Meeting Mike Horn was the tip of the iceberg.
The captain had been sleeping and I was on watch sitting at the helm and I was holding on to the ship’s wheel. I remember the warm wind and how smooth the stainless steel felt when it gently resisted my hand steering the yacht in the heading that we were supposed to go. It was about 3:30am and the ocean gently swayed the yacht through the early hours and I drank some rooibos tea that I still had left from home. I kept an eye on the radar and enjoyed being on the open ocean.
At that time we had already emailed a couple of times. About 5 months earlier I was standing in front of Gare de Lyon, looking up at the clock tower and hoping that fortune favors the brave, which it did, as it always does.
Courage is a strange thing and when you have pushed yourself and when you have tasted grit you become somewhat different. A strange and equally inspiring story lead me to that clock tower in the Paris winter of 2010.
I had decided to sail for a year, seeing what Mike was doing with his Pangaea Young Explorers programme that started in 2008. I was inspired and confused and I figured that I would like to do the same one day but that I first needed to spend a year on a yacht. By chance, I then worked for a captain whose name was Mike Hourn. An Australian. Great guy. It was quite a coincidence but I took it as a sign and that extra ‘u’ did not bother me. I worked my fingers to the bone and came to love the ocean and the way the elements can go from calm to rough. I loved the rough ocean because I had learned about an uncontrollable risk factor, and you can learn what to do to keep yourself alive and what you love and in that there is truth. The kind of truth that eventually lead me home.
I was still inspired by Mike and his Pangaea Expedition that was still going strong. Years earlier I had carefully kept an eye on the yacht that Mike was building with the help of Mercedes Benz and it was great to see how the Pangaea yacht took to the ocean like a 4x4 of the sea.
Back home I had a passion for understanding vocation and qualified as a coach in the field of career guidance and I use exploration as a medium for self-exploration. I wanted to do what Mike does. I wanted to inspire for the sake of being inspired. I wanted to use exploration for the sake of exploration, not to highjack someone’s story. I threw myself into this passion, and started an organization called Unravelling Exploration.
I organized vocational expeditions to various parts of Africa, taking young students and explorers with me. I managed events to help us understand our passion, talents and skills by learning from our African continent, and our responsibility towards it. I talked at schools, did training for university students as well as entrepreneurs and connected people left and right to create a network of people understanding the process of having the courage to live the questions in your heart and being present, rather than seeking the answers that cannot be given to us yet. I invited international speakers to come and share their knowledge on these matters. All of the time using Mike’s videos and insights and expeditions to showcase courage, grit and discipline.
I had a lucky break when I got asked to do a TED talk in Stellenbosch. I was scared and glad because I wanted give thanks to Mike on a platform that was internationally recognized. This also helped me to say what I needed to say in 13 minutes. I was patient, and by now it has been 7 years of emailing, talking about possible collaborations whilst I knew that Mike was doing what inspired him and going where few dare to go. This kept me going.
Then another two years later I got to spend a chance afternoon with Mike on Pangaea, which I had followed so curiously from blueprint to scale. She was magnificent. We caught up and talked about his work and my work and his Pole 2 Pole expedition and he showed me the sled that was going to be his literal lifeline for what was to be 57 days trekking across Antarctica via the south pole. Just a small part of the expedition. I loved every second of talking to him about exploration and I had met him and we had spoke whilst being on Pangaea. He does not know it yet, but in 2019 we are going to have the second Pangaea Expedition. Pangaea 2.0. It’s going to be epic.
Patience makes us wiser and it uses courage to teach us to run at fear. The thing about fear is that if you run towards it, it always runs away.
I will soon launch Searching Summits, a two year expedition in search of summits. Physical summits, mental summits as well as summits where vocational explorers can come and learn from other explorers.
In the mean time I will train again as if Mike is right behind me, I will try and inspire like he does. I will try and keep exploration clean, inviting and dangerous and we will get to know it better because we got to know ourselves. At the end of the day we take to our life’s work as pure and uncluttered as we can, and, as Ernest Hemingway said: “That in some way we could work the fat off our soul the way a fighter went into the mountains to work and train in order to burn it out of his body”.
Then we will be left with what is true and brave and pure. And hopefully I would have taken to the mountains many times before we meet again.
Thank you for being my mentor, Mike.
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