What would you do if someone gave you the opportunity to fulfil your long held dream?
In 2009 that is exactly what happened to Ed Wardle.
He had already successfully climbed Everest, and was a producer and cameraman of some experience. Since childhood he had longed to try surviving alone in the extreme wilderness. This is something that many males have secretly imagine that we can do, disappearing silently into the dense forest for a Rambo like existence. Emerging years later tanned and muscular like Tarzan with an ability to communicate fluently with animals.
Our camping trip last weekend was one of mixed fortune, free foraged food but also non starting fires because of damp wood. Thank goodness for nearby convenience stores!
So in 2009 National Geographic and UK channel 4 funded Mr Wardle to go to the Yukon for 3 months. He would be given basic rations, several cameras, two guns, an axe, a knife, fire flints, a canoe, a portable shelter, electric bear fence (there are 17 000 hungry bears up there) and a panic button.
He was decanted next to a fresh water lake in the centre of the wilderness. On day one he was catching fish and building a shelter, he oohed and aahed at the cute porcupine and squirrels. By day 4 he was bubbling in loneliness and worrying about everything. Soon he was tracking to another lake, convinced that the food would be more resplendent there…it wasn’t.
Fast forward three weeks and he is in despair. The rain, weight loss and harshness has depleted much of his resolve and he would go home at any point.
This man was no light weight, to have climbed Everest and gone to the north pole and then to climb Everest again later in 2009 was no small feat. So why did it all go so horribly awry? Ed was obviously a team player, and a really good one at that. Some of us are not equipped to survive alone, others can happily exist in our own company for years, not maybe healthily, but happily.
The problem that arises when or if you get to live out your long held dream is that it often exposes areas of your character that had hitherto been untapped, both good and bad.
So many (me included) had or have the expectation that it will always be wonderful “when….”
I too got experience the fulfilment of something that I had long held as an ambition/dream/vision. Like Mr Wardle and thousands of others who go all in and go for it, I experienced just how difficult reality is in comparison to our expectations of how things will be.
Those moments where he had fresh meat, warm sunshine and forested mountains reflected upon glassy lakes were the fulfilment moments. But these are stitched together with mosquito swarms, distant bear growls, weeks without meat and relentless rain.
In the end he pressed SOS after 7 weeks. The seaplane took him back to people and rescued him from insanity.
It is heart crushingly painful to see a dream die, but he lived it!
I often hear Mel Gibson in his Australian twanged Hollywood Scotchness as he challenged the troops before Stirling bridge.
“Many years from now, dying in your old age would you trade every day from this one to then for one more chance……..”
Yes, you may fail, yes it will hurt, yes the good days will disappear into the gloom of the dark ones. But will you still do it anyway?
For those glorious indescribable unforgettable moments when it all just clicks together.