What is it like to be the wife of an adventurer? by Laura Davenport
Ripley is about 3/4 of his way across Mongolia at the moment. Sporting some fine blisters, and achieving the impossible, the longest solo and unassisted walk ever completed.
Like a lot of adventurers, (ones I know anyway) there is a better half to Ripley sitting at home waiting for him to return. Maybe sitting isn't the right thing to say as Laura, Ripley's wife, is no doubt running around like a woman on a mission while Rip is away, as she has a family to bring up 'solo and unassisted' while still keeping things at home 'normal' and Rip thinks he's having a tough time?
Please welcome my first guest blogger, telling her story of being the wife of an adventurer, Laura Davenport...
Allow me to give you a brief picture of my world and who I was before I met Ripley? I lived in Denmark’s metropolis: Copenhagen. Just a stones throw, with my arm, from the city centre. My life was surrounded by material items and meaningless gossip with, so called girlfriends, in an uptown café every Sunday. It was our girls get together but quite simply a brunch. I could go on weekend shopping tours to London or any other city, whenever I wanted. I could spend my time in the museums or concerts at will. Whatever, wherever, it was all forgotten the next day.
At that time, I thought I was happy and didn’t want to change my life in any way. It seemed to fit. One day, it all changed. I was on a course, one of many yawn filled lectures, with my work colleagues and at the very hotel where we were staying, Ripley Davenport was giving a presentation about his adventure in the Namib Desert. His picture, displayed in the reception, caught my eye and having nothing to do for a few hours and without thought, I purchased a
ticket to see what it was all about.
The room was full with all walks of life and I was surprised at the turn out.
After an introduction, I saw this tall, bald and very confident man giving an amazing speech. The room was silent and I sat, like everyone else, overwhelmed by his story. That was the quickest hour of my life and I just had to speak to him after the event. That evening, we talked, we laughed. Three 3 months later, I quit my job, moved out of the city to the Danish countryside. Four months later we were expecting our first child.
A whirlwind romance you may say but one that still blossoms.
Ripley changed my perception of what is really important in this life. Adventure? I didn’t know what it meant before I met him. To be honest, I had a stereotype of adventurers being strange, bearded and old people. (You're not talking about me are you Laura?) That was my first lesson: Never judge a book by its cover and every story has two sides. Ripley taught me these two minor but important rules. He lives by them, so do I?
What is like to be a wife while your husband is out on an expedition?
In a way, I’m on my own little expedition but only here, in Denmark. I’m a mother of two small children, Ripley’s secretary and coach. I run his home base and remain ready for any emergency call 24/7. I take my mobile phone everywhere. Every time hear Ripley’s Satellite phone ring, my heart misses a beat and my mouth dries up.
Obviously, I’m worried about him. It’s my first time and experience being alone while Ripley is away on his expedition, so I’m still learning. My daily routine consists of strong cup of coffee with milk, getting the kids ready for kindergarten and then getting back home to the office and updating Ripley’s news. Once done and few coffees later, I find ways to promote the Mongolia 2010 Expedition further on top of my normal job (I’m glad that’s only 4 hrs/day). Then I trudge out to get the shopping for dinner, pick up the kids and try to figure out what and how to cook dinners. I can’t cook and given the chance – won’t cook. It’s always been Daddy’s job, but it’s now a role reversal. Scott, our oldest 4½ years old, repeatedly says, “Mummy, daddy cooks much better dinners, why?” What can I say except laugh and find excuses?The hardest psychological challenge was definitely the first 2 weeks. When he called me on the 3rd day of his expedition and told me about the torrential rains and thunderstorms, his equipment being drowned and his body shivering from being cold and wet, I felt hopeless. I contacted every adventurer and endurance athlete that Ripley knew to ask for advice and support. Each helped a great deal. That night, I had a dozen cups of coffee just to stay awake. I felt like it was a duty to stay up with Ripley through his tough night. I believe, it was harder for me.
We were on different sides of the planet and different time zones so I adjusted my clock to suit his and tried to keep in his routine. We have experienced many difficult situations together and got through each a lot wiser. I know that future challenges can be overcome. We have been through so much. I have learnt not to worry so much. I’m more focused and calm now and learn to stay rational in the extreme situations. I thought I was ready to take over the family duties on my own and run home base while Ripley is in Mongolia. I guess you could never be ready for anything until you’re in the actual situation. Out of my comfort zone. We don’t have any family support in Denmark. My mother has passed away and my father has little contact. Ripley’s parents live in England and contact with them is very scarce. I could honestly say, that we’re on our own. It’s not easy, but we do what we have to do and never moan or gripe about our situation. It makes me laugh, when people complain about small petty things. I could write an endless list of examples. We haven’t been out for as much as an evening dinner or drink in four years. So what! We still have our time together, when kids are asleep and that’s what is important. Being an adventurer’s wife teaches you to be happy with what you’ve got and stop comparing what your neighbour has and maybe take a cooking class once in a while?”