I was feeling quite lacklustre a few weeks ago.
Restless, frustrated, with inspiration running dry. I always start feeling that way when I’ve been in one place too long without exploring somewhere new, without seeing the sea; when routine begins to grind down my creativity. So after a hectic week, on a quiet Saturday morning, I sought inspiration in the form of a documentary. In times of boredom and stasis, I’ve always found that the right documentary helps to educate me, reignite my nomadic spirits, and regain my perspective on reality.
Maidentrip (2014) changed my crappy, woe-is-me attitude within seconds.
Through the eyes of a fiercely independent young spirit at sea, this extraordinary coming-of-age documentary forced me to reassess my life ambitions and take action on things that I'd been procrastinating over. Everyone, adolescents and children especially, needs to watch it.
I was genuinely caught off guard by how strongly the award-winning documentary resonated with me at this point in my life. The film blew me away, lighting such a colossal fire under my butt to chase my dreams that I actually paused halfway through to passionately pitch to someone I’ve always wanted to write for. (Result: I'm about to publish my first piece with them! I have Maidentrip to thank for this.)
Maidentrip (2014) Official Trailer:
About Maidentrip and Laura Dekker
The film follows 14-year-old Laura Dekker, who in 2012 set out to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone. Born in New Zealand, Laura lived her first five years at sea before her parents settled in the Netherlands. After her parents separated, Laura chose to live with her sea-loving father, living for the days she spent on her boat. She never really felt like she was made for life in cookie-cutter, predictable Holland.
"A house is kind of scary."
In 2009, Laura’s public declaration to sail the world alone resulted in a 10-month long controversy, which you might remember hearing about. Dutch authorities attempted to rip her away from her father, her primary caregiver; local media turned their critical lens onto Laura’s family, accusing her parents of poor and indulged parenting. Meanwhile Laura, a bright young sailor raring to rock and roll, was baffled as to why she needed permission to traverse the ocean. Her wanderlust was not to be stifled: she used a fake ID to sail to France and the Caribbean before a worldwide arrest warrant brought her home. (Not condoning illegal moves or anything, but damn! Dekker is such a badass.)
In 2010, Laura was finally granted permission to set sail alone at the age of 14. Aboard Guppy, the broken boat she bought cheaply and worked tirelessly to get into sailing condition, Laura shot all the footage alone as a kind of diary using a Sony Handy Cam rigged to the boat. There was no film crew, no support staff, no chase boat. The trip, lasting just under two years (17 months) at sea, took her from the Netherlands to the Pacific Islands, to the Caribbean.
"I follow my own head. And if I'm determined to do something, then I'll make sure that I make it happen.”
My Thoughts on Maidentrip:
“I was born on a boat in New Zealand. I lived my first five years at sea. And ever since, all I’ve wanted is to return to that life.”
Laura’s radiant courage, profound respect for the world, and sheer determination to carve out life on her own terms left me reeling. I was enthralled by her wit, her striking competence (occasionally peppered by her characteristic rebellion), her extreme knowledge of sailing, and ultimately, her love of the sea. I found myself wishing I had been able to watch this documentary as a child, but also, thanking my lucky stars that I’d watched it at all.
It’s impossible to watch Maidentrip and not want to immediately begin scheming your own liberating trip of a lifetime. Laura’s perspective, her adventurous spirit, is utterly contageous. When she describes the way she never really felt like she fit in, the way she always knew she wanted to sail the world, I was moved by the clarity she had for her future. Director Jillian Schlesinger, who approached her with the idea of a documentary before setting sail, said: “Doing something so extreme with so much passion is an art, and that’s how I approached it with Laura. She had no interest in being famous. She really just loves to sail.”
Laura’s toughness, her extreme energy, was palpable. huge swells and a thunderstormshe’s forced to navigate notoriously dangerous waters at Torres Strait in huge swells and a thunderstorm, she just gets on with it. I felt her awe at the ocean’s beauty, I felt her passionate pain, and at times, I empathised all too well with her stifling loneliness. After weeks of isolation, when she sees a pod of wild dolphins swimming alongside her boat, Laura weeps in joy at the companionship.
"I love my parents. But they have their life, and I have mine."
At times Laura is sullen, bratty, and insolent. At other times, she’s playful, emotional, and incredibly wise. That she’s still a young girl makes her journey all the more incredible. We embark on an incredible adventure with this free spirit, this defiant young teenager, whose barriers are broken down by as she sails across the world and blossoms into a woman. When she’s forced to sail the notoriously dangerous waters at Torres Strait in huge swells and thunderstorm conditions, Laura takes on a challenge that most sailors would flee from. When she sails her battered boat, sans steering wheel, into the port, Laura recalls with weary triumph: “I didn’t feel anything but focused. Being scared was totally gone. I didn’t feel that I was hungry or tired. I was just doing it.”
Watching the sunset, watching waves lap, seeing horizons blossom in the distance through the Laura's awed eyes, made me emotional. Here was this girl who had been bullied by the press, by her peers, by convention, and yet, she never stopped focusing on her goal: to see the world on her own damn terms. She found clarity and happiness along the way. To me, that is an incredible feat. The moral of the story is:
Dream big, and never let anyone stop you.
If you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to watch Maidentrip.
Watch it on Netflix, order the DVD on Amazon, or find it elsewhere online. Just… make sure you watch it. And when you do, let me know what adventure you start planning immediately afterwards. You might even try sailing the world.
“As soon as I get on my boat, something inside me changes. Then I really feel what living is." - Lauren Dekker, Maidentrip
Mel left London to chase summer around the world, one country at a time. She loves the ocean, writing postcards, and solo exploration. Travel with her on Instagram.