circles and my head is full of thoughts and fog as I nail my final preparations. I still have quite a few things to tick off my ‘To Do List’ and some final computer admin which has been made trickier since my computer died a week ago without hope of revival and the internet connection on the island is sporadic and slow. It’s no biggy, I know, but just makes things a bit trickier when I’d hope for them to be a bit smoother.

It’s now just me and my paddling partner Justine left after my fiancée Lucy flew home yesterday, leaving a rather empty feeling inside. I certainly felt quite different in 2011 when I set off from Tower Bridge on my London2London mission – for I was single and unattached then. Yesterday was probably the hardest part of the expedition as we hugged each other one last time amid a haze of tears. I expect I’ll see her next in five or six months and I don’t anticipate being home for 18 or so. It feels as though my head is split in two – part of me is excited for the journey and the adventure, and the other half doesn’t want to leave her. Life’s all about choices and this is mine for now, just a tough and slightly teary one.


We are on Adak Island, the most westerly of the inhabited islands in the Aleutian chain, stretching out west into the North Pacific and Bering Sea. We are further west than Hawaii at this point. It is also the place I landed in my rowing boat Happy Socks last year after my five month trek across the North Pacific from Japan, and hence the launch point now for my onwards journey. Justine and I expect the 1400 mile kayak route will take us 3-4 months to reach the nearest road in Homer, where I can then start the biking leg. It is a wild, unpredictable and unforgiving place up here so we are both expecting to be challenged and both anticipate days spent waiting in our tent for good weather windows for some of the big crossings between islands. I am looking forwards to it but I am a bit daunted by it too, nervous of what lies ahead. I know I shall feel a bit different once we get going tomorrow and I can start settling in to it. I always find the transitions from ‘normal life’ to expedition life tricky but at least I understand them more now.

Earlier this week we hiked down to the South of the island, to Camel Cove, the bay where I first reached shore in Happy Socks last year after the Pacific. We shall start paddling from the North of the island on the Bering Sea side, hence the ‘joining the dots’. It was a beautiful hike through rugged, stunning scenery, watched by silent snow-capped mountains towering over us and punctuated by chilly mountain streams crossing our path or us crossing theirs. The Aleutian chain is volcanic so we shall always be overlooked by these giants all along our route east, except when the fog is down and the world turns white. We were also watched by caribou at times, who put our human legs to shame with their agile bounding up steep slopes. All in all it was a beautiful start to this phase of the expedition and a special rounding off of the last,

Power capability may be limited once we set off as we shall be using solar panels to charge our batteries, but when we can we shall post blogs and updates to social media. You can follow our progress on our live tracker here: and check out our blogs and social media here: and and @SarahOuten . It promises to be a huge adventure so will be full of stories. I’ll also be posting here on the Indy site every few weeks. Next post from the tent, somewhere along these wild islands!

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