Abby Sunderland, Danger and Solo Travel

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First things first: I’m so thankful that Abby Sunderland was rescued. I didn’t think this would end well.

Abby Sunderland was attempting to be the youngest person to sail solo around the world.  Two days ago, she lost contact and activated her distress signals.  She was feared to be dead or trapped in a capsized boat.  She was rescued by a fishing boat and is currently en route to the island of Reunion.

There has been a lot of commentary about this on the web. The general consensus is that her parents are idiots for letting a sixteen-year-old do this completely alone, and it’s no surprise that something like this happened.

That got me thinking.

Let’s say I travel solo to Thailand and, God forbid, get seriously injured in a bus crash.

It doesn’t matter that Thailand is an extremely safe country.  It doesn’t matter that bus crashes happen all the time at home.  The world will say, That’s what she gets for going to Asia alone. What was she thinking?!

Would people be saying this if the crash happened in Connecticut?

I also don’t think the act of solo sailing is as dangerous as the masses are claiming.  Dangerous, yes, but not horrifyingly so.  Here’s the real issue: Abby was reckless.

She planned her trip during the storm season.  She hadn’t trained for the conditions she faced in the Indian Ocean.  Most importantly, she didn’t have another boat trailing her in case of an emergency.

And yes, being sixteen years old is reckless in itself.  As talented a sailor as she is, she was clearly not prepared for a journey this arduous.

Abby’s parents allowed her to be reckless for the worst reason: selfishness.  Breaking a world record was more important to them than their daughter’s safety.  (Not to mention her education. Why isn’t she in school?)

Solo travel has its risks as well. But those risks can be mitigated by planning and preparation, from buying the right gear to reading up on destinations.  If Abby’s dream was to sail around the world, she could have done it the right way: training extensively in rough seas, planning her route wisely, slowly working up to a worldwide sail, and taking a backup crew.  But that wasn’t her priority.

I hope that this serves as a wake-up call to parents around the world.  It’s time for kids to stop risking their lives in the quest for attention and fame.

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3 thoughts on “Abby Sunderland, Danger and Solo Travel”

  1. Excellent points–I agree with you 100%. Parents should have been much more involved in the planning, particularly ensuring that safety was a top priority, instead of focusing on the immediacy of achieving a world record.

  2. Kate, you have some good opinions on this, and I will admit that I hadn’t really put too much thought into it. But yes, it makes me wonder, why were her parents letting her go off and do something of this magnitude at such a young age?

    But hey, at least she knew what to do in the case of emergency. She activated the signal, got rescued and made it out okay. I hope she makes another attempt, in a few years after some more training.

    But safety always must come first, before anything else. World records aside.

  3. Hi Kate,

    As much as I try to convince myself that this was a reckless decision I frankly cannot agree. There are a few people who are adventurous and have a gift for something; in her case it was sailing and she attempted a journey that has been done many times before (even her brother had accomplished it when he was 17). I think that this was blown out of proportion because she is from a first world country and she was in the media, nothing else. Nobody really cares about 12 year olds who cross the Mexican/USA border and risk being shot, the same occurs with kids who try to reach Europe from Northern Africa on wood boats; it doesn’t really matter that 14 year old kids are surfing 15 meter(45 ft) waves in Hawaii and elsewher or attempting backflips on a mountain bike. All these stunts are life risking, but nohting is said. Anyhow, just my thoughts. Good post!


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