Felicity Aston – on victories, solitude & dealing with friends crisis
Maybe you’ve never heard of Felicity Aston and you don’t know anything about her mental power and her strong will, but the following few minutes will be a good emotional investment and a beautiful life lesson.
Felicity Aston is 33 years old. She’s a British writer and explorer. At the end of 2011, Felicity traveled 1.700 kilometers on a route that no one had skied before, to hit the South Pole, in a Kaspersky One Transantarctic expedition. The expedition took 70 days
and beyond the physical performance there was (and there is) an incredible exercise of will.
Felicity had been ALONE during this expedition and had to fight not only with the most freezing cold, but also with her own mind.
Imagine 70 days of struggle, when your body suffers biological changes because of the cold and the atmospheric pressure, when you have to force your brain to keep alert. And these are 70 days when you can’t say a word; you can’t talk to anyone, not to mention haveing a shoulder to cry on.
I sent Felicity some questions before she left for the expedition. (Thank you Kaspersky Romania for all the help). She answered just a few days after she came back.
You said that you wanted to become the first person to cross Antarctica alone using only muscle power, but your adventure to Antarctica is more than a “power muscle” one. It would be nice and motivational for us if you would explain a little about your psychological training. How are you preparing to deal with the solitude on this trip?
I prepared with the help of a sports psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire who introduced me to techniques that would help me cope with solitude. However, much of the psychology of the journey was very unexpected. I found the experience of being alone more emotional than I imagined and this aspect of the expedition was by far harder than the physical challenge.
I’m sure that, during your past expeditions, there were difficult moments. Could you describe one of them? And, most important for me, could you describe what you told to yourself in your mind to go forward in such moments?
During team expeditions I found it was much worse to realize that a team-mate was in danger than to be in danger yourself. When you are in a crisis the adrenalin kicks in but watching someone else in a hazardous situation is terrifying.
When on my own, what was so frightening was the realization that I was completely responsible for myself – there was no one to raise the alarm or who was able to come to help in a hurry. What makes you move forward is the understanding that there is little choice; either you find a way to move past the danger or you stop and the expedition is over.
You’ve prepared a long time for this solo expedition (all your previous expeditions are part of this), but I suppose it was a time when you decided that NOW you’re ready for a solo one (the toughest). Could you describe that time, how did you realize that you were ready?
Two years ago I skied to the South Pole leading a team of international women during Kaspersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition. When we arrived at the Pole, at the end of our journey, I remember looking beyond the pole and thinking that I would like to go on – and, more importantly, that I knew I could go on.
How does the expedition look like for your family? Your parents?
I have been going away on expeditions to the Polar Regions for more than 10 years now, so they are used to me going even if they don’t like to ask for too many details about what I will be doing and the potential dangers. My mum and my sister didn’t like the idea of me being alone – and so they are particularly glad to have me back home safely.
What will you eat during all this time on ice? (and from that part, do you have a favorite meal, any food that you’ll miss it during the expedition? )
I eat porridge or instant noodles for breakfast with coffee and for dinner I eat a Fuizion Freeze Dried meal followed by lots of chocolate and a High 5 Protein drink. During the day I graze on a bag of chocolate, nuts and sweets. I also take a number of different vitamin and mineral supplements with breakfast and dinner.
I didn’t really crave any food but I was upset when my one pot of peanut butter finally ran out. A spoonful of peanut butter had been my daily treat!
What do you like to do in your “civilian” life, when you are not on the mountains?
I am very fortunate to make a living from what I love to do. I have always enjoyed writing and now I also give talks professionally – I think it is the act of telling a story, whether in text or verbally, that I enjoy.
And also, it would be very nice if you ‘ll explain a little about how do you see the victories. In this kind of expeditions but also in life. (I have to admit that I suppose your perceptions about victories different about most of us: for exemple, at the end of this expedition you ‘ll celebrate your victory alone, it will be a victory for yourself. Us, “the others”, are used to obtain victory for people’s recognition & celebration, too.)
My foremost emotion when I finished the expedition was relief. Relief that I was safe now and could relax, relief that I hadn’t let anyone down (such as sponsors Kaspersky Lab and supporters who had gone out of their way to allow me the opportunity) and relief that this dream, this itch, had finally been scratched.
But that relief and sense of satisfaction was tempered with sadness that my big adventure was over. When I was told that the plane was on its way to pick me up I felt panick that those were my last moments alone in Antarctica – an incredible priviledge. Even now, I have a longing to see that awesome landscape again.
I know Felicity Aston impressed you with her mixture of force, ambition and vulnerability. Yet, please read once again the answer at the second question: Felicity speaks about the force you find in yourself when in extreme situations and the helplessness when it comes to others.
It’s the same with life, not only expeditions: sometimes we’d like to help someone around us, but the only thing we are able to do is to let that person find a solution himself. And when he can’t, his failure breaks us apart more powerful than our own crisis.