“The moment when I fell on my knees was the very moment that changed my life.”

Janice Jakait made the headlines in 2012, because she was the first German woman to cross the Atlantic ocean in a row boat. After coming back she wrote a book about her experiences: “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”, available in German only).

Janice in her boat, shortly before arriving in Barbados, February 12, 2012
Janice in her boat, shortly before arriving in Barbados, February 12, 2012

The blog you wrote during this adventure is called “Row for Silence”. What does this refer to?

When I rowed alone across this ocean – just two oars, no sail, no motor – I was aiming for more silence. More silence in my head and more silence beneath the ocean’s surface. Together with the swiss organization OceanCare, we tried to raise awareness for the dramatic impacts of man-made ocean noise pollution, which results in the death of countless sea dwellers. 

You’ve spent around three months on the sea, alone in your rowing boat. While there, did you ever regret your commitment? Did you ever want to break it up and just go home?

I had no option to just quit. There was no way back – no planes or helicopters are able to rescue you thousands of miles away from the coast, and it would take days for merchant ships to arrive. But in the end, sometimes this is exactly what it takes to succeed. Sometimes we have to leave all illusion of safety behind to find the more important things. The moment when I could not fight anymore against the horror and the fears, the moment when I fell on my knees was the very moment that changed my life in a totally unexpected way. I would not have arrived there with an easy option to quit.

During that time you had been writing about your experiences and thoughts in a blog and in social networks. Could you please explain how this worked technically?  I think there are no cell towers yet in the Atlantic ;)

Usually I used a pen and paper. From time to time I used a small waterproof laptop connected to a satellite phone to feed my blog. I could also send small messages directly from the phone to Twitter or Facebook. After a few weeks I felt no more need to share my moments with a world so far away, but then people started to worry as no more updates arrived. This was something that taught me a lot about  the real meaning of “sharing”.

“After a few weeks I felt no more need to share my thoughts, but then people started to worry.”

As for the writing itself: Was it part of your routines on the boat? What did it mean to you during that time?

I carried a logbook with me which I fed every 4 hours with updates about my position and circumstances that might be relevant in a case of emergency. Your life can depend on just a single line in this book. Besides that: I wrote a daily journal. I found these two also to be the most important references to rely on, when I later wrote my book “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”, available in German only) about that adventure. You are often close to being insane when badly seasick or in critical situations … then it is hard to remember details afterwards. I was so glad that I had this routine of writing everything down when it happened. 

You arrived in Barbados on February 12, 2012, exactly 90 days after you had started your journey in Portugal. How did life go afterwards?

I usually spend 90 Minutes on stage talking just about that. It is not so easy to answer. When back, you have several options: You can return to your old life and try to forget how different it felt being so free , or you join those adrenalin junkies who always seek new challenges to re-experience what they have found.

“I was free when I forgot all future and past. Here and now, that seemed to be the key to happiness.”

I was confused. Badly. I experienced so unbelievable states of bliss and peace , but then I found myself back in a world of people who still were prisoners of their thoughts. I wondered: I was free out there, when I lived the moment, when I forgot all future and past. Here and now. That seemed to be the key to happiness. But I wondered, why do I always have to travel to distant places, on other oceans, up the highest mountains, to find that HERE. And I wondered, why do I always have to wait until I find the time in the future to seek that NOW. Isn’t it always just here and now? Maybe seeking it, fighting so hard to arrive, is the only reason why we do not realize that we are here, now, free! To be honest, I dropped out for two years into loneliness to realize that… This is what happened. Another journey, into myself, followed.

You had been working as an IT consultant in your former life. Was it an option for you to return to your old job?

“I realized that the challenge is to trust in myself and into determination and devotion for what I do.”

As a child I wanted to be a writer and a speaker. This was my dream. And all I tried out there was to remember what I really wanted to do and how to get rid of those stupid reasons to not give it a try. And even to believe that I am unworthy and unable to live a happy life.

In March 2014, your book “Tosende Stille” (“Roaring Silence”), where you dealt with your experience, was released and later became a bestseller. Please tell us something about how it came to be written.

Tosende Stille
Janice’ book became a bestseller in Germany.

Writing is my passion, and I consider writing in that rough german language the most challenging job to master, when talking about the beauty of love and life. For over three decades I just believed that I do not have enough talent, no good stories to share and simply not enough energy and focus to write a book of 240 pages. After I came back and spend two years reflecting on myself, I realized that the challenge is to trust in myself and into determination and devotion for what I do.

Which tools do you use for writing?

To be honest: When writing this book, I spent half of the time seeking better tools. Many programs feel powerful and give you the feeling of being productive by just clicking all over their shiny buttons and menus for hours. But in the end, it is all about the plain text, the content. And it took me a while to realize that everything that drags my focus away from the text is distraction.

“Everything that drags my focus away from the text is distraction.”

Why is Ulysses the right writing tool for you?

Because it allows me exactly this: To focus on my text. Its strength is understatement and simplicity. Everything is there when you need it, but not distracting you when you don’t.

In your blog I’ve also read that writing did not always come easy to you. Do you have some tips for other writers for overcoming creative blocks?

The best way to overcome creative blocks is to write anyway. It’s as simple as that. If you cannot find the passion to write in a certain moment, just write until you forget that you did not have any passion to write . To do something, just do something! Focus on it by just allowing yourself to fall into it.

What is your life like today, and which does writing play in it?

I had four dreams in my childhood. Touching people with stories I share on stage, with stories I write about in books, becoming a bestseller and owing a lighthouse. I still don’t own a lighthouse, nobody’s perfect – but when I came from stage last week, a woman hugged me and said: “Janice, you need no lighthouse, you became one yourself!” I cannot imagine doing anything else but what I am doing right now. I am here – the right time, the right place, doing the right things. 

What are your future projects? Are you planning further ocean crossings or other extreme adventures?

Janice Jakait
Janice Jakait, February 2015

No more plans to risk my life. The ocean is a wonderful place, who knows, maybe one day I will be back. But I doubt I will travel alone again… If I realized one thing out there, then it is summarized by this line of Alexander Supertramp: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

Visit Janice’ website Row for Silence to learn more about this project and her experiences. The blog is written in German, but there is some information in English available as well, plus some great photos of her adventure.

Photos ©rowforsilence.com

Rebekka Honeit

Blog-curating writing maniac and public relations person. Loves coffee, chocolate cookies and literature. Finds peace in tweaking press copy.