My Young Endeavour voyage was the beginning of my adult life. No other coming-of-age milestone, no 21st, no graduation, no trip compares to the feeling when I set foot on dry land after a two week sail from Wellington to Sydney. That voyage filled me with an appetite for adventure, which has become a driving force behind everything I do. Because of what I learnt during my time at sea, I finished my teaching degree, lived and worked in Northern Sweden, worked alongside some of Sydney's most disadvantaged children and volunteered as a tutor for deaf students at Science camps. And now, it helps me face the challenges I meet every day in the classroom. Being responsible for navigating a multi million dollar ship for 24 hours is nothing compared to coordinating a cut and paste activity with 30 Year 1 kids!

I remember the days leading up to our departure. I had arrived in New Zealand and was anxiously loitering around the docks of Wellington, spying on the Navy staff loading supplies and marvelling at the beauty of the ship. I can recall that my biggest concern was meeting the other crew members. I've always felt self concious on being on the outskirts of social groups. I am, after all, a massive nerd. I'm definitely extroverted but I tend to shrink back a little when there are lots of big personalities in the room (or below the deck...which there were!). I was worried that somehow along the way I'd be left out. However, I soon found that this fear backflipped into one of my fondest memories. Since the voyage, I have never been in a situation where so many like-minded people have gathered together. We all chose to do the voyage for the same reason, and that automatically gave us something in common. We were adventurers. We were there to experience the same midnight mast-climbing, the same stomach sinking storms and the same heart breaking sunsets. At a time when we were completely isolated from our homes and 'real life', the crew honestly became like family. Sure, broken sleep and the 90 second shower rule sometimes made us a stinky, grouchy family but they were people you would literally trust your life with. There aren't a lot of other people I would be comfortable balancing on a rope with 30m above the ocean. 

Then there was the fun stuff. Wakey wakey songs, swapping ghost stories with the staffies (not recommended on the graveyard shift) and using the binoculars to look for whales, sunfish, seals and the occasional penguin. I fell in love with navigation and meteorology and filled the Navigator post on Command Day (there's nothing like being waken up at 4 am because you're stuck in the East Australian Current when you need to be in Sydney Harbour at 9am sharp for quarantine). I definitely learnt how to be a better leader by supporting my Captain, communicating with my team and making sure everyone was working together towards the same goal. I learnt to come out of my shell and take control when appropriate, and to be asssertive without dominating the table. No mutinies were recorded, so I think we did ok. 

It took a few weeks for my sea legs to wear off and to stop waking up naturally at 5.30 each morning. I can't believe that three years have passed since Voyage 19/13. The experience lives with me every day, and has definitely shaped me into the woman I am. I take life by the horns every morning and I still truly believe I can overcome anything. I am stronger and smarter than I thought. I can be pushed to my limit and still wake up the next day ready for work. And if I, a tiny, nerdy girl from Sydney, can keep pace heaving lines with a massive rugby player from Mackay, I bet you can too. 

Grace Ludemann