Explorer Sarah Marquis was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2014. It has been said that she knows more about surviving in the wild than any other female hiker. The New York Times Magazine praised her efforts as an internal exploration into "the nature of fear, the limits of stamina and self-reliance." An international bestselling author, her most recent book, Wild By Nature, is a riveting memoir of one woman's 10,000-mile solo trek from Siberia to Southern Australia. Stay Thirsty Magazine was thrilled to catch-up with her during her recent trip to Thailand for this Conversation.
STAY THIRSTY: Your book, Wild By Nature, recounts your three-year solo foot trek from Siberia to Southern Australia. When did the idea of this adventure come to you and how long did it take you to prepare for it?
SARAH MARQUIS: It did take me two years of preparation. There is a huge part of planification, physical training, visa authorization and then, on top of it, there is the time I've spend pitching for support, partenaires, etc. An expedition can be built only if you've got an entrepreneur mind. In fact, when the time arrives where I have to start walking, fifty percent of the journey it's already done. All together this expedition took five years.
STAY THIRSTY: How did you pick this particular route for your walk and what was it about that part of the globe that attracted your attention and interest?
SARAH MARQUIS: I never choose a destination…the destination chooses me.
STAY THIRSTY: Of course on everyone's mind is the danger for a single woman crossing great stretches of wilderness and encountering threatening animals or men. How did you protect yourself from becoming a victim of physical or sexual abuse during your journey? Did you ever think that you should have brought a firearm with you? Or a satellite phone in case you became injured or very sick?
SARAH MARQUIS: If you think firearms can help you, you are already dead. Firearms are a fake power. The real power is to be able to read people and animal behaviors, body languages, to use our instincts and ability to adjust and face emergencies. Give a firearm to somebody and he will find a sense of security wrongly earned. Without knowing, he becomes his worst enemy.
STAY THIRSTY: You have said that to explore the world you need to have inspiration, vision, a dream and you must believe in the project. Did you ever doubt your faith in yourself or in your quest and consider giving up along the way?
SARAH MARQUIS: Giving up, it's never been an option. When you decide to put one step after another across the world with your house on your back, of course, difficult times will arise, danger will come, but what's more important, it's all the rest…our capacity to adjust to everything – pains, limits, weather conditions. It's like being in a washing machine for the first six months. It's like a cleaning process. One day, I woke up and I found harmony within my surroundings and myself. It's like a warm feeling where I can feel in every breath, my sense of belonging to everything around me. It's a work in process one step at the time and still is. It's a humbling road, but it's all so worth it.
STAY THIRSTY: Being flexible seems to be one of the hallmarks of your success as you encountered the unknown. And being resourceful obviously allowed you to survive in hostile conditions. Were you always, even as a child, flexible in your behavior and resourceful in your thinking or were these learned traits?
SARAH MARQUIS: It's a life journey where curiosity always teaches me something along the way. I've learned from my own experiences, but I can't really say that because we are all connected. We meet the situation we need to learn from. I find out that the world is like a giant sticky map and it doesn't matter where you put your feet on, we are indirectly influencing every minute of our day and others around us. We all are under nature's law, but we forget about it. In nature, every one of my actions has a direct positive or negative outcome. There is no seat for a manipulator, fake, games, etc. Every action you undertake comes back to you directly. It's probably one of many reasons I love it so much.
STAY THIRSTY: You have said that "nature doesn't need us, we need nature." How did you arrive at that observation and what does it mean to you? How important is it for people to focus on creating sustainable opportunities for the future of our planet?
SARAH MARQUIS: Over the course of the last 23 years I've circumnavigated the planet once on foot, then I stopped counting. I've spent so much time alone in nature to see the power of nature. How arrogant we are as humans to believe that we are superior to everything. We destroy our land, air, kill our closest relatives (animals) to feed ourselves. Fast productions of meat have been destroying the land and kill our consciousness one bite at the time. This planet is dying. But we all forget, we all have the same address: Planet Earth
STAY THIRSTY: You have said that while walking there was "nothing in my head" and that you were living in the present. Back in civilization after your journey, are you still able to maintain that state of mind or does life and society intervene?
SARAH MARQUIS: It's an interesting question really. This state of mind is so precious and sensible that when I comeback, it's not as sharp, and if I don't look after it, it fades away. It's a constant reminder.
STAY THIRSTY: What part of the world do you plan to explore on your next journey?
SARAH MARQUIS: I will keep you posted. The next project is in its early stage. I just came back from a three-month survival expedition called "Dropped into the Wild Corner" in the Northern part of Australia. I've been living off the land like the aborigines before. It was the hardest expedition I have ever undertaken. I've been living in the middle of saltwater crocodile country and snakes with empty stomachs while walking 500 miles. I'm writing a book about it right now. The good news is… I survived!