This expedition is in celebration of Fridtjof Nansen, the incredibly inspirational polar explorer. His explorations were facilitated in a way that was respectful of his team and their lives. He was a visionary, with no ego; simply a desire to explore with curiosity and the intent to further science and people’s knowledge of the world around them. The Antarctic Heritage Trust has designed this trip to mark the 130 year anniversary of Fridtjof’s journey across the Greenland Ice Cap. If you’ve never heard of Nansen I strongly suggest you discover him.
Many people have told me that they are absolutely inspired by what we are doing, which has pushed me to question why I am doing it. My parents have no true understanding of the importance of this trip and I found it difficult in the beginning to even explain the concept to them. My dad just kept asking ‘why… what is the point’? I think that question affected me so deeply because I had unconsciously been asking the same thing. Why do I do these things? Why do I seek out adventures like this in the first place and go to the extent of participating in a grueling interview process just to be a part of them?
Not only that but it is literally inviting more struggle into my life. This isn’t going to be an easy expedition, it is going to be one of the toughest journeys I have ever embarked on. To be in this place of complete white with no real visual stimulation during the day, constant movement, physical and mental strain … Most of the time I will be in my head … it is almost like a physically exhausting vipassana (silent retreat). Essentially this is a mental game, one in which I constantly question my ability to participate, and dare I say win.
Right now, my thoughts are screaming at me … Am I capable of staying motivated in these conditions? There is even this deep seeded fear that I will drag the rest of the team down on the ice and not be good enough to keep up. I will be the slow poke skiing behind everyone trying to catch them up and be a part of the group. I worry that after a brain injury I am likely to get more tired more easily. Am I fit enough, am I strong enough, am I enough??? This is what it boils down to that … am I enough?? Can I even do this??
Why was I attracted to this adventure in the first place? What exactly is it about dragging a 60 kg heavy ass sled 600 km through demanding conditions whilst simultaneously freezing in sub zero temperatures and being burned alive by the reflective snow and gale like wind, that appeals to me? Who would want to put their body through that, let alone their mind? How on earth will I keep my mind healthy and positive during that time??
I hate being cold, I hate sore feet. I won’t be dry or truly warm for a month. I won’t have a way of cleaning myself (on the practice trip our wipes completely froze) I barely slept most nights and the most common question we asked ourselves was WHY… ‘WHY on earth are we doing this?? We chose this suffering … openly??? WHY?? That practice journey was a complete wake up call to me of what the conditions are really going to be like and they were not welcoming, that is for sure.
I often think people complete expeditions like this just to say they have, or to feel like they have conquered some great feat that they can brag about. It makes me wonder about the reasons, the why behind this expedition. For myself I don’t think this is about ego, rather the ability to truly see myself.
And I think that’s where it lies … the motivation …I don’t want to conquer nature because I damn well know that nature is going conquer me. No, I want to conquer my mindset.
You can not grow without any resistance, and this journey is going to provide more than enough challenge for me. Expeditions and adventures like this are like a slow unravelling and unfolding of yourself. You are put at the centre of your own discovery and you explore more and more of yourself everyday through your experiences. It is a place and time where you can’t actually escape yourself. You will meet things within yourself that you never expected to and thus have the opportunity to work with and release them.
Fridtjof Nansen said that ‘if all seek in the same direction and it turns out to be the wrong way then the whole flock can easily encounter its own destruction’.
When I am in the real world I feel so overwhelmed by society’s demands of what I should be; that I start to question the alternative lifestyle I have lived. I find that by going out and completing trips like this I have the opportunity to delve deeper into understanding the path I have chosen. Because there is no external noise in nature, it is usually a time to truly reflect and take stock on my life and the direction it’s heading. I tend to gain a deep sense of clarity outdoors that I don’t find as easily in the civilised world. There, in a kind of ‘small world syndrome’, I get tied down by so many little things that don’t matter and can’t seem to see the bigger picture. We humans are so anxious about what will happen in the future that we forget to enjoy the present. The result is that we live neither in the present nor the future. We often end up in limbo land, feeling like we will never die, and die never having truly lived. It as if the glory of life is teasing you at your fingertips, yet constantly just out of reach.
The notion of never having truly lived drives me. I don’t want merely to exist.
I want to LIVE.
Expeditions and time in nature immerses you in these mini highs and lows like a little paper boat floating on the ebbs and flows of life. Everything is felt more keenly. You’re enveloped in a world that tickles the senses, yet at the same time separated from most of our ‘real world’ problems. There is no external noise, and on expeditions such as this one, a complete lack of any distractions or stimulus. You no longer have labels such as mother, daughter, lover. You are just you, the most raw and authentic version of yourself.
The lack of technology and generally being switched off in nature enables you to focus fully on the here and now. You can feel the physical, the mental and the emotional so intimately and can be captivated by the little things, the beauty all around you, like the perfect snowflake or the way the wind blows across a mountain side.
When I am in nature I feel like I am part of this huge dynamic magical world of synchronicities. I have the space to tune in, connect with myself and reset anything that needs adjusting. Essential parts of ourselves are often not unlocked until the right conditions occur and mother nature has this uncanny knack of being able to unmask the dark side of my soul. I can un-strip the layers standing in the way of me being fundamentally all that is Bridget.
In life we shackle ourselves to these storylines that aren’t true. This fear that I am not enough, not strong enough, not fit enough, not capable enough is a myth, an example of a storyline I have attached myself to. And Mother Nature will remind me of how capable, determined and strong I truly am when she throws her best and worst at me, yet lovingly guides me through.
They say that it is an irritant that creates the pearl and it is only once you step out of the shadows that you can happily walk into the light and recreate the story. Most of us put all our energy into denying that we have any dark sides or shadows within us that we find shameful. We are often too scared to step forth into the vulnerability of just being a human who is less than perfect. If we constantly associate that image of us being less than perfect with shame, then it will continually hold us back. If we only had more opportunities to embrace and be compassionate towards the dark sides of ourselves that we don’t dare to show. If we could become more secure and comfortable with our flaws, then we could all drop our masks and reveal our true face to the world. We could become the pearl after the irritant. The moment that we can say yes to both sides of ourselves, our shadow and our potential, is the moment we fully become alive.
It is a liberating prospect to think that by going through an experience such as this Greenland Crossing I might be able to embrace more of myself and reveal even more of my most authentic being to my friends, family and the world. To be able to let go of the barriers I put up, allow my community to come closer to the real me by owning my true potential, owning my shadow and actually being empowered by it. Mother nature has the ability to help us find the light within and that combined with having an unbridled spirit has the potential to produce a truly radiant being.