A Personal Leadership Journey - To Antarctica

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is documenting her inner and outer struggles as she is preparing for her expedition to Antarctica.

von Eirliani Abdul Rahman, August 28, 2018

This article originally appeared on TwentyThirty.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman is a diplomat turned activist. To raise awareness for survivors of sexual child abuse, she is setting out for an expedition to Antarctica in December 2018. Eirliani will document her inner and outer struggles as she is preparing for this trip, pulling a sled with 190 pounds in food and gear, in temperatures dipping to minus 48 degrees Celsius. She is not new to dealing with harsh conditions, having trained in gale force winds in Arctic Canada in March 2017.

This is part 8 of Eirliani’s personal leadership journey.

It is extraordinarily hard training when the end is not yet in sight: Summer is in full swing; the baby eagles are being watched over by their white-headed parents in their giant nests perched on top of abandoned telegraph poles; marmots and prairie dogs are scurrying across meadows redolent with the fragrance of July’s flowers; and I’ve discovered my first muskrat diligently eating off a lake in the wilderness of Colorado.

Here, with my feet fresh on American soil, I discover anew the words of naturalists John Muir and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

John Muir

To all intents and purposes, I’ve abandoned the gym, finding pleasure instead in hiking up Emerald mountain standing at 9237 feet (2815 m), just a short bus ride from where I live, and getting used to the elevation again in between my bouts of traveling.

I tell myself that this is training for when I’m hiking a “14-er,” local speak for hiking a mountain exceeding 14,000 feet (4267 m) in height.

Mostly, I’m delighted at the newfound freedom to run the now snow-less trails, backpack on my back, my main concern being keeping an eye out for mountain cats and rattlesnakes.

I’ve yet to see a bear. My friends here tell me it’s a good thing…

I’ve travelled most of June – accompanying my Nobel Peace Prize boss to a black-tie event in Germany, then speaking at the Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum, speaking at a book reading in Pretoria, South Africa, hosted by the Alliance Française, and finally participating in an anti-trafficking conference organized by the German technical cooperation agency GIZ and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

This past month, July, saw me traveling just domestically: to San Francisco for a Twitter Summit which included meetings with CEO Jack Dorsey, and to New York City to prepare for an upcoming event at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly come September.

August is more of the same: another book reading, this time in Hamburg, Germany, at the invitation of Die Zeit Foundation; working with my peers on a project to do with raising awareness on child abuse in Nairobi, Kenya; then to Singapore at the invitation of the Singapore government to represent my country at the India-Singapore Strategic Dialogue, and then finally to a remote province of Indonesia, Nusa Tenggara, to interview trafficking survivors.

How do I train with all that travelling?

It really is about being practical: hiking with friends whenever I’m back in Colorado so as to combine my need for society with training.

This includes having discussions about wedding preparations with a bride-to-be while furiously putting in some miles hiking next to almost-dried-out creeks in the summer heat, and standing in to play softball, the rules of which still elude me, when there aren’t enough girls to play in the co-ed league.

As I wryly explained to the umpire as I missed yet another ball being pitched at me from the field, this is an American game and I was born and raised on a tropical island with decidedly British roots.

I’m blessed to have friends who are such sweet supporters of my expedition to the South Pole, and who are always accommodating about my dietary requirements (I’m constantly hungry and need to eat) and my training needs (squeezing in time to train at odd hours of the day).

And I go solo, too: hiking on my own when I am back in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, or going rock climbing on my own when in another city, as sometimes it’s more convenient and safer than jogging in an ultra-busy metropolis.

Dare I say this? I am looking forward to the winter again when I can get back on my skis and train in earnest.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Among many things, Eirliani Abdul Rahman is a social media ninja, and she loves climbing volcanoes and rock climbing in her spare time. Currently based in Colorado, USA, she is co-author of the book “Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse.” You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @eirliani.

This article is presented in collaboration with TwentyThirty.  

TwentyThirty is an online magazine presented by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. It sheds light on the social, political, and environmental challenges we face and features inspiring Responsible Leaders who are working to solve them. Follow their work on Facebook