The Happiness Quotient

#93 - Laura Dekker, at Age 16 Became Youngest Ever to Solo Circumnavigate the Globe

September 16, 2021 Thom Pollard Episode 93
The Happiness Quotient
#93 - Laura Dekker, at Age 16 Became Youngest Ever to Solo Circumnavigate the Globe
Show Notes Transcript

Can you imagine achieving at the age of 16 what other dream their entire lives of doing and even then never take the first step toward embarking on the journey of their dreams?


Our remarkable guest today knew from a very early age that she wanted to sail around the world, alone...in her own boat. It appeared as if everyone in her sphere were conspiring against her, to dash her dreams….well, I should say that her parents were very supportive, and encouraged her to put her thoughts into action. 


In fact, she was born in New Zealand, during a seven month sailing trip by her parents, spent the first five years of her life on at sea...was given her first boat at age six, a small dingy made for children…  She named her boat Guppy, all her boats have been named Guppy


Her name is Laura Dekker. She’ll be 26 on September 20th….she has a Dutch, German and New Zealand citizenship...truly a citizen of the world. 



At age 14, with a solo trip to England …..and back - departing from her home in the Netherlands

under her belt and months, even years of experience alone aboard a ship….she announced her intentions to circumnavigate the globe, solo.


Now, you know when you were a kid and you had this amazing idea and someone told you how dumb it was and somehow you agreed and gave up that dream, and suddenly the years go by and you wonder why the hell you ever listened to the doubeters in the first place?


Well, Laura had many doubters, in fact the government f the Netherlands got involved, the Child Welfare Office objected, a family court judgment was obtained that placed Dekker in shared parental custody with the Council for Child Care who intended to stop her departure.


Dutch naval law said a person under 16 wasn’t allowed to captain a boat over seven meters long….


 the Dutch court ended supervision of Dekker, and decided it was "up to the girl's parents to decide whether she can make the trip."[34] Dekker reported that she would depart "within two weeks".[35]

Laura later commented about the authorities in an interview, saying "They thought it was dangerous. Well, everywhere is dangerous. They don't sail and they don't know what boats are, and they are scared of them."   14 years old!



Well, she made, at the age of 16 became the youngest person ever to solo circumnavigate the globe….it took her two years, threw her into the international spotlight, she was awarded prestigious sailing awards, and everyone it would seem wanted a piece of her. 


When I caught up with her this summer and Laura Dekker agreed to this interview I wanted to ask her about her true calling….her now...and not trap her into telling the story of sailing around the world alone yet another time….there are dozens and dozens of videos and interviews on YouTube and beyond….and she has a book...



Fast forward 10 years from her remarkable accomplishment and now Laura has devoted her life to inspiring children and youth with her LAURA DEKKER WORLD SAILING FOUNDATION. 


Aboard her new ship, also called the GuppYa 21 meter, 53 ton Scorpio 72 (stay tuned in this interview for the fate of the Guppy that she sailed around the world), 



The foundation provides programs for young people to develop life skills like team work, self confidence, responsibility, creativity, and leadership. The challenge of expeditions in foreign lands and long distance sailing aboard the foundation’s training vessel provide a uniquely powerful and extremely effective environment f

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Thom Pollard:

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The Wood Brothers:

Happiness Jones

Thom Pollard:

