We were honored to get an indepth interview with Ripley Davenport, desert explorer, as a result we met Laura his wife. We are always asking our correpondents how they work their dreams into their lives and and how it affects those around them. Talking with Laura Davenport it became clear what the consequences are on those who support these ventures, and the spirit they have to have to make it work for all involved. We thought it would be interesting to have both perspectives of one extraordinary venture, and asked Laura if she would write about it for us.
Laura’s life changed 6 years ago when she met Ripley Davenport. She had a full time job and enjoyed a ‘Sex And The City’ lifestyle in Copenhagen, in Denmark, and she also owed her own skin treatment clinic in Lithuania and enjoyed travelling between the countries.
When she first met Ripley she didn’t like him, “But I had promised to meet him a second time and so I did.” Despite being advised not to make radical decisions as she had a perfect life, two months later she quit her job and moved in with him into a small town. Within 11 months their son, Scott, was born, and then Ripley lost his job and they were running out of money and their daughter, Stella, was born. Two years ago Laura’s mother died of sarkoma cancer.
“We had so many real world problems that I lost count. You have to imagine our life was in a foreign country, I’m from Lithuania, Ripley is from the United Kingdom, and we lived in Denmark. We’re very different people, our mother tongue is different, our cultures are different, we had no family, no real friends we could count on, two small children, we lost our jobs and the list could go on and on. The bottom line is, we learnt to depend on each other. and no one else.
“Ripley and I always found a way to provide for our kids, we have always been there for each other.”
When Laura’s mother passed away she left a small amount of funds and they had to make decision to spend them on bills or to invest in the future, which can make us or break them. One evening they sat down and thought what they could do that combined who Ripley was with his abilities and knowledge. He came up with Mongolia 2010 Expedition, a solo and unsupported trek across the Gobi Desert, the fourth largest on earth. Unlike the sand dunes of the Sahara, it is a large barren expenses of gravel plains and rocky outcrops with an extreme climate. Temperatures reach +40°C in summer, and -40°C in winter.
We had a lot of negative feedback from people who thought we were irresponsible parents, we were just dreamers and Ripley should get any other job, one that did not require a risk. But we didn’t imagine that for ourselves. We wanted to create our own life, a life that would give us satisfaction and feeling of giving back to others.”
Due to a technical failure just 2 days into the expedition, Ripley had to come back to Denmark. “He was so sad and dissapointed. I have never, ever seen him like this, even through the hard years we just had. We didn’t have enough funds, but I promised myself to do anything to get him back to Mongolia.
Again they faced people saying it was the wrong thing to do, and advised Ripley should stay at home and look for a conventional job. “I didn’t listen to them,” says Laura, “because they didn’t live in our shoes. If Ripley didn’t get back to Mongolia, he would have been ‘dead’ inside for many many years.”
“We posted messages on Facebook and found there were also people who believed in him and wanted him to finish an expedition, and they helped us.”
“Ripley called me from Gobi desert after a few weeks and said: “You know, Laura, I have found myself. This is exactly what I want to do.”
Without the Davenport’s knowledge, Tim Lavery was following Ripley’s progress in Mongolia 2010 and contacted Ripley on his return from the expedition. The two men found they had many things in common and the Explore Foundation idea was born! “6 months later, we left Denmark,” says Laura “after 12 years of living there we now live in Ireland and the children are happy enjoying thier mornings and play times with Daddy.”
Laura knows that it is frightening to make changes in your life, but I learn that I can be stronger then I thought. I know that whatever life brings me I’ll be ready to handle them. I know what it is like to be a truly independent woman. She has no regrets, “If you had asked me 6 years ago I probably would have said ‘Yes’ but, now I have no hesitation in taking chances. I have become fearless.”
She admits she has some fears every time Ripley is on an expedition, “I fear for his safety and his health. But I have to overcome my fears and I’ve learned to stay calm and I don’t show my worries to him. In the beginning of his career as a desert explorer, I wasn’t sure if I could be the supportive voice he needs to hear. I’m not a coach or motivator, or a survival skills expert, I’m just his life partner. But time has shown that’s the voice Ripley wants to hear. He knows, that I’ll be there no matter what decision he has taken”.
