Talking Fear, Adventure and Popeye Muscles with Torre DeRoche

Torre DeRoche from Fearful Adventurer
How cool is this: in her mid-twenties, Torre DeRoche felt her life had stagnated, so she left her home in Melbourne and moved to San Francisco, where she met a very handsome and very adventurous Argentinean fellow named Ivan and promptly fell in love. Ivan was the proud owner of a sailboat and a dream of sailing around the world, a dream Torre did not share given that she was morbidly afraid of deep water.

Alas, the promise of seeing some of the world's most beautiful and remote locations won her over (the aforementioned handsomeness of her co-conspirator certainly didn't hurt), and she spent two years of her life watching spectacular sunsets, bonding with South Pacific islanders and getting seasick.

Cool, yes. But her story actually manages to get cooler. She then decided to write a book about her experience, but like many other first time authors, was unable to find an agent, so she went the self-publishing route. Within a week of self publishing, Torre received an email about film rights, and within two months had sold the book to three publishers and optioned the film. I haven't been in the book publishing world long, but even I know that's shockingly rare and very awesome.

I have already read her book, Love With a Chance of Drowning twice. As I'm sure you gathered from the previous paragraph, it's really good. Part love story, part travelogue, Love With a Chance of Drowning is an overall great story. Torre, being the nice person that she is, has agreed to answer a few questions for us on adventure, writing and that fear of water. Enjoy!

A lot of people tried to talk you and Ivan out of your sailing adventure. How did you deal with the naysayers?

To be honest, the naysayers spooked me every single time! One old sailor at the marina looked into Ivan’s eyes and said, “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself and your girlfriend into. You have no idea what it’s like out there on the ocean!” Sailors around the marina kept telling us we were incompetent, ill prepared, and suicidal. These men painted a picture of a wild and dangerous hell out there on the high seas, and that scared the bejesus out of me!

I got through it by continually reassuring myself that these comments stemmed from jealousy. I suspected that these men had dreamed of adventures themselves, but over the years they’d spooked themselves with nightmarish stories that they’d come to believe were true. I don’t think they were intentionally trying to thwart our adventure—I think they genuinely believed they were saving us from certain death.

Having survived the adventure, I can now confirm that yes, those men were delusional. The ocean can be dangerous, but driving on a freeway is dangerous too.  Most often, the world is beautiful and inviting, but we have to push past the nightmares to discover that.

One of the book’s key narratives focuses on your fear of deep water. Do you still struggle with the idea of being in deep water? 

The thought of being in water above my knees used to terrify me! Nowadays I can swim in deep water, but I do have to arm-wrestle with my imagination to keep it from taking over. My mental arm-wrestling muscles are now very bulky. (Maybe that’s why Popeye had such big forearms?)  

Sometimes I find that the most randomly acquired skills from my past are the most useful. During two years of sailing, you picked up a lot of new skills, such as telling the weather, reading water depth and tying knots. Have you found any of these to be handy even when you’re not living on a sailboat?

The most useful skills I learned were intuition and problem-solving. On the ocean, you are fully accountable for yourself at all times—health, navigation, safety… If you mess something up, there is nobody there to rescue you, so I learned to look towards intuition and my own problem-solving abilities for guidance. When I got back to land, I realized I had been changed by these newly honed skills. I became markedly better in my profession as an entrepreneur and graphic designer, and I also drew on these skills continually while writing and publishing a book.

Did you start writing your story with the intention of developing a book? If not, when did you realize what you had?

When I lived out this story, the urge to tell it overpowered me. I didn’t declare, “I’m going to write a book now,” instead the words just started flowing out onto the page. At around the 50,000 word mark, I finally declared to myself that I was working on a book.

You talked on your blog about the conflict between a desire to nest and a desire to fly—a conflict I can very much so relate to. How do you balance those two opposing desires?

I’m still conflicted. Ideally I’d have a life in which I can be settled in one place close to home, and I can also have weeks or months to fly away. I think that’s entirely possible. My grandma spent her whole life as a part time nester, part time traveller. She’d save up money for 10 months of a year, and then explore for 2. That’s a sweet life if you ask me.

What would you say are the biggest things you’ve learned from your sailing adventure and the process of writing a book about it?

Again, intuition. I think we all undervalue our intuition in day-to-day life. There are so many tools and services to help us through life, that we easily lose trust in ourselves. When we need an answer, we turn outwards instead of inwards. But everyone’s journey is a personal one, and nobody can give you the answers for your unique situation. Your answers are within you. I learned to tune into that and trust in it. That got me through the sailing voyage, and it also got me through the book. 

What advice would you have for anyone interested in taking a big, adventurous leap such as sailing across the Pacific?

Before you embark on a major adventure of any kind, it can seem like an enormous mountain in front of you that you have to climb all at once. You just have to remember that big things are accomplished step by step, mile by mile, word by word. Your capacity to cope with the hardships you encounter is far greater than you might assume. Your intuition is there, waiting for you to listen in so it can guide you. Trust that about yourself, and go.

Love With a Chance of Drowning is available now (Amazon, B&N, Indie Bound). You can also keep up with Torre on her blog, Fearful Adventurer, and the Twitter, both highly recommended because she is one funny lady.

All photos from FearfulAdventurer.com.   


Sarah York said...

This is such a great interview! Now I can't wait to read this book. And this has me dreaming of adventure... I can totally relate to wanting to nest and travel! I like her comments about making it happen.

Kim @ Home Love and Wanderlust said...

I'm glad you liked it! I think there are a lot of us nester/travelers out there. Here's hoping we can all make a 10/2 split for for us!