and check out my course in happiness on [email protected] slash the happiness quotient. My answers came in say, a dragon attained again Happy Can you imagine achieving at the age of 16 what others dream their entire lives of doing and even then never take the first step toward embarking upon the journey of their dreams. Our remarkable guest today knew from a very early age that she wanted to sail around the world alone in her own boat. It appeared as if everyone in her sphere were conspiring against her to dash her dreams. Well, I should say that her parents were very supportive and encouraged her to put her thoughts into action. In fact, she was born in New Zealand during the seven years circumnavigation sailing trip by her parents spent the first five years of her life at sea. She was given her first boat at age six, a small dinghy made for children. She named her boat Guppy, all her boats have been named Guppy. Her name is Laura Decker. She'll be 26 on September 20. She has a Dutch, German and New Zealand citizenship. She's truly a citizen of the world. At age 14 with a solo trip to England and back departing from her home in the Netherlands under her belt, and years of experience aboard a ship. She announced her intentions to circumnavigate the globe solo. Now, you know, when you were a kid, and you had this amazing idea, and someone told you how dumb it was, and somehow you agreed and gave up that dream. And suddenly the years go by and you wonder why the hell you ever listened to the doubters in the first place? Well, Laura had many doubters. In fact, the government of the Netherlands got involved. The child welfare office objected, a family court judgment was obtained that placed Laura Decker in shared parental custody with the council for child care, who intended to stop her departure. Dutch naval law even said that a person under 16 wasn't allowed to Captain about the size of hers. The Dutch court eventually ended supervision of Laura Decker, and decided it was up to the girl's parents to decide whether she can make the trip or not. Laura reported that she would depart within two weeks. She later commented about the authorities in an interview saying, quote, they thought it was dangerous. Well, everywhere is dangerous. They don't sail and they don't know what boats are, and they are scared of them. That's Laura Decker, who set out to sail the world alone at 14 years of age. Well, she made it at the age of 16. She became the youngest person ever to solo circumnavigate the globe. It threw her into the international spotlight, she was awarded prestigious sailing awards, and everyone it would seem wanted a piece of her. When I caught up with Laura this summer, and she agreed to this interview I wanted to ask her about her true calling, not Trapper into retelling the story of sailing around the world alone yet another time. There are dozens and dozens of videos and interviews on YouTube and beyond. And Laura has a book called one girl one dream. And now Laura has devoted her life to inspiring children and youth with the Laura Decker world sailing foundation. Aboard her new ship. It's a 21 meter 53 ton Scorpio 72 also called the Guppy. Stay tuned in this interview for the fate of the Guppy that she actually sailed around the world. The Laura Decker world sailing foundation provides programs for young people to develop life skills like teamwork, so self confidence, responsibility, creativity, and leadership. The challenge of expeditions in foreign lands and long distance sailing aboard the foundation's training vessel provide a uniquely powerful and extremely effective environment. For the personal development of children and teenagers that come from all sorts of backgrounds. You're not going to find any doubters anywhere near the government. Here's my interview with Laura Decker aboard the Guppy where there was much activity taking place this day, a brief visit from her adorable toddler son, Tim, they were preparing for yet another voyage. Of course, they spent six months of the year at sea. Here's my interview with Laura Decker. lad. I want you to be able to talk about things that really don't. Well, I know you love talking about your experience, but everybody wants to know about it, right? And like, Oh, it's what was it? Like? You know, I'm gonna try not to do too many cliche questions. So I want like, tell me about what you're doing right now. Because to me, this is the the crux of it all, you emerged from this amazing experience. And it sounds like you've discovered that you want to inspire young people like yourself, and what a great, what a great gift back to the world. So So what are you doing now?

Laura Dekker:

Yeah, basically what you just said, I think after my journey, I continued sailing to New Zealand, I lived there for a couple years, I did boat deliveries, I worked for a school and outdoor sections. So we did like camping and hiking and sailing. And I really liked that. I liked seeing the teenagers kind of grow through these adventures, getting to know themselves. And I also did a lot of presentations. And I think it's through the presentations that I realized how much I had actually learned myself from that journey, because I would be telling is, and while I was telling you to go like, Whoa, I had so many experiences and so many things I learned and it really made me to do the things that I do now and the person I became. So that's something I wanted to gift to other kids as well, especially since most people live in their own town where they're born. And they that's all they know. And they think that's what they need to do as well. And some people fit right in and think that's great, and others don't fit in at all and have no idea where to go. So those I want to give you opportunity to do something else.

Thom Pollard:

So how does young if a young person by chance sees one of your videos on YouTube go by, and they see, hey, you know, if this interests you reach out to us, and there might be a, you know, a chance for you to take part in this. Like, what is somebody? Like? What do they do? Like? Can they be from anywhere in the world? Is there an application process? I would think you have more people who want to do it, then you have room for?

Laura Dekker:

Yes, that's absolutely right. So first of all, we let them write like a motivation letter. So they write write up something about themselves, why they want to do it's why it's important to them, then I will do like a zoom meeting with them. And also with their parents, because obviously I need to know the parents are also okay with it.

Thom Pollard:

So what are their different programs for these for these kids like or are they in it for you know, X number of weeks or one week programs? Or do you mix and match?

