Joshua and I have spent hours over the past few months, talking about the things we’ve seen and done in the past and how much more we want to see and do in the future. Outdoor adventures. Self-sufficient living. Ambitious goals of exploring new, unusual destinations. Although I believe that we still do and see a lot more than some people, we are also prone to fall into the routine of working long weeks and spending weekends filled with housework and food shops, instead of making time to follow those goals, to go on those adventures, to do those things that make our eyes shine and our hearts beat…
In December, we were having coffee at Al Raha beach and I was scanning the Abu Dhabi Week magazine. I never seem to find anything exciting in it, but I still pick it up almost ever week, flick through it quickly, and then drop it back on the stand for other readers.
Page 2, 3, 4…. 7, 8, 9… 20, 21, 22… hang on??!! Backtrack. Top of page 21. What the … ?? “Women called upon for arctic adventure“. You must be kidding me. I raced through the text (while Joshua was telling me a very important story of which I don’t recall a word) and then slowly slid the magazine over to him. This! This is awesome! Imagine – such an amazing place, what a challenge for oneself and a team, reaching the North Pole on skis, as part of an all female team from Europe and the Middle East, led by two women! Simply amazing, the idea. This, is an ambitious goal. An adventure. But it is much more than just an adventure.
In short, the polar explorers Felicity Aston and Jules Lewis are searching for 12 women from Europe and the Middle East to form a team that will cross the ice on skis to the North Pole in April 2017. Trecking 100 km over 10 days. And there is so much more to this idea besides the personal achievement. Being a European who lives in the Middle East, I am very close to the subject of integration. I am a German trying to integrate into the UAE, I work at a multicultural educational institution, and I am closely following the news about the issues that are unfolding in Europe due to over a million migrants arriving in 2015. There’s a gap and a lot of misunderstanding between the European and Middle Eastern cultures that needs to be addressed and bridged in a constructive way, and the current migrant crisis is proof that this is a pressing issue. Besides the cultural aspect, there’s the fact that this expedition, led by two amazing female role models, will be conducted by an all female team. Although I am used to working in male-dominated environments, and I enjoy activities that are not necessarily “girly” in some people’s books (especially my parents!), I continue to experience how difficult it can be to prove yourself as a women. A lot of gender inequality still exists, including in the more developed countries. If I take myself as an example, I still look to my husband and my male counterparts for guidance – not because I couldn’t make the decisions or fulfil the tasks myself, but because of a self doubt that I believe is still instilled in girls in various ways by our society today. I think that an ambitious endeavour, such as reaching the North Pole, will have a significant impact on all team members, and that it will resonate with many women across the globe. If you can reach the North Pole, what can’t you do??
Upon returning home from the beach, I went straight to Felicity Aston’s page and started reading about the expedition. I typed up my application and sent it off. Within 48 hours I couldn’t control myself and had to message Felicity to ask when candidates would hear back. Good on her for being so kind to get back to me: interviews will not take place before February.
Since that day I have been bouncing around like a little child. I know that there will be hundreds of women out there who will be equally as excited and probably a lot more prepared for such an expedition than myself, but I hope I get to interview stage in February, to introduce myself to Felicity and Jules and tell them why I would love to join them on this great mission.
And if I don’t make the cut off? Well, then I guess I’ll have to find my own team to treck to the North Pole with me in 2017. But it would be a different story to be told, than that of Felicity’s and Julie’s great endeavour, to bridge a gap between cultures and to empower women from across Europe and the Middle East. And that is a very big part of why I want to join this particular expedition.
No matter if you want to go to the North Pole or not, you should definitely check out the webpages, Facebook pages and podcasts of these inspiring ladies. Felicity has written some great books, which I am currently devouring, which give you a glimpse of a trip to the ice. Fascinating and very well written.
…. Update May 2016…
There were almost 1000 applications for Felicity Aston’s team, and unfortunately I didn’t make the cut, but I believe that is not a bad thing. Having to plan my own journey will be an even greater challenge and will force me to, for once, lead the way instead of follow. Bring it on! Updates to follow as the plan comes together… and all the best to the chosen team. I am sure it will be an amazing adventure!