March 30, 2018
I recently read an article about a Polish man who kayaked across the Atlantic Ocean three times, at 70 years old.
Alexsander Doba did it alone. The longest trip took him 110 days. His wife remained in Poland, throwing herself into her work as a social worker, not wanting to think about if he was above or below the water.
He had a friend text him the weather forecast every morning. He ate freeze-dried food, his wife’s plum jam, and the occasional raw fish that flopped onto his lap.
He got caught in a storm once, was thrown out of his kayak, and the rope that tethered him snapped. He woke up washed up on a beach to the sound of screaming — his own.
His response to the reporter when she asked about this experience was: He doesn’t want to die peacefully in his bed.
Something about this article, written by New York Times journalist Elizabeth Weil, stuck out to me. This man is, by our standards, elderly. He risked his life in a major way not once, but three times. He left when he knew his family and friends would worry and wonder if he was alive.
But overall, he wasn’t afraid to encounter the suffering that would undeniably come. Weeks alone on the water, sleeping in tight quarters, avoiding sharks, and battling the raging storms that arose out of nowhere.
Alexsander is without a doubt a courageous and motivated man who does not let his age define what he can do. He is anything but elderly, and he is not afraid to take a risk.
However, there is a presence in this article who is mentioned a handful of times that is just as striking — his wife Gabriela and the support she (sometimes unwillingly) gives.
This woman stands by his side even as he is thousands of miles away. Gabriela doesn’t want to talk to him on his trips just to be reminded of her own worry. She waits patiently in Poland for his return but doesn’t put her life on hold. Gabriela kayaks across her own Atlantic by her rewarding career helping young mothers, the unemploye and those struggling with alcoholism. She was “a little pissed” he was going on his third trans-Atlantic trip, but she also knew her husband could not be contained. This was how she loves him and that struck me the most. She supported her husband doing a difficult and daunting task — but also didn’t put her life on hold while he was gone and accomplished work just as rewarding.
Both of these humans show courage, determination, motivation, but above all, strength to be pushed out of their comfort zones, to take on the challenge that’s been proposed to them. I am incredibly motivated by their story. Imagine what we all could be capable of if we just pushed ourselves a little more each day.
April 17, 2018