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14th March: Setting sail


I’ve probably never jumped out of bed more readily at the sound of the alarm, as I did this morning. A quick bite and a complete injustice to the scrumptious spread of breakfast later, we had our first official expedition team session with all participants in one room. We met our pre-assigned teams which are named after famous explorers. I am in team Kershaw, named after an Ace pilot and a celebrated polar explorer John Kershaw who has been attributed to numerous records in Polar Aviation and also the famous exploration ‘In the footsteps of Scott’.

Robert Swan’s opening speech was incredible. He is even more charismatic in real life than on the TED stage. Apparently he adapts to his audience. How does he do that with such ease and charm? I can’t wait for the Public speaking sessions and training from him later in the expedition! The sessions set great expectations of what lies ahead with an unsaid promise that we will not be disappointed. We were briefed on what the coming 15 days hold for us and introduced to the 2041 team and the team leaders who will be conducting our sessions on Leadership, experts on climate change and Glaciology, Social Media gurus and Storytellers.

Something that really struck me in one of the talks was the concept of the “Zone of Sacrifice.” Our leadership Coach Nigel Pine in his session titled “Personal Leadership insight” through a very simple graph talked about how most people lead their lives just “sustaining” themselves. Sustaining is the optimal spot at the intersection of surviving, stimulating and sacrificing. If you are just sustaining, you are definitely doing a better job than just surviving on the bare minimum, but chances are you are either sacrificing your innate dream (or a deep longing) OR you are not in an environment that simulates you enough every day!

Now this concept for me personally hit the nail on its head because you see, I believe I suffer from something that I like to call “the buddha Syndrome”. Just like Gautam buddha renounced his worldly pleasures to take up monkhood after seeing the suffering in the world, I often feel convicted, grossly undeserving of the entitlement and acutely aware of the privileges I am born with. I often find myself sacrificing all sorts of things for friends, loved ones, family and sometimes even complete strangers; from the larger half of the choco chip cookie to the last available free promotional sample. Think about it: you cannot be in a position to truly help someone or add value by being in the zone of suffering for you can make a larger impact as a person who is Succeeding. Nigel’s point is, in order for you to truly Succeed in life you need to take a step further from sustaining- “if you are a great person in a bad environment- get out of there!- surround yourself with magnificent people” and “Stop beating yourself up- have the courage to walk away- walk away from the Sacrifice Syndrome.”

After the sessions, we all were shuttled in groups to the city center for any last minute shopping for essentials, missing gear and a quick bite. All teams were asked to report to the Obelisk at the city center at dot 1:30 to be taken to the dock to embark the Ocean Endeavour.

The ship is huge! Even though the Ocean Endeavour comes under the category of a “small expedition ship” that can hold 350 guests and staff. And that’s small? I’ve never been on a ship before, least of all on a cruise ship!  It is like a luxury hotel inside a ship. Totally felt my Buddha Syndrome kicking in. There was an incredible excitement on the dock as for all 140 of us, this was it! Today was the day!  This was the moment! There was this sweet frenzy in the air, cameras, country flags, sponsor logos, selfie sticks… Rob was shuffling around, kind enough to oblige to every group. It’s like he never says no, for anything.

We all got assigned our rooms and roommates, depending on the room type we signed up for. By the time we settled in, my roommate and I shared half our entire life histories and career trajectories, the PA system had an announcement for all of us to get onto the bow of the ship, for we were setting sail!

The excitement in the air was palpable. I remember having goose bumps, which were not caused by the chill in the air but by people howling and hooting in unison with the Ship’s blow horn as we were leaving the dock. I felt like we were a bunch of kids waving at an airplane in the sky as we were waving at people on the dock, jumping about with smiles on all our faces.

After a five-course welcome dinner and conversations, and enough time on the deck marveling at the vast ocean and a zillion stars in the sky, it’s time to brace ourselves for the much talked about Drake. We are all set as we already drake proofed our room.