Q&A with MaryLou Wakefield, Question 4:
Q: In the very first entry in your blog last year, you wrote about the blog describing your husband’s effort to complete a solo non-stop westward circumnavigation: “I was part of an amazing story-telling blog a few years ago that did change lives. Mine for one.” Can you talk a bit about how the experience and the blog changed your life?
I’d love to. It’s a big story (we’re working on a book), but I’ll try to keep it short. It was one of the most profound experiences I’ve ever been involved with for a lot of reasons. In 2007, my husband Glenn set out on a very personal journey to fulfill what was his lifelong dream. He attempted a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation from Victoria, B.C., Canada. I created a website and blog named after our boat, Kim Chow, called www.kimchowaroundtheworld.com. It was a way to keep family and friends up to date without having to send dozens of emails.
Glenn was adamant from the outset that he didn’t want a media frenzy so we kept the details of his departure quiet until a few days before he left. On departure day, the media showed up and the story made the local TV, radio and print news. The story went national, and the day before he left (Sept 23, 2007), an astonishing thing happened. I got dozens of emails from complete strangers across Canada who wanted him to know they supported him. Glenn was astounded that so many people took the time to reach out to him with personal, heartfelt messages.
Every day, I posted to the blog about his progress. This was straight-up stuff about what he was feeling out there on his own, the hardships, the weather challenges, the exhilaration, the loneliness, the daily challenge to keep the boat going, etc. It was honest and heartfelt. Within weeks we had hundreds and then thousands of people following, asking questions about him, the boat, the preparations, what he was eating, his motivation, his family, me, etc. I found myself, unexpectedly, at was the hub of this global communications wheel in addition to my full-time day job and family responsibilities. It was often overwhelming and at the same time inspiring. I got email from kids in Saskatchewan who were following his journey as part of their geography curriculum. There were requests from the media around the world wanting interviews and stories, which I was happy to provide. I posted questions, and when he wrote back, posted his answers. More blog posts, more questions, more answers and a lot more drama. In the end we had about 50,000 hits to the site from people in 109 countries. Most of them checked in every day to follow him, and many took time to write an email to me to tell me how his journey had made an impact on their life and their family’s life. That drama unfolded for seven and a half months (220 days) until his boat capsized off Cape Horn after five days of severe, relentless storms. He was injured, rescued by the Argentinian navy, and, in the end we lost our boat. So, how did all that change my life.
I was tested in more ways than I could have ever imagined, and on so many levels, not just as a storyteller. It was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. And here’s the thing that has stayed with me. I was fully engaged every step of the way and felt privileged to be on the receiving end of the most honest, heartfelt messages from hundreds of strangers around the world who told me Glenn was an inspiration to them and that I was the bravest person they knew. Messages from kids who called Glenn their hero, and folks who wished they could somehow help Glenn after he abandoned his dream, and who have since told him how much his courage inspired them to do things they thought they couldn’t possibly do. Because of all that, I now know more than ever before and in the most personal way, that story has immense power and that the human spirit is truly amazing; never to be underestimated.
(Footnote: Glenn is planning a second attempt at a solo non-stop circumnavigation from Victoria, BC, Canada, in the summer/fall of 2012 and I’ll be here telling the story online).