Vicarious ventures

Reading about other people’s adventures can be a great way to pass the time and broaden your own horizons from home. Sophie Slaney rounds up five suggestions from the British Rowing community

Row for Freedom by Julia Immonen

“Some of the most amazing challenges are not measured in miles travelled but in the character changes that occur within us during a journey.

Row for Freedom chronicles the journey that Julia Immonen faces during her row across the Atlantic in the first five-woman crew to attempt the route. However, it’s also about the dramatic emotional and spiritual journey she experienced as a child and in her personal life in the months prior to the start.

Hearing how Julia overcomes so many obstacles is beyond inspiring as the crew make it across the ocean, setting two world records in the process.”

Chosen by Chris Martin – former GB rower, part of the first crew to row the Pacific Ocean from west to east, organiser of the Great Pacific Race with New Ocean Wave.

Looking for Mrs Livingstone by Julie Davidson

“This is a staggering adventure story of an extraordinary woman.

Husband to the indomitable 19th-century explorer David Livingstone, Mary Livingstone’s own tale tells of a quiet but immensely courageous woman. She was the first known woman to cross the Kalahari Desert, which she did both pregnant and without food for four days. But unlike her husband who’s buried in Westminster Abbey, she’s buried under a baobab tree on the banks of the Zambezi River next to a decrepit missionary outpost in a remote corner of Mozambique.

Julie Davidson’s book is part semi-biographical but also an enthralling adventure as she travels around Southern Africa in search of Mary’s footsteps. What I find so inspiring about the book is it’s at once a story of an incredible adventurer, but also a history that is inextricably linked with the story of modern Africa. Even today her name is known widely throughout Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe – yet she is someone all but forgotten in the UK.”

Chosen by Ollie Cook – GB rower and member of the 2011 Row Zambezi expedition; the first time the Upper Zambezi had been rowed, raising money for Village Water.

Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

“Having read Adrift I became fascinated with Callahan’s experience and wondered how I would have behaved in similar circumstances.

It played a large part in my decision to do the 2009 Atlantic Rowing Race, which I entered more as a chance to experience the middle of a vast wilderness from the perspective of a small boat. The crossing allowed me to encounter the same kind of wildlife, weather and sea conditions that Callahan would have experienced on his journey, albeit from a slightly more comfortable viewpoint. That said, I can’t think of anyone who has ever rowed an ocean who would describe the experience as ‘comfortable’!

I would recommend Adrift as an inspirational story, not just to sailors, but to anyone faced with hardship of any kind.”

Chosen by Phil Pring – participant in the 2009 Atlantic Rowing Race, gig rower and British Rowing staff member.

Life and Limb: A True Story of Tragedy and Survival by Jamie Andrew

“Life and Limb describes the tragic climb that saw Jamie’s best friend die after five nights trapped in an Alpine storm, the loss of both of his hands and feet, and his recovery to an active and fulfilled life. As someone who likes to think she was once an athlete, I never tire of stories of amazing people who have gone through hell and learnt to accept a traumatic change to their physical self that affects every aspect of their life.

Jamie’s sense of humour and love of life, even at the darkest moments, is particularly apparent when he writes about those he climbed with and with whom he built such close relationships. He paints a wonderful picture of the mountains and glaciers that he clearly loves and avoids too much detail about crampons and bivvy bags (and other technical terms). Read it!”

Chosen by Annamarie Phelps – Olympian, former World Champion and former Chair of British Rowing.

A World of My Own: The First Ever Non-stop Solo Round the World Voyage by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

“This very readable tale of the first non-stop, solo, round-the- world voyage, tells an astonishing story of a 313 day, 30,000 nautical mile voyage, beset by equipment failures, and requiring astonishing ingenuity and perseverance. For me, the most surprising bit is not just how Knox-Johnston coped without the benefit of GPS, a satellite phone, or even fleeces, but that all this happened only a few months before the first moon landing.

Books like this give you a great sense of perspective. I mean, if a human can do all THAT at a time when it was considered literally as hard as rocket science, everything else seems so much more achievable in comparison.”

Chosen by Helena Smalman-Smith – ocean rower and expedition rowing enthusiast.