Stop Drifting and Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific

Image of Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman's Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific
Release Date: 
October 15, 2013
Hay House
Reviewed by: 

According to Roz Savage every day is a choice: You can drift along or work. Drifting can be very pleasant. Work requires purposeful, intentional effort. Your life outcomes derive from this choice: do you drift or do you work? Meaningful destinations, after all, require work.

Roz Savage in Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific makes her case for the purposefulness of work combining the case for a sustainable environmental ethic with harrowing adventure stories of her quest to row the entirety of the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Australia.

Her story is a metaphor for life for out on the ocean—on some days great progress was made. But on other days, despite her best efforts, rowing long and hard, she was forced back by uncooperative currents.

A clear undercurrent of her story about the high points and low points of the process of rowing across the Pacific Ocean is the extraordinary focus, intentionality, and logistics acumen necessary to pull off such an audacious endeavor.

Clearly, the analytic discipline and structured thinking of her management consulting background were crucial as she “began to compile a grand to-do list of all of the things I would need to read, learn, finance, buy and otherwise do . . . had broken the list down to such small steps that there was nothing too far outside of my existing abilities. It felt as if everything that had happened so far in my life had been leading me to this point, preparing me for this task, and that I was uniquely equipped to pursue this quest. It was a perfect collision of personality, past experience, purpose, and timing.”

Concerning the extraordinary challenge of her path, she writes, “it’s easy to believe that you’ve got it all figured out when you are on dry land, but the ocean has a way of upsetting everything you thought you knew.”

Her prior adventure crossing the Atlantic Ocean “had forced me to develop formidable resilience to suffering.” Even so, the combination of circumstances—mechanical problems, injuries, adverse headwinds—taught her “humility about my ability to control circumstances. I had come to expect and accept difficulties as a normal mode of life at sea. I was resigned to the fact that there would always be problems—it was just a matter of how many and how serious.”

Notwithstanding the philosophical inevitability of such problems, she writes that on her rowing the Pacific Ocean journey, “a steady increase in problems was threatening every aspect of my expedition. But there was never a single moment when everything was bad all at once . . . it never reached crisis point and I just kept doggedly hanging in there.”

A précis of this book is reflected in its contents. After the introduction Dream Big, Change Your Life, successive chapters address facing and embracing failure, the kindness of strangers, ultimate flexibility, the universe will provide, we create our future, I am not my thoughts, one world, do not look outside yourself for the leader, and achievement.

She is emphatic about being as low impact in her life as possible, for “ever since I had my environmental epiphany and started to perceive the earth as the ultimate closed-loop system, I had been unable to acquire or dispose of anything without considering where it had come from and where it was going to end up . . . my principles applied no less on the ocean than they did on dry land. Nature would not care whether I had an excuse.”

In this regard she relates how she “didn’t need to worry about water for laundry. As had become traditional in ocean-rowing circles, I normally row naked once out of site of land as it reduces chaffing and is generally more hygienic.”

Rather than sermonizing expressly her advocacy for environmental awareness and conscious conduct, Roz Savage communicates her message through stories of her experiences, expressing the lessons she has learned as deriving from the choices she has made and their consequences—arguably a more effective means of persuasion.

The author observes, “we are all making a difference, as it is up to us to choose what kind of difference it is . . . one person at a time, we change the definition of generally accepted behavior . . . through the steady accumulation of our positive actions we create real change in the world. The collective significance of our choices becomes clearer.”

Though Roz Savage rowed alone on the ocean, her adventures necessarily involve extraordinary support from a phenomenal number of people: more than 100 are mentioned in her acknowledgement section.

This good read combines educating about the environment, inspiring the pursuit of audacious personal goals, and describing the adventurous resolve needed to accomplish great things.