“Besides, every time Ripley comes back from his expeditions, he’s wiser and happier, he has so many stories to tell. We talk, and talk, and talk. He has a lot to give and teach in terms of seeing things that matter, the things that make us happy. I know it may sound out of this “real world”, but the real world is what makes us happy or miserable. People want the latest car, they assume it will make them happy. I had the same attitude 6 and half years ago before meeting Ripley. I was wrong. A new car makes us satisfied for a day, or a week. There is no benefit from the car. My experience with Ripley is that I learned to see things differently (in a good way).”
“I had a point when I wanted to quit the marriage and give up. But Ripley did not let me. He knows me inside out and he knew that it was just a moment. He is a true man, who would do anything to save his family and will motivate me by making sure that things are in a right place.”
We come from different countries, different cultures and different worlds: the city and the countryside. But after 2 dates with Ripley I knew he’d be the father of my children, even though before meeting him kids have never ever crossed my mind. I thought my life without responsibilities and Sunday brunches with my friends in Copenhagen would continue forever. But that was 6 and a half years ago.
Yes, I sacrificed my city life, my first marriage in order to start new life with Ripley, but now my dream is to do whatever is in my power to support Ripley and Tim Lavery’s non-profit organization, Explore Foundation, to achieve their mission: to influence young people to see the world through different eyes, to explore, to learn about their physical and mental capabilities and understand that there is no such thing as one size fits all.
She believes in him, Laura says Ripley’s motivation and positive attitude has even helped her in situations where she may have choosen an easy way out. “I have learnt over the years of being with Ripley that giving up shows our weakness and our inability to foresee the negative consequences of that.”
“People tell me that I’m always optimistic, funny, independent and sensative. I will do anything if someone needs my help and always try to find a way out of bad situations. I now adapt to new environments easily”.
She may gone from city girl to country girl and changed her role in life, but “I actually, never thought about it. I play a big role in Ripley’s decision-making process and my support in wife’s role and as a life partner are important. I play an important role as a good mother to Scott and Stella, and I know I used to play a big role as a supportive daughter to my dear mother before she passed.”
“I’m doing day-by-day the small things that help me to achieve the full potential of those roles I mentioned. It sounds like a cliché, but we, women, all do the same thing. Even if a woman is an ultra-marathon runner, the core of her achievements is based in her own home, with her own family. I used to be ‘a career women’ but after many years of personal growth I’ve realized that ‘career woman’ is not my achievement.
“Before Ripley I was a different Laura in every sense of the word. I didn’t know what it was like to have a 100% honest relationship, one in which thoughts and emotions are put openly on the table. Before Ripley, I didn’t know what it was like to laugh every day. I think we benefit each other. I met a man with life experience, a responsible man with an amazing sense of humour, and an honest man. He met the women who will stay by his side no matter what.
But Laura is happy to admit that the biggest change was actually having children, “I do not consider marriage or moving countries to be the biggest changes. These things can change anytime: marriage can end up with divorce, you can move country any time, but children stay with you forever. This is the change that can never change.”
“I guess my legacy is my kids, Scott and Stella. What can be more important? Maybe a book, an innovation or another scientific project, but do they really define who we were as human beings? I think our children’s memories of us are the most powerful legacy, and the most truthful one.
If she has any advice to pass on from her experience it is, “If you see that things are not working out the way they should, do not force them by trying to make them right. This is a sign that you’re not going in a right direction. Sit down and think and ask yourself is this what I am meant to do and is it what I want to do? Do not fear to make radical changes. Changes are good. Only changes make us wiser and less fragile.”
When we asked what motivates her to get out of bed everyday Laura said, “I have no choice regarding staying in bed, kids will get you out of bed whether you want to or not. But if I have to be serious, then I would say a sense of responsibility for my family and for my own life. And I want my morning coffee every day.”
Find more about the Explore Foundation here