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Ashley Bugge: Real Life Explorer.

25 Days.

25 days (!!!) until I get my expedition jacket that says, 'Ashley Bugge - Polar Explorer' on it. I'm freaking out. Though this has been three years in the making, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact it's finally happening!! It's been three years of planning and strategizing, making plans and creating schedules, only to have it all pushed back or lost because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We were first scheduled to head to the High Arctic for this research expedition in November 2020. By July of 2020, we were sure we were no longer going to be able to visit Norway, as the world was now on lockdown. As a team, we pulled together, adjusting plans and pushing things back as we were all unsure of what exactly this would mean for the preparations (and deposits) we'd already put in place. While the title of polar explorer has a fancy and exciting ring to it, it also comes with a hearty amount of fundraising and volunteer hours associated with it. What would happen if we needed to cancel because we weren't allowed to travel? We were about to find out. Our expedition was pushed to 2021, and then by August 2021, we realized Norway wasn't going to be opening its borders yet to tourists - or polar explorers - and we were going to again have to adapt, adjust and overcome. Our team of 34 seawomen from around the globe did just this. By August 2022 we received news that this years expedition would in fact take place (!!!) and we've been planning, organizing, meeting and executing in preparation! I've spent hours and days in the frigid PNW water training in my drysuit, I've completed the highest recreational scuba diving ranking certification I can, which has given me a fancy card that reads "Master Scuba Diver" on it, and I've met so many incredible, supportive, and inspirational people along the way. I can't believe it, but I'm now 25 days out from my flight departing Portland International Airport with a 20 hour travel day to bring me and my diving mask to Tromso, Norway, where I'll be meeting up with my expedition team to board our research vessel, the M/V Explorer.

The irony of me sitting her typing out my pre-launch plans, excitement, and fears (I'll get to those) is not lost on me. In July 2017, my husband, Brian Bugge, sat down in front of his own computer and typed out a very similar blog post as he was getting ready to embark on his own expedition - a Transpacific crossing in our 36' yellow sailboat, Stay Gold. Brian was excited, but nervous. He was prepared, but anxious about the undertaking. Brian was amazing, and though things didn't go exactly "to plan" while he and his team were out to sea, he was a great leader and they made it safely to Hawaii, 21 days after departure. As I get ready for my own expedition at sea, I think of him. I owe so much of my success, my excitement, and my desire to take advantage of every single opportunity; to him. I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for him. More accurately, I wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for losing him. Maybe that sounds counterintuitive, right? He died in a diving accident, why the hell then would I then leave our three young children at home and set out on my own ocean expedition where I will in no uncertain terms be in proximity of danger and or the potential for a fatal accident? This thought isn't lost on me. I feel it, I see it, I understand it. I also understand I need to do something because of it. The reality is I could die tomorrow in a car accident, I could have a heart attack or a stroke and never even make it to Norway. That could happen to any of us at any time. I recognize this, I accept it, and I embrace it. Because of it, I want to make sure every minute counts. I want to live with no regrets, I want to live each day as if it's my list. As Brian said in his own journal, "Tomorrow isn't guaranteed." I take those words to heart, and I live as if that's the reality.

While I talk a lot about Brian, and the impact he had on my life, and continues to have on my life, this expedition is for me. It's for my kids. It's for the moms and women cheering me on, for the people supporting me and watching from home thinking, 'Wow, I wish I could do that!' I want my kids to see that anything is possible, no matter how hard it is or how many times you get pushed down along the way, this life is what we make it, and it's up to us to take advantage of it. My path probably looks a lot different than most, but the reality is, we're all starting from where we're at. Right now, I'm typing this on my lunch break while substitute teaching an 8th grade science class. Tomorrow I have an interview with Military Families Magazine and then have to take my son to drum lessons. The day after that I have an 8AM meeting with my iron doctor to talk about my low iron, and then I have to clean out my garage before heading to parent/teacher conferences. Brian used to say, "I'm not special. I put on my pants one leg at a time, just like everyone else. I just have a dream, and I'm going for it." I'm channeling this. I'm saving every penny to chase down my dreams. I'm asking for help and support in my shortcomings. I'm connecting with like-minded people who inspire me