It’s Not Magic, It’s Mindset

Those words might sounds cliché, but when you say them after rowing 111 days across an entire ocean, well then those words pack a punch!

 

Debra Searle is a professional adventurer. As a young girl, she was told this career didn’t exist, so she made up her mind to create it. And create it she did! Skiing around the arctic circle, canoe racing down the Yukon, cycle racing in the Pyrenees Mountains, sailing around Antarctica, Debra Searle has created not just a career in adventure taking but also four businesses and two beautiful children.

 

She’s been recognized twice by her Majesty the Queen of England. Featured over 40 times on the BBC, presented at TEDx, is the subject of a forthcoming Hollywood movie, and now she sits down with StillStoked as we talk about how to be a mom while living your dreams, rowing alone in the middle of the ocean right after your partner has to get rescued, and using Google calendar to schedule whose turn it is to cook dinner!

 

Im convinced that if we choose the right attitude, even when faced with what can sometimes feel like insurmountable hurdles, anything is possible. We always have a choice.

 

Reading in a sleeping bag at night
Debra teaches people how to stay positive despite the harshest conditions

 

Debra Searle reminds us that men are never asked who is at home watching the children. That adventurous moms MUST adventure. That programming your subconscious creates your reality… and that if there is no evidence that you aren’t cut out for the challenge, then you are!

We hope you are as inspired as we are!

 

The Debra Searle Interview:

 

It wasn’t obvious how I would get there as there were no female role models back in the 1990s.

 

As a young girl, you knew you wanted to be an “adventurer” aka a job that didn’t really exist. Did you feel different from other girls your age?

I knew I wanted to be an Adventurer from my early teens. I remember even telling my career advisor at school that I was going to be a Professional Adventurer and she laughed at me and said it ‘wasn’t a career for a young lady’. I would avidly read books by famous British Explorers and think – I want your job! But it wasn’t obvious how I would get there as there were no female role models back in the 1990s.

The fear was that I might not make it. But I never gave up on the dream. When we run mental movies of the future truths we want for our lives, neuroscience tells us that we train our subconscious brain to find ways to make it a reality. My subconscious came up trumps for me!

 

She laughed at me and said it ‘wasn’t a career for a young lady’

 

Woman in kayak at a waterfall

 

The next 3½ months saw me battling 30-foot waves, hurricane force winds, sharks, near misses with container ships and the most debilitating loneliness.

 

 

What are your favourite adventures you’ve been on? What were some of the most mentally challenging?

I’ve loved all of them but for different reasons.

Without a doubt, the toughest mentally was when I spent 111 days rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean. It was mentally tough because I hadn’t planned to row alone. I started with my then-husband, but he had to be rescued soon after we started. He was suffering from a phobia of open ocean that we had no idea he had. I chose to go on alone, in an attempt to finish it for both of us.

The next 3½ months saw me battling 30-foot waves, hurricane force winds, sharks, near misses with container ships and the most debilitating loneliness, as I didn’t have a support boat next to me. Being alone out there for such a long time with the rescue boat often 2 weeks away was terrifying, especially at night. There is now a Hollywood movie in development about my Atlantic row, but as it won’t be out for two years check out my TEDx talk in the meantime. It will be interesting to see if the movie even remotely reflects the story I tell on stage!

 

Debra Searle in a Row Boat

 

I loved the Yukon River Quest canoe adventure for the sheer remoteness of it all and having the chance to see bears and moose in their natural environment as we drifted by.

I loved sailing around Antarctica in freezing temperatures because the Southern Ocean was so raw – almost violent – and made the Atlantic seem like a millpond.

I’ve loved many of the long bike rides, like cycling from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean via the Pyrenees mountains, because it required me to dig deep and force myself back on that saddle every day with a very sore bum!

 

Cycle Racing

 

But some of the shorter ones have been immense fun and challenging for different reasons. The Vogalonga is a crazy race in traditional wooden crafts, around the lagoon and canals of Venice, Italy. It was such a spectacle and to see somewhere as beautiful as Venice from that vantage point, with thousands of local people hanging off the bridges and cheering was an experience unlike any other.

