The Steel Trap Mindset

The absolute irony of my adventurer "hat" or lifestyle is that essentially I am a family man at heart. On every journey, every adventure my biggest head game has been to control thoughts of home -every crossing essentially a trek to get home once more.

A complex mix of adventurer, family man, vet entrepreneur - when I meet fellow naturalists, explorers in the field I am often saddened by the realisation that their love of exploration and the wilderness has come often at cost. The time spent outdoors, time spent pushing cause often makes relationship or family time difficult. The avid climber living out of a car boot, the nomadic free spirit on the Mongol steppes with no ties back home, the seasoned adventurer beautifully in touch with nature but struggling with his third marriage. For those wired with the adventure gene it can have a niggling achilles heel.

I count myself blessed to have been able to strike a rare balance between allowing my DNA full space and yet still provide for my family physically, emotionally and spiritually. There is no arrogance in this, please don't misunderstand me. Many times in the past I have got this balance out of whack, to my peril. Limping home from journeys outside the "wifely" or family blessing. It is no easy feat to be married to a man such as I, and I give full credit to Sarah for allowing her husband full scope to dream but to always come home a better man.

The problem is that an arduous journey such as this - where hour after hour you gaze upon a barren white landscape and have all the room in the world for an agile mind to grow febrile and mad - is no place for a family man.  
To manage this issue in Antarctica I developed a very particular mental technique ; the journey I break into thirds. The first third is pure survival, making sure one acclimatises and no mistakes are made. Your body is unused to the brutality of polar travel, so it traps the mind within close borders of fatigue. The second third or grunt phase is where all is routine and miles must simply be made. Your body is acclimatised, routine set in and mental degradation most possible. These first two thirds are governed by a mindset I call - The Steel Trap. No meditation on home, family, foods, soft sheets, lattes, all the niceties of life is allowed to enter my mind except for one hour in the evening.

Then into the final glorious third - Free Reign. This is where being a family man allows supernatural strength. Yearning to get home, the mind is set free from the steel trap - the results amazing. Meditating on each family members face for hours at a time, each friends face, a mental counting of all life's richness calling me home.

Today whilst we endured great discomfort, knees screaming against the returned sastrugi, hands bleating against the cold, I could ignore it all. Pure bliss as the miles slipped beneath me, having left the Steel Trap and entered 'Free Reign' for the first glorious time.

We are inside our last third of the journey, in sight of breaking records yet experience cautions me here. Good decisions and pressure without tripping before the line. Tonight the cold wind has died making home seem farther away. We still have 400 km of open ice to cross, polar bears to consider and a 6000 ft. glacier to descend.

As I crawl into my frigid sleeping bag tonight, I do so as an exhausted family man, smiling widely through cracked lips as I allow myself to meditate once more on my beautiful tribe...

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