In the beginning
People often ask me how someone like me got involved in the world of exploration.
My background and life is certainly not the usual in Polar Exploration, which is littered with privately educated and privileged ‘mavericks’ who for one reason or another have chosen this hard choice of career. Whilst I would agree it is extremely unusual for an unemployed mother of young triplets with no outdoor experience whatsoever, to set out on a journey of discovery, in what is arguably the harshest terrain on earth; I think my background, upbringing and tough early years made me the perfect candidate for success in this male dominated and physically brutal arena.
Being the youngest and only girl of five; born on a council estate in Bradford, West Yorkshire, I learnt early on that if you wanted anything badly enough you had to fight for it and work hard. Nothing was going to be given to you on a plate, not friends, not education and not your career. True friends were gained through loyalty and caring for them as much as yourself. Looking out for each other and standing side by side through the difficult times or when the more aggressive elements on the estate came calling.
Early lessons in how to make a successful, strong, happy and cohesive team.
Education was of course free but in a school where most of the pupils slammed school (were truant) or were disruptive in class, qualifications were not easy to attain.
Half way through my secondary education I was lucky enough to be moved into a school with teachers who had a passion for bringing out the best in their pupils and encountered the first teacher who recognised my ability and encouraged me to believe in myself; work hard and take charge of my own future.
It turned out I was a bright individual and moved steadily from the lower classes to the upper and eventually gain 9 top grade O’Levels in a time when the average was 4 or 5. Who knew I was so capable. Not me for sure.
It was a huge lesson in the power of belief and although I did what was expected in a working class family and left school that year to get a job, I never forgot this most important lesson in life and vowed never, ever, to accept other people’s ideas of what I was capable of. Never to accept the age old term ‘that’s not for people like me’ or ‘I can’t possibly do that’. To take each opportunity that came my way and work as hard as I could to make it happen.
I was the last child but the first of my mother and father’s children to attain any worthwhile qualifications and enter the white collar world, when, at the age of 16, I started working for Nat West Bank. I loved my line of work and my career progressed well but life is not one dimensional and what motivates and drives us one minute can change as we move through life.
I was happy to leave the bank when I gave birth to 3 not 1 child for my first pregnancy. Triplets were my new challenge and purpose in life.
When my children were born I thought I was the luckiest person alive. To be given triplets after a single course of IVF felt like a privilege and an honour beyond measure. My then husband worked away most nights and taking care of them largely on my own was a huge challenge, but I had waited so long for these babies and I was determined not only to cope but to enjoy them as well. I couldn’t change the amount of work involved or the lack of hours in the day but I did have control how I viewed the ridiculous and hectic nature of my life and loved every mad second of it.
The perfect background for when I was told about an advert in the newspaper asking for ordinary women to apply to become the first all women’s team to walk to the North Pole…
Ann Daniels an experienced, record breaking Polar Explorer.
Ann travels the world not only on expeditions but also speaking and delivering Keynotes.
Currently Ann has a 4 part TV documentary in production, a book and a new expedition.