 

What I love that is common to all of them is the utter beauty of these places, having to navigate (I love a good map and compass!), being resourceful, having to push myself mentally and physically beyond anything I ever thought was possible, and the inner journey I go on in order to reach my destination.

 

You say there was a moment while rowing solo, in a near miss with a container ship when everything had to change for you. But was this one moment enough to change everything or have you had to really work to make positive attitude choices? If so, what practices do you have around this?

The Atlantic row forced me to find a whole load of Attitude Tools, perhaps because it was such a survival situation! Having a near-death experience was definitely the kick up the arse that I needed to change my mindset. It is not, however, something that can be learned in one go. Like a muscle, it needs training. I have to consciously practice choosing the right attitude – especially when things go wrong or life gets busy. ‘Choose Your Attitude’ is a practical exercise I developed that I used every morning at sea, and still use every morning now.

 

I believe I made it because I chose my attitude daily and listed the benefits that would come from sticking to that attitude, which trained the subconscious part of my brain to look for opportunities to make those potential benefits a reality.

 

I’m convinced that if we choose the right attitude, even when faced with what can sometimes feel like insurmountable hurdles, anything is possible. We always have a choice.

 

Debra Searle Meditating
Debra Searle takes focused time to choose her attitude

 

You are married and you have kids, four businesses AND you go on constant adventures. WHAT?! We have so many questions about this!
#1 Before you were married did you ever give up committed healthy relationships for the sake of adventure? What is different now?

I only ever dated adventurous people and that meant I never had to compromise on the adventures I wished to go on. They just got it!

 

#2 Do your children or your partner ever prevent you from signing up for an adventure you really want to do? If so, why is the trade-off worth it to you?

When I met my husband Tim, who I have been married to for nearly 14 years now, I was in the thick of my adventure career and working for the BBC making documentaries about them. Consequently, he’s only ever known me as ‘adventurous Debra’ and so we’ve never had it any other way.

 

Debra Searle's Family

 

I’m very aware that I am in a rare position, married to a man who is incredibly secure in himself and devoted to our little family. He has almost certainly made sacrifices for my career, but we made those decisions together based on very practical elements. He is a brilliant composite engineer who does very technical work, like developing airplane wings for Airbus. Because he loves his job, he graciously works his hours around the school drop off and pick ups, during the days I am working overseas.

When I’m back, I’m in full Mummy mode and am able to release some of the pressure off him. It takes constant juggling. We sit together on Sunday nights with our laptops open on our shared electronic calendar and plan out who is cooking, dropping the kids at school on which days and all the other family logistics that need planning to make it run smoothly.

 

#3 When your children were very little I assume your life had to change a lot. What did that look like and how did you deal with that?

Having two children has definitely changed things. They are so much fun to be around that I don’t have any desire to do long expeditions anymore. We decided that while they were still under 3 years old, I would only ever go on trips that were a week or less in duration. At 5 years old, that moved to two-week trips. I only ever do one big trip a year these days. I have traveled internationally, mostly motivational speaking and seeing clients for our other business (Mix Diversity Developers), ever since they were born so it’s completely their norm that Mummy is away some days.

I’m really grateful that I have a husband, who is an amazing Dad and shares parenting responsibilities so evenly. We also decided to get a cleaner who comes in once a week and it is the best money we spend each week! Our family life is very much a team effort.

 

Debra Searle Skiiing with husband
Debra Searle and Tim join forces to make adventure part of the family culture

 

Without fail, every week I get asked who is looking after the children while I am away, yet I have never once seen a man be asked that question.

#4 What do you say to a woman who says she wants a committed relationship and a family but doesn’t want to give up her wanderlust/adventure lifestyle?

I don’t see why any woman should compromise their passion for adventure. It makes us who we are. Have you noticed this is the type of question that men rarely get asked? Without fail, every week I get asked who is looking after the children while I am away. Yet I have never once seen a man be asked that question.

Our choice of life partner is so key, as these adventures require a huge amount of encouragement and patience from our loved ones. Obviously, you can’t predict who you will fall in love with, but if you only hang out with other adventurous types the chances are, you’ll find one who gets your mission!

