TODAY the ship leaves Ushuaia, Argentina, for Antarctica, carrying the 78 women in STEMM who form the second Homeward Bound cohort. Before, during and after the voyage, we’ll bring you the stories of more than 20 of those women, in their words and pictures: our #TeamHB2018 correspondents. You’ll hear from them about how the past 12 months of working together has influenced them. You’ll get a visceral sense of life on the ship as we post stories crafted from some of the most remote and fragile parts of the planet, by some of the most talented women scientists on the planet. And you’ll hear what happens for them when they return.
Our fifth correspondent, Sarah Lucas, Paediatric Registrar at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital in Australia, is ready for the challenge this voyage will bring. Her 12 months of training, relationship building and understanding herself will guide her through the Drake Passage and transformational change.
I got into Homeward Bound primarily for my rap skills. I am a paediatric doctor working in Sydney, Australia and I came across the program through my auntie, Robyn Lucas, who was on the inaugural all-female voyage in 2016.
To compete with all the incredibly educated and accomplished people I had seen in application videos, I wanted a creative idea to sell myself as an early career woman in science.
Running along the beach listening to musical theatre soundtracks the lightbulb moment came to me. I would rewrite one of the songs from the ground-breaking Broadway Musical “Hamilton” using women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) references and blow their socks off!
The video is hideously embarrassing (and no longer in the public domain so don’t bother searching) but I like to think it set me apart – and is now taking me all the way to Antarctica, on a leadership and sustainability adventure with 77 other amazing women who I am so excited to get to know. I followed that little voice that pops in my head sometimes when I am peeking outside of my comfort zone and it served me well.
Fast forward 12 months and the time is finally here. After a year of preparation and groundwork, goodbye tears and kisses to loved ones and flights from every corner of the world. 78 incredible leaders in STEMM finally together in one place and bound for Antarctica, one of the world’s most precious and truly wild places. It has been a long road to get here, with 12 months of videoconferences, self-reflection and learning about what it means to be an effective leader and how to amplify our voices in the world.
We met local HB 18 team mates for coffee, we met those further away via phone and skype. We learned how we see ourselves, the way others see us and the importance of the distinction between the two. We made firm friends with people we had never seen in the flesh and struggled to make meetings work over four different time zones. We collectively raised over $1.5million USD through fundraising, grant proposals, saving and borrowing. Because this was an opportunity like no other. A chance to come together with a group of women who are stronger together, who collectively just might get the chance to change the world.
We’ve arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina with our own stories, our own dreams and aspirations and pre-conceptions of what this crazy adventure will look like. We slowly congregated in cities and airports around the world, gathering growing numbers of grey Homeward Bound backpacks along the way.
Flying into the capital of Tierra del Fuego (literally “Land of Fire”) was like nothing else for me; trading the golden sands of Sydney for a perimeter of awe-inspiring mountains. The view stretched out in every direction – Argentina on one side, Chile on the other and in between, all of us; staring straight out to the horizon, into the Beagle channel and what lies beyond it – our passage to Antarctica and transformational change.
We met for an opening dinner and the feeling was electric. We excitedly introduced ourselves and discussed our diverse backgrounds and passions as well as our hopes and fears. There were hugs, tears and emotion in every corner. It was a huge feeling; enough to make your hairs stand on end and send shivers down your spine. If only that incredible buzz of relentless enthusiasm and boundless optimism could be bottled. It resonated like hope for the future. The sound of our collective voices when we came together was deafening, a metaphor for the potential of our collective impact. Homeward Bound’s reach is truly global and having 18 countries and many more cultures represented makes the world seem both big and incredibly small at the same time. It felt like a reunion amongst those whom had never physically met. People you recognised only by their voice and social media profile were taking shape in front of you. They were real! It wasn’t just a dream! It was all truly happening.
Day 1 included diving into the importance of living our values, finding and refining our purpose and how to give and receive effective feedback. For me; there were uncomfortable conversations and more than a few challenging moments. For all of us, this is not just a journey across the sea but an opportunity to seek true insights about how to grow and develop into the kind of person, and leader, the world needs us to be.
It’s not all easy and we are under no illusions that this is going to be a holiday. It was difficult to leave those we loved, some unwell in hospital. We are missing weddings and birthdays and there will be at least 3 new lives in my close circle by the time I get home. But I believe I speak for all of us when I say – bring it on. Bring on the hard work, the challenges and the change. Bring on the learning, the stories and the collaboration. Bring on the 18th of February, let the Drake Passage throw everything it has at us, bring on Antarctica and the magic that will happen there.
And remember to listen next time that little voice pops up in your head telling you to do something a bit crazy or embarrassing, because it might just be exactly the thing you should be doing. Sometimes a rap song can change your life.