The Fearful Adventurer

by Kim on April 10, 2011 · 14 comments


I first discovered Torre DeRoche when she left a comment on this blog referring to a trip she took sailing the Pacific with a handsome man she met in a bar (okay, maybe I added the handsome part, check out the photos!).  Instantly intrigued, I headed over to Torre’s website, The Fearful Adventurer, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. 

Torre even wrote a book about the experience called Swept- Love With A Chance of Drowning which I am patiently waiting to read. 

Read on for all the fun details of Torre’s adventure and some insightful answers to my questions about becoming a bona fide author. 

1. So give us the back story.  You’re from Australia, move to San Francisco, meet a man in a bar and then decide to sail around the world with him?

When I was 24, I left Australia and moved to San Francisco to have an experience of living and working in a different city. A month after my arrival, I was in a cocktail bar with new friends when I spotted a sad looking guy on the other side of the bar. Curious (and full of liquid courage) I walked over and said, “Why are you sad?” And so began my relationship with Ivan.

Ivan (31) was an IT professional in Silicone Valley, but he had a ripe plan to set sail on his rustic sailboat to explore the world indefinitely. Phobic about deep water, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than an oceanic adventure on a tiny boat, and I thought he was insane. But he was handsome and fun, so I decided that we’d date and then go our separate ways. I didn’t know that (a) I’d fall for him and (b) he’d turn out to be a master persuader!  

When he first asked if he could sail me across the Pacific to Australia, I answered loud and clear: “Ivan, that will never happen! I’m terrified of the ocean!” But he didn’t buy into it. He worked on me by leaving books around his apartment with pictures of boats anchored in stunning locations. When he coaxed me into sailing with him to Catalina Island off Los Angeles, I saw dolphins breaching at the bow and I started to understand the appeal. I knew that my fear was the only thing stopping me from saying yes to this amazing adventure.

I didn’t want to let fear stop me, and I was also worried that, if I decided not to go, Ivan would either depart without me (bad!) or he’d give up his dream for me (bad!). So I sold my belongings, quit my graphic design job, and moved onto my new floating home, Amazing Grace.

One year after the cocktail bar hookup, we set sail into the deep, dark, sharky Pacific Ocean and I was absolutely terrified.

2. Had you been sailing before?

Just once as a teenager: I sailed on a flat lake with my parents. I was completely ignorant about wind, waves and navigation when we left the safety of land, so I didn’t know the difference between normal conditions and extreme danger. I always just assumed the worst, which may have permanently damaged my nervous system.

3. How long was the trip?  Where did you go?

We left from Los Angeles and traveled down the Baja California Peninsula all the way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This passage was hell on earth—I was so sick and scared. I decided: I hate this. I can’t do this. But once we arrived to Cabo, I was faced with the original dilemma: do I leave Ivan and fly home? What if he decides to abandon his dream and follow me? I didn’t know what he’d do, but it was unimaginable for me to rob this guy of his dream. He’d been planning and saving for this incredible trip for five years … who was I to get in the way? And I didn’t want to lose him.

We departed Cabo on my 26th birthday and sailed twenty-six days through empty ocean to get to French Polynesia. We spent two years island hopping through the South Pacific: Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Toau, Apataki, Rangiroa, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, Aitutaki to name a few jaw-dropping stopovers!

4. You call yourself the fearful adventurer but you seem pretty brave!  Where did the name come from?

See above. My fears aren’t limited to the ocean, though. I’m also phobic about heights, snakes, and (this is a good one!) vomit. But a voice in my head always says, Okay, you’re scared, so what? Do it anyway. And I know I’d be disappointed with myself forever if I let unreasonable fears get in the way of incredible opportunities. I confront my fears with quivering hands, a beating heart, and – on occasion – howling tears. It’s not pretty!

5. What is your favorite memory of the trip?

My dad flew from Australia to stay on the boat for a week. I’d been away from home for a while and I was really homesick. My dad loves the ocean—he’s a Californian surfer from way back, who immigrated to Australia in his early 20s. Since I was a little girl, Dad has tried to help overcome my fear of deep water, but none of his techniques worked. I guess I’ve always felt unresolved about that. So, to have my dad see me as a sailor, and sit beside me as we watched humpback whales breaching out of sapphire water is a feeling that still chokes me up to talk about!

6. Your worst memory?

The worst memory happens towards the end of my book, so I won’t give that away. My second worst memory is described here.

7. What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting out on their own once-in-a-lifetime adventure?

At the risk of hijacking your blog with wordy replies to your excellent questions, I’ve written a post to specifically answer this question.

8. What is your favorite quote?

Here are two quotes close to my heart that conflict each other:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.—Mark Twain

Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.— Samuel Johnson

9. So I’m dying to know… what happens to the guy?

I wouldn’t dare spoil the end of my book for you!

10. What’s next for you?  Do you have any more adventures planned?

Yes! I have a lot of ideas, but I won’t make any solid plans until my book has been published. I have tunnel vision right now. I hope that I get to meet you somewhere in the world someday!

11. So give us all of the details of your book.  I can’t wait to read it!

My book is called Swept – Love With A Chance Of Drowning. You can watch a trailer and read the blurb here.

If you’re interested in Swept, supply your details here and I can notify you of the book’s release. Alternatively, follow my Facebook page to keep in touch.

12. I hear some authors say that they know when they have a book inside of them.  Did you feel that way?  Did you set off on the trip knowing you would write a book about it?

I had no idea I’d end up writing a book! I didn’t begin writing until a year after the voyage was over. It started as a mild itch, and eventually it became a persistent and unrelenting condition. The only way to make it go away was to write.  

I used to pick up a hefty published book and wonder to myself, That is so many words! How the hell did one person write all of this? I’m still perplexed by this question.

13. What is your writing process?  Do you have a routine?  How many hours do you write each day?

I treat writing like any other serious career. I write from nine to five, and I always aim for at least 1,000 words a day. If I get stuck, I’d read great books and master writers to find solutions: Jon Krakauer, Bill Bryson, Douglas Kennedy, Jeannette Walls, Stephen King, Anne Lamott. I’d already written 50,000 words when Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants inspired me to start over in present tense and rework my story to read like just like fiction.

The key is not to give up on the 365 occasions you’ll desperately want to.   

14. How long did it take you to complete the book? 

In total, it was a little over a year full-time and two years part time. It took a lot longer than I thought it would! I grossly underestimated the editing phase, but I now understand that this part breathes life into the story.

15. Are you writing anything now?  Any plans for a second book??

All my energy is in my first book right now, so I’m not working on anything else. Once I find a story that consumes my thoughts and steals my sleep, I will be ready to begin book two!

About Fearful Adventurer: Torre DeRoche once faced her fear of the ocean by voyaging across the Pacific  aboard a humble boat with a man she met in a bar.  Follow Torre: website, facebook, twitter.