When it comes to having children, that absolutely need not stop any women from adventuring. In fact, now we just take them with us. I LOVE going on mini adventures with them and it’s important to me to show my daughters how to be a strong, adventurous woman. We have to be their role models, so we MUST NOT STOP when kids come along!

 

I don’t want to ‘have it all’ but I do want to have a sense of balance and make sure that I enjoy the journey that I’m on.

 

#5 You are a mom, a wife, 1/2 of a set of twins, adventurer and a badass entrepreneur. How do you have time for all this? Are you stressed a lot of the time?

I don’t have time for it all! I’m constantly having to make choices. There are so many demands on our time that I find setting really clear goals at the start of the year helps me to prioritise the areas that I want and need to spend time on. I have 6 clear categories to make sure I don’t miss anything: Health, Work, Finances, Relationships, Fun and Giving Back. You can download the template I use. I review this every Sunday afternoon while sitting poolside waiting for my daughter to finish her swimming lesson.

I don’t want to ‘have it all’ but I do want to have a sense of balance and make sure that I enjoy the journey that I’m on. When I set my goals and plan out how to achieve them, I know I am less stressed and more able to be a better mum, wife, entrepreneur and friend.

 

Debra Searle at TEDx

 

The reality is, we all have self-liming beliefs, shaped by the knocks and scrapes of life, that hold us back.

 

Since the adventure lifestyle is non-traditional, many females in adventure sports feel a sense of striving or grasping, a need to prove their own validity. In some ways, many of us have moments of climbing mountains or jumping out of planes so that we have a picture to put in Instagram in order to say, “Look at me, am I good enough yet?” Have you ever faced questions of “am I enough?” and what do you do with that?

I’ve never had to face the ‘am I enough’ question about my adventurers as it is the one area of my life I have always felt confident about. But I have asked myself it plenty of times in relation to my business life, as I struggled for years with crippling self-doubt about my intelligence. The reality is, we all have self-liming beliefs, shaped by the knocks and scrapes of life, that hold us back.

I started adventuring at the start of the 90’s when the internet had hardly got going and before the creation of any social media sites. The landscape has changed so dramatically for adventurous women because we can visibly see other women out there doing exciting stuff. We have role models and can see options, but a key question we all have to ask ourselves is, “would I still take part in this adventure if no one knew I was doing it?” and “If there were no photos, videos or social media posts, would I still want to go?”.

 

Debra Searle rows the atlantic
The adventure is for the soul, not for the photo

 

Is there really any hard evidence that I’m not good enough? Would it hold up in a court of law?

 

I have got through those moments of doubt, limiting beliefs, and periods of imposter syndrome by seeking the evidence. I have to catch myself in the act and test my limiting belief. Where are the hard facts? Is there really any hard evidence that I’m not good enough? Would it hold up in a court of law? I think you’ll find it wouldn’t. When we analyse the evidence, it unearths the garbage we have been telling ourselves and exposes it for what it really is – untruths.

 

Favorite book?

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson was the first adventurous book I ever read and is an incredible story of resilience.

 

What advice to do have for your younger self?

Keep pushing yourself outside your comfort zones as it is where you will make the greatest step changes in life. If it seems scary, just focus on controlling the controllables until the comfort zone shifts towards you and don’t waste time and energy on things outside of your control.

 

Sailboat in antarctica
Debra sails the Southern Ocean leg of the Global Challenge Round The World Yacht Race, sailing against the prevailing winds and tides

 

We want more!

Wow Debra Searle! We are seriously inspired! To have a little bit of Debra’s zest for life, rub off on you, check out her amazing vlog The Choose Your Attitude Show.  They are a bitesize mindset and motivation training with quite a lot of storytelling about how she use them in my own life.

You can find it on Instagram and Facebook or you can sign up for the email version on her website.

 


Love reading interviews with strong courageous women out there trail-blazing their own path? Well, you’re in luck because we love interviewing them! Check out our interview section for more chats with these amazing female role models.

 

I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here www.melanielainewilliams.com

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