In August 2019, I was interviewed by, in my opinion, one of the best podcasters out there; Sarah Williams of the Tough Girl Podcast.
As a cyclist, riding an average of 100 km each day, I was looking for a podcast that could hold my interest. I am not an easy sell. It took a while for me to find a podcast that could keep my attention. I needed to like the host; one that was dynamic, yet not overpowering. I needed to be interested in the content and the guests. I needed to really care. When I discovered the Tough Girl Podcast, I was hooked. I could listen to these wild adventures and believe that if these girls could make it through, then of course I could too.
So over the past year cycling through Asia (as part of the longer journey around the world), I listened to hours and hours of the TGP. Over 200 episodes. I even listened to a couple of my favorites twice. From the beginning, I dreamed of one day being on the podcast. Over time, I learned Sarah’s style, I listened to the different styles of each adventurer. I thought about what I might say about myself.
About six months after listening to the podcast, in August 2019, I contacted “my Oprah.” I imagined that I might not ever hear from Sarah.
I sent her a short note about myself and a bit of my back story. I heard back 2 hours later. She said she would like to interview me.
What I like about the podcast is the diversity of the interviewees. They range from celebrities like Anna McNuff, a British adventure enthusiast and speaker who embarks on quirky human powered adventures like 100 marathons in Britain —barefoot.
Another of my favorites, Olivia Round, an American, cycled solo across America to rid herself of a fear of men.
Sarah also interviewed legend Roz Savage who rowed unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Indian Ocean—solo.
Fiona Quinn who stand up paddle boarded 800 miles along the coast of Britain as part of a triathlon; Tricia Downing—wheelchair triathlete; Maria Liejerstam—British Polar adventurer who was the first person to cycle from the mainland to the South Pole.
There are so many others I could mention—women running ultra marathons, triathlons, riding in the toughest horse race in Mongolia, riding a motorcycle around the world, bicycle racing in the Alaskan winter. Women with physical or mental illness who continue to persist despite their limitations. The list of these amazing women goes on and on; each with a unique adventure and a unique story.
Most of these stories are about women who lived ordinary lives and found adventure in adulthood. When asked about their childhood, many report similar stories to my own—they were not particularly athletic growing up; often the last picked for teams in school.
I always felt like an odd bird. Like I missed a day in second grade where everyone learned the things that I found so difficult. Suddenly, after listening to this podcast, I realized that I am one of these women. I am an adventurer.
I learned from Sarah that we all have the capacity to seek adventure. She often advises that we not compare ourselves to others. Just because one woman climbs Everest or another ultra runs 250+ km does not make someone like me less of an adventurer.
We are all adventurers IF WE WANT TO BE. Each of us chooses our adventures based on our interests and capabilities that allows us to challenge yourself beyond the level of comfort.
I like to think of it with a yoga analogy. One yogi bends over and feels an intense stretch. Another yogi needs to get himself into a pretzel to feel the stretch. This does not mean that the first yogi is lesser. As long as both are mindful and present, they are each doing what they can do to create a sensation that pushes them to their edge.
Once Sarah responded to my email, we quickly agreed to a phone interview to take place the following weekend. I had just entered Java from Sumatra and did not anticipate the limited wifi access when we picked the date. Two days before the scheduled interview, I was 150 km away from “potential” wifi access. Rene (my partner) wanted to go on a special jungle trek to see rhinos in Ujung Kulon. I was passionate about committing to my date.
So we parted. I set out alone for Sawarna where I hoped to get access. I knew that I would need to backtrack about 20 km but after that I was not clear about the route. I returned the way I came on an extremely poor and therefore bumpy dirt road. It was so bumpy, that my brake connection was released and I was forced to stop and fix it. Locals gathered around me to make sure I was okay. That is how it is here in Indonesia. I always feel supported. There is always someone to help and make sure I am okay.
Although I was traveling alone and probably would not see a single westerner, I knew I was safe. I proceeded toward Sawarna.
The road became extremely steep. This was not going to be a quick trip. I moved along extremely slowly. There were no accommodations in the first 100 km and no possibility for camping. I pulled into the first accommodation as it was getting dark. It appeared that I was the only customer. I was taken to my room. There were no sheets on the bed. The mattress was old and stained. The walls were stained with what looked like blood and feces. But I think my mind was storytelling. I hope it was at least. I hope it was just paint. I tried not to get too close. A man was sent to get linens for the bed.
