Interview with British polar explorer Felicity Aston MBE

The Commonwealth Woman's Antarctic Expedition (CWAE) selection and training camp in Norway, March '09.

Meet Felicity Aston!

 Felicity is an author, speaker, expedition leader, former Antarctic scientist and general lover of cold environments. In 2012, she became the first woman to ski 1,744km alone across Antarctica, taking 59 days. Her expeditions have also included the first British women’s crossing of Greenland, a 6000km drive to the South Pole, a 36,000km drive to the Pole of Cold, and leading the largest and most international team of women ever to ski to the South Pole. She has written three books and made several documentaries. In 2015, she was awarded The Queen’s Polar Medal and was appointed MBE for services to polar exploration.

 Here, Felicity talks about taking risks and discusses how experience is a teacher.

 

What was the impetus behind becoming an adventurer/explorer?

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision to make this my job description! I have always had a curiosity to explore the world and have sought out opportunities to do that. My first job out of university was with the British Antarctic Survey, which saw me spending three years on an Antarctic Research Station. That experience set me on a path that has led to where I am today.

Before setting out on your polar adventures what were your doubts/fears/concerns and how did you overcome these? 

Each adventure/project/expedition has its own unique challenges and so the anxieties that come with those are different every time. Over the years, I’ve come to recognise that those anxieties are all part of the process. What is important is to make sure that any risks you are taking are calculated ones and that you are prepared for them.

What is the main thing you have learnt (about life or yourself) from these experiences? 

Each experience teaches me something new. I deliberately put together projects and expeditions that will present challenges different to any I’ve done before. Some expeditions have taught me about the environment I am travelling through, others have taught me more about myself, and many have taught me more about other people. I have learnt a lot about how people come together as a group and about human nature but I am still fascinated to learn more about people and cultures that hold a different perspective to me, to try and understand alternative ways of looking at things. All these experiences make us question ourselves, our own opinions and the way we do things – I think that is a very healthy and positive thing.

 

“All these experiences make us question ourselves, our own opinions and the way we do things – I think that is a very healthy and positive thing”

 

What would be your dream adventure and why – and why haven’t you done it yet? 

I am furious that I appear to have been born a generation too early for interplanetary exploration. I would love to go into space – perhaps it’s not too late?

What is the best advice you have ever been given? 

‘Faced with a choice, always take the harder path’. I don’t believe in making life deliberately difficult for myself, but any time I have consciously taken a slightly softer option, I’ve always regretted it!

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three things would you have with you and why? 

Just my husband. He can build anything out of nothing and sorts most problems.

 

For more information on Felicity, her expeditions and books, check out her website, and follow her on Twitter.   

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