Laura Dekker:

Yeah, we mix and match a lot, actually. So during the summer, we do something for the smaller ones. So from a to 12 year old and we do like a 10 day trip or maybe a two week or one week. It's like shorter trips, which are more summer camp kind of things. And then for the for the new agers are 12 to 16 year olds, we do long trips up to six months. So they can come with us for the full six months, or they can join for like five weeks or seven weeks. So there's different programs set that you can enroll in. Yeah.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah. You know, it's interesting. I interviewed this this guy a couple of weeks ago, and the the episode isn't live yet. But his name is Dawn Walsh. And he when he was I think 27 he was in the Navy, the United States Navy. And he was the guy who went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. And, and that's pretty amazing. Anyway, today, you know, 50 6070 years later was sick. 30 plus years. And when he came out of that, he realized what an amazingly unique thing he had accomplished. And one of the first thoughts that he had was, I'm not going to let this define me, I'm not going to just say, Okay, I did something. And he could have probably gone on a speaking tour for the rest of his life and maybe made a living. But he decided to become an oceanographer to study the oceans to, you know, give back and just say, like, Look, I love that I had that experience, but there's so much more. And, man, you It sounds like you kind of hit the ground running. Everybody wanted to talk to you about your experience. And you're like, Wow, I've got this gift. Now, this experience? And and that seems like there's it to inspire one individual is the greatest gift you could possibly give back to someone. And here you have this ship.

Laura Dekker:

Yeah, yeah, I think, you know, it wasn't. It didn't come that simple to me. After the trip, I was kind of the same. I didn't want I had done that. But I wanted to actually, yeah, live my life and do a lot of other things as well. I also didn't want it to define me either. And I actually hated it if people would come and go, like, oh, you're Laura. Oh, yeah. Which is probably why I like move to an out place in the world and just try to not be noticed. And I did that for a lot of years. I really, I think that was important to me that I didn't go in front and speak and do these things and kind of built that up slowly. Because I didn't. Yeah, it takes away from the experience, if it's about that. And it's it's only slowly that I realized, well, I did learn a lot from it. And it would be cool to give other people that experience as well. Huh?

Thom Pollard:

Yeah. So one aspect of it, that really resonates for me, and you know, I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and you know, from high school, but down into middle school and younger, and there are a lot of, I don't know, if it's just if this is just today, but I think this has probably always been the truth is that a lot of a lot of kids will have a dream, and a friend or so called friend or a parent, or somebody will say, you know, that's really stupid or your net, that's impossible. You can't do that you're too young, or you're not smart enough or, and. And it's like, gosh, darn it, man. Like there's so many, like, negative things like barraging us in summer. So you I'm sure you had that too. It sounds like from what I've heard of your talks, like you had a dad and a mom who at least were like, Look, Hey, man, if you can prove it a little bit, go for it.

Laura Dekker:

Yeah, I agree. Absolutely. And I think it's such a shame, because I think you know, there is people who like me, if someone says you can't enjoy it, I will try to do even more. But I don't, there's not a lot of people like that. And most people if you say you can't do it, they just go Oh, I can't do it. Okay, I won't do it, then. And that's such a shame, especially as a child, you should keep those dreams alive. And yes, they may never become an astronaut or a pilot or whatever they want to be. But that's not what it's about. It's about that they have a goal that they have a dream because as soon as a person doesn't have a dream or goal in life, they will just, they'll just drift around pointless not knowing what to do, where to go, where to put their energy in. And especially in teenagers, what you quite often see is if they don't have a goal, and don't ever dream, they will put all this energy knollys thoughts that they have into bad things. And I do believe that it comes forth out of killing dreams when they are young, because if we would keep them alive, they would still be going for that when they're a teenager. And yes, they may never get there. But that's not that's not the point at least they learn to fight for it. And they learn learn to go for it. And through the journey of reaching that particular girl, which saw there's a seven year old was absolutely they will actually learn who they are and what they actually want to do in life. And maybe they do become stressed out after all. So yeah, I agree that that's the most important thing and it's something that I really focus on in the programs is just what do you want and how are you going to do that and don't you know, it's good to listen to other people's advice, but don't let it takeaway for who you are and what you believe. Because I think that's very important.

Thom Pollard:

So when you were when you first had that experience of going around the world you were it when that when this dream kind of started to take shape? Did you experience a lot of people saying you're you're not so you're out of your mind?