I asked if there was a restaurant nearby. Another man who seemed to work at the hotel signed to me that he could take me on his motorbike to a restaurant. I signaled to ask if there was food on the beach which seemed a short walk away. No, he said. Nasi goreng (fried rice, their national dish)? I asked. No he said.
I gestured that I would walk down to the beach and check it out for myself. This was the first time I did not feel entirely safe. It was already dark, but I cycled down to the beach and rode along the walkway. There were very primitive hut stands set up. Most were closed. But there were a couple open. I walked up and asked if they had food. Yes, I could get nasi goreng. After cycling over 100 km in pretty steep terrain and poor roads, my body was ready to be refueled.
As I was eating, the hotel guy walks into the restaurant. Spooky! But I tried to get my mind to stop the scary thoughts and asked my heart to open. He asked me if I wanted to go with him on his motorbike (making the vroom vroom signal). I told him, no, I was okay. After I while, he left. And I rode back down the beach and up to the hotel alone.
I went into my room and it seemed that someone had been in there. The fan was on. I did not remember doing that. There was a cigarette in the ashtray. I did not recall that it was there before. But then again, maybe? Had there been someone in my room? This $6 hotel was not the sort that would turn your bed down. Would these imagined intruders come back?
I pushed furniture against the door, watched some Netflix, prayed for safety, and went to sleep.
In the morning, I left early, anxious to find wifi and be prepared for my interview. I thought about the interview and key points that I wanted to say. I wrote out a few things. I listened to more interviews on my final leg.
It was a short, easy 50 km and I pulled into Sawarna in good time. I was so nervous to find a hotel that had both good wifi and a quiet space to talk. In Java, it seems that there is noise everywhere. Whether it is roosters, or the mosque, or just people talking or playing music right outside your door. As it turned out, the wifi was completely out in the city and would not return until the next day. This is not uncommon. The next village was over a steep mountain. I would never get there on time. My only chance was to get a SIM card with internet connection because we were scheduled to talk via Skype. I rode my bicycle down the primitive road that ran along the beach and found a place selling internet. I got what I needed, the connection was good, I found a really sweet, quiet hotel, and got myself all set up. I explained to the owner that I needed a quiet room for a phone interview. He understood. Five minutes before the interview, a group of chatty fisherman decided to come fishing in the tiny pond outside my window. I ran up to the owner to see if I could get a different space. He told the fisherman to move location and then everything seemed perfect for the interview.
This was my big day and I was ready.
At 3pm, we made contact. I was nervous. We chatted for a bit. I did not put restrictions or focus on the interview. I just wanted Sarah to do her thing.
It did not start well. Sarah asked me to introduce myself. Even though I was prepared, I felt very uncomfortable. I like to be reassured with eye contact and smiles. But we were on the phone. That was not possible.
I felt so awkward. This was my very first interview. I was scared. I started to doubt myself. Second guess my story. Second guess what was important.
The questions were broad and open ended which were meant for me to openly communicate what I believed was important. But in that moment, I realized that I was unclear what the story was; what the message was.
These last years, while amazing, were also extremely challenging. It is easy for me to emphasize the physical challenge, but the emotional challenge is much more difficult for me to discuss. I realized that the difficult choices I made still evoked a lot of shame within me when I said them out loud. And in that moment I also anticipated that they might be provoking to the listeners. The story that I hoped to share came out choppy and from my perspective, lacked confidence.
I talked a short while with Sarah after the interview. She was so gracious and asked if she could interview me in the future to see how my journey evolves.
But when I got off the phone, I had that feeling that I used to got in college when I thought I failed the test. I wanted to call Sarah and tell her to cancel the interview.
The interview is supposed to air in December. I am still waiting for her to mail and say she is not going to run it. I am still comparing myself to the other rock stars she interviews who I convince myself have a better story AND communicate it with such ease.
It was in those few minutes after the interview, I realized that if I want to share my story, I need to gain more confidence in my delivery. That I need to go deep within myself to decid what is important to share; to get rid of the shame and own my story.
And so that is what I have spent the last months trying to do. It is not easy. It involves a lot of soul searching. I also realize that it was my very first podcast; the very first time I told my story publicly.
It is hard. It is scary. But I am committed to tell my story with ease and without shame—one day.