The extreme travels of Roz Savage

Endurance rower Roz Savage on the joys of freeze-dried curry – and her favourite places on dry land

3 mins

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

Mountain. This may seem like a surprising answer from someone who has spent over 520 days alone at sea in a rowboat, but having done that, I feel amply qualified to say that the ocean is a tough and brutal place. I love the mountains because the air up there makes me feel alive, and the views are amazing.

First travel experience?

My mother is South African, and when I was nine years old, she, my sister and I went back to her home country. I think it was incredibly brave of my mother to move to the UK to marry my father.

Favourite journey?

There is a big difference between a journey being enjoyable, and being worthwhile. My first ocean crossing, across the Atlantic, was the hardest, most miserable thing I've ever done, but in retrospect it is the one I am most proud of – for that very reason. It was character-building.

Top five places worldwide?

This is where my urban side emerges. I love big, energetic cities: San Francisco, New York, Sydney, and London. And, as my fifth choice, a tiny little surf town in Marin County, California. The locals don't like people to know it's there, so I won't name it. But you know who you are!

Special place to stay?

The Argonaut Hotel, San Francisco.

Three items you always pack?

iPhone, MacBook, and rechargers. Obviously!

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

"Antigua and Barbuda. Entry by sea Nelson Dockyard".

Passport stamp most like to have?

Bhutan – I love their concept of Gross National Happiness, and can't wait to witness it.

Guilty travel pleasure?

Flying. My carbon footprint is just horrible, and it causes me immense angst. I just hope that I have more than offset it by my environmental campaigning over the years.

Window or aisle?

Window. Definitely. I like to look out and see where I'm going.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

My beloved, Howard, who shares my spirit of adventure.

Best meal on the road?

Best – freeze-dried Thai curry with added coconut milk powder, while sitting on my rowboat, watching the sunset, after a long hard day at the oars. The feeling of satisfaction is immense. Does the ocean count as the road?


I prefer to forget the bad stuff.

Most surprising place?

Papua New Guinea – naturally beautiful, but a few challenges.

Where do you NOT want to go?

The gents' loo.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Jan Meek, who rowed across the Atlantic at the age of 50 with her son. To celebrate her 60th birthday they trekked to the North Pole.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

Mostly audiobooks, but my favourite rowing song would be IZ's version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow/Wonderful World, which by pure chance was playing on my iPod as I arrived in Hawaii after rowing from San Francisco, at 5.55am in the darkness. It was a magical moment.

What do you read?

On the ocean, sci-fi and fantasy audiobooks. On dry land, books on psychology and neuroscience.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

Just about everybody I have met while travelling has affirmed my faith in humanity. There is something in the nature of committing to an epic venture that brings out the best in the people around you.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

A smile.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Flying. Horrible carbon footprint.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Promising not to sing to them.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Arriving back on dry land. And finding the nearest bar.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

Tea tree oil. Good for salt water sores.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

Victorian – when the world was still a more diverse place. Or into the future. As soon as they invent a time machine, I'll be there.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

San Francisco, New York, London.

Roz SavageRoz Savage is a British ocean rower and environmental campaigner. She holds four world records for ocean rowing, including first woman to row three oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian. She uses her ocean rowing adventures to inspire action on the top environmental challenges facing the world today. 

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