Laura Dekker:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I did. And I think there's there's a couple of factors that got me through that. And the first and probably most important is my parents, who are a little bit, I think, yeah, different themselves. And I've always gone for their own dreams and their own goals. And so they really always stimulated me and my sister to do the things we wanted to do, and to fight for it. But then having a whole country in school and friends and everybody say that you can't do it, you shouldn't do it, and it's bad, and you're gonna die and saying that? Yeah, it definitely had a big impact on me. It was it was hard. And I'm not. It's hard to think even now, why I did keep going. Because really, like, the record wasn't even that important to me. It was not, it was it was the adventure. And I think it was really something inside of me that just said, you need to do this, if you're not going to do it, you're just going to be screwed. So, you know, you need to try it. Right? That, yeah, the belief of having this goal and just doing that, that was so important. For me to just keep going with my life that yeah, I think that that's just all that kept me going. I knew I needed to store it.

Thom Pollard:

Believe in your dreams. Um, you know, that when I would go on a trip, I'm, I'm more of a mountain guy, even though I've done a sailing adventure on the South Pacific. And for me, like the those innate fear is when people say like, so were you afraid during the storm and stuff like that? I would, it was like, Well, sure. I mean, you You're, you're ready, and you, you know, you get the proper level of fear things come at you. So you can be prepared if like, you know, a sail rips or 10 reps or something. But, um, for me, like, on trips, on expeditions, it was always other people that gave me the most amount of unpredictability, like people who would either screw up or, or have not really good intentions, or, you know, steal your oxygen bottle at high altitude and things like that. And so, my gut is from the clips I've seen on your YouTube videos, and your documentary is that, it seems like you met a lot of people who were just there, like, whatever you were here to help. I mean, so maybe the world isn't such an evil place after all right, like you proved it. I don't.

Laura Dekker:

Yeah. Um, I've met Good, bad people alike. And I definitely like to think that there's more good people and bad people. But there is bad people for sure. And it's, it's a shame, and I keep falling for it anyway. Because, yeah, I just want the world to be good. So I'm always hoping that everyone is just good. And they are. But you know, an example is that a few years ago, I landed out my boat to a charity who was going to sail with kids, and they just completely wrecked it and destroyed it on a reef and I've never heard from them again. They haven't sent me photos they haven't, they haven't done anything. I just don't know what happened to the boat. And this is about that. It meant a lot to me. It's it's kind of like my first child. Anyway, because this this boat and I, we did something incredible that defined the rest of my life, I think, and for people to treat it in such a disrespectful manner, is incredibly painful. But I could sit here in mystery and just be angry at them which I am. But you know, it's not going to help me get further yes, these people are bad. And yes, what they did is bad. But I'm not going to let my life be defined by that. So yes, I've had a lot of shitty experiences also with the court cases and trying to set sail and people just pretending to be a manager and just take off with all the money and things like that it happens. I think as soon as you reach a certain level of being famous, these people somehow find you and they go like oh, yeah, that's right. Something but it's, I just, I don't Yeah, I don't like to focus on that I like to keep going and focus on the positive things and the nice people that I need, which there are many, and there are many nice things and life is just too short to focus on on the bad people, I think just tried to shrug it off start again. It's, it's kind of difficult, because you want to, yeah, you just want to shut them down and somehow not have other people hurt. But at the same time, I don't want it to define my life either. So

Thom Pollard:

yeah, sometimes we need an experience. And those the experiences we learn a lot from are usually not always but the negative ones, the bad ones, where maybe we were naive, we trusted someone who we weren't aware of, of maybe their ill intent, or, or their unpredictability. And so instead of, you know, for me, you know, I said, Yes, I was the one who acquiesce to these, these kind of wants of other people. So it's like, that's my lesson, man. And, and hold back, you know, um, hey, so So tell me now, the the name of your foundation now and how just to kind of a little synopsis of how that came to be.

Laura Dekker:

Okay. So it's called the Laura Decker world sailing foundation. And I had been thinking about it for a long time somehow took because I really, I like children. And I like to work with young people a lot. So I knew like that I knew I wanted to live on a boat. And I always wanted to be sailing. And I was also quite sure that I wanted to do something with my family. So I don't want to be the kind of person that the guy goes away to work and you see each other for a few hours at night, that was just not what I want. So I was thinking really long and hard about how I was going to combine all of those things. And this, the foundation that I'm running is something that I just wanted, I wanted to show kids this way of life, because sailing teaches you a lot of things. And once you get into crappy situations that you can't get out of like maybe bad weather, things will break, you're in the middle of the ocean, no one is going to help you. So you need to deal with it. And I think that teaches you a whole lot of teamwork, communication, self discipline, and determination. It's a lot of really good stuff. So that's, I knew that was the right thing to do if I was going to help young people. Plus you've got a nice quiet environment without distractions to be able to talk to them. And for their self reflection. So I started setting it up. And in process, I met my partner and he was also excited about it. So I think that's, you know, that was important for me. And then of course, we had Tim so we decided, let's just have him along. So he's just under on the journey. He's always there. He just said, he's part of the crew. And yeah, that's so that's what we're doing now. And we're full time doing it. We're six months sailing, and then six months working on the boat. Yeah, so it's been a couple of smaller trips in between.

