Episode 9 | Author Caroline Van Hemert on 4,000 Miles Across the Arctic
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In this episode, we talk to Alaskan writer, biologist, and adventurer Caroline Van Hemert. Caroline is an ornithologist who, along with her husband Pat, undertook a 4,000-mile human-powered journey from Bellingham Washington to Kotzebue, a small town high above the arctic circle.
Caroline’s written a book about her journey, The Sun is a Compass. The book weaves together a lot of threads: the path Caroline’s life took to get to the start of her journey, her relationship with her husband, her life as a scientist, her feelings about motherhood: it’s a great read.
Our interview covers all that and more. So sit back, relax, and enjoy our conversation with Caroline Van Hemert.
- Andrew introduces the subject of their interview: Caroline Van Hemert.
- Andrew tries to digest the scope of Caroline’s journey.
- Where Caroline grew up and how she found herself on long adventures.
- A German word for “restless need to migrate”.
- Finding parallels between birds and humans
- Trip logistics.
- What was Caroline most worried about, and did those fears pan out?
- The challenges of trip planning, even with modern tools.
- Advice for planning similar routes.
- Lean on local contacts!
- What makes an elegant route?
- Breaking down the different modes of human-powered transportation.
- Rowing, skiing, hiking, packrafting, and canoeing.
- Which of these things did Caroline enjoy the most?
- Caroline recommends training strategies for trips with a variety of physical demands.
- What was her low point, and how did she overcome it?
- Arctic biting insects
- Peeing in a food dish
- Cooking methods.
- Indispensable gear.
- Sacrificing gear for weight considerations.
- Conflict, outdoor partnerships, and risk management.
- The pros and cons of adventuring with a romantic partner
- Listening to intuitions vs. pushing forward
- The perils of missing out on life events
- The gifts that the wilderness gives us.
- Career decisions
- Motherhood and adventuring
- Advice for parents
- The writing process
- Advice for adventure writers
Follow Caroline on Facebook and Instagram. You can find her book wherever books are sold – learn more about The Sun is a Compass on Caroline’s website.
Feedback, Questions, Tips?
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- Backpacking Light – Executive Producer
- Ryan Jordan – Director and Host
- Andrew Marshall – Producer, Writer, Host, and Editor
- Special Thanks — Caroline Van Hemert
- Look for Me in the Mountains – Music
- Written by: Chris Cunningham and Ryan Jordan
- Performed by: Chris Cunningham (acoustic guitar, lead and harmony vocals, harmonica), Chad Langford (upright bass), and Tom Murphy (mandolin).
- Produced by: Basecamp Studios in Bozeman, Montana
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