Laura Dekker: “Fighting for your dreams and goals is always worth it!”

Laura Dekker is the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone. At the age of 14, while her peers were shopping in malls, she was purchasing her first sailboat and preparing for the greatest adventure of her life. Those adventures are put into a documentary "Maidentrip".

You were born in the middle of a sailing expedition, circumnavigated the world solo for 518 days and have spent a considerable amount of your life at sea. What does a regular day look like for you living on a boat and sailing the sea?

There are not many regular days. Everything depends on the waves and the wind. But generally, it’s all about eating, sleeping, navigating, adjusting sails, watching the horizon, writing and sometimes, if the weather allows, some guitar playing and reading.


What are three life lessons you have learned from the sea and sailing that you apply to your everyday life?

  • Being happy and appreciative of the things I have
  • Respecting nature, the environment and the world around me.
  • Fighting for your dreams and goals is always worth it!

The Dutch court stepped in and tried to stop you from leaving. Can you tell us a little bit about how you won that battle and what the main challenges were? What’s your advice to young people who are struggling to achieve their dreams? How did you convince your parents?

I had been preparing the trip for a long time - since I was 8 years old I dreamed about doing it! So convincing my parents was not very hard. I think they knew if they would have said no I would have gone anyway and it would have been much more dangerous if I would have done it alone.


I realized that most of the naysayers are people that didn’t know my story or my preparation so it became easier for me to ignore the negative comments and just focus on my goal. It always takes a lot of discipline and determination, but somehow I felt and knew I just had to keep going.  


By the age of 11, you had already saved enough money to buy your own yacht – that’s incredibly impressive. How did you manage to earn that much money at such a young age?

Since I was 8 years old had worked most of my free time. Cleaning shops, boats, performing on my unicycle, etc. I bought an old boat and fixed it up with my father.


What were your thoughts when you set out for your solo-circumnavigation? Can you describe the feeling of arriving back home?

When I set out I had so many different emotions. From super nervous to very happy.

When I arrived back it felt very different, I didn’t look forward to all the attention and media. Of course, I was looking forward to seeing my parents but all I wanted was just to keep sailing.


You spent a lot of time alone, sometimes going 6-7 weeks without seeing another person. How did you battle loneliness?

I didn’t really. I like the moment alone at sea and think I needed it at that stage of my life to think, write and find myself.


At the age of 16, you became the youngest person to circumnavigate the world alone and achieved one of your life goals. What are your plans for the future? Do you feel like there is pressure for you to go and do the next big thing?

No, I don’t feel the pressure. If there is one thing I have learned it’s that everyone has an opinion about everyone and everything. I don’t need to lead my life by that. I do what I want to do no matter what others think.


Nevertheless - I do have plans to build a big ship and go sailing with young people. I want to give more children the opportunity to explore the world and more importantly, find themselves. Just like I did at that age.


Will you be sailing to Estonia when you come to speak at sTARTUp Day 2020?

Sadly no :(


As an entrepreneur, describe what a “startup mindset” means to you?

It means not being afraid to go where no one has gone before. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. 


Laura Dekker will be speaking at sTARTUp Day 2020. In her presentation she talks about the obstacles she had to overcome during and even before the trip like fighting and convincing the Dutch childcare and government that she was able to do this, and about the adventures and lessons she would have never learned in school. Get your ticket here