Thom Pollard:

Yeah, it okay. Last thing, and I want it to be positive. But But you, you're you're young woman, but what you've spent a lot of time on on the oceans. How are our oceans doing now? And is it too late to inspire people to want to stay on this planet not go to Mars and, and research the oceans and work to make this planet? healthy? That's a big question. You just

Laura Dekker:

got a question. Um, the short answer is, it's never too late. I think there's always hope and we need to keep fighting because as soon as we give up hope, then there's nothing. I can definitely say it has gotten much worse. We've been over the 15 years that I have been sailing over the oceans, it bears more plastic and let's fish so it's, it's real. It's not a joke. I can. I can see it on my every day sailing. And it makes me quite sad. I think the problem is, you know, it's not just how we're going to clean it up the problem, how much realistic Our lives are, how we just throw away stuff so easily. We don't reuse stuff. It's so it's Yeah, I think that's, that's where I am looking for myself. That's something that I'm trying to give the people that I say, Oh, it's too, like, look at it's just the other day I was sitting in a playground and there was a girl who was eating an ice cream and just like tossed the paper, or like stuck between some playground thing. And I was like, no. Hey, like, if we as, as parents, as adults are not teaching our children to throw it in the bin, or to not even buy ice creams with plastic wrappers and lots of rubbish around it, then, yeah, then we're not doing right. I think so. That's Yeah, we need to be looking at our selves, mostly, I think and as your question to research in the ocean, it's, by far for me the most interesting place in the world, because there's so little known about it, I mean, even the creatures that live in it and, and how they work, how they function, how they communicate, it's, it's much more of a mystery than pretty much all the rest of the earth. So, there's so much yet to be discovered in the oceans. I would be incredibly excited. Like, honestly, I have so many dreams, I could feel probably 10 life with it, but I only have one. So try to make the most out of this one. But yeah, there's so much I want to do.

Thom Pollard:

Thank you know, there's,

Laura Dekker:

there's good things about the world are evolving to I just think we need to be conscious about how it's evolving and using the all the tools that are coming to us as a tool rather than as a necessity, like talking about phones or something. People are going to die if they don't have a phone and and to me that's insane. I think you know, it's, it's useful, and it should be handy. But we need to know how to survive without it. Otherwise, you're just yeah, it's, that's, that's to me that thing. I think I like to stay close to nature, because that's the essence of life and not technology. But that that's my feeling. And I know not everybody agrees with me.

Thom Pollard:

It's not entirely possible to explain how a young girl could grow up and construct this dream of sailing alone around the world, while the other 99% of the world said it's insane or illegal or too dangerous and therefore impossible. What is even more remarkable is that the support and belief of a dad or a mom can literally transform a youth and open doors to unimaginable lengths. Actually scratch that the support and belief of a mom and a dad opened the doors to all things imaginable of a child. Happy Mrs. Jones. Laura Decker an inspiration to all who now shares that encouragement and experience to youth around the globe. You can learn more about Laura Decker at her website Laura Decker world sailing foundation.com Decker is spelled de EKKER. And you have to visit her YouTube page for incredible videos that she filmed during her solo circumnavigation and recently videos about her ongoing work at the foundation youtube.com the Laura Decker world sailing foundation. Her book is called one girl one drink, you can find a link for that on her website. And if you want to become a supporter to help empower youth, you can find a link on the Laura Decker world sailing foundation.com website. Thank you Laura for your time. I look forward to interviewing you in person someday, wherever you may be. As always, thank you to the woods brothers and their management for the use of their song happiness Jones for our theme song here on the happiness quotient and to their publicist Kevin Calabro for helping make it happen. For more information about me Tom Dharma Pollard to inquire about personal coaching or public speaking in person or virtually visit me at eyes open productions.com and write me anytime at Tom dot Dharma dot [email protected] Thank you for visiting the happiness quotient. I will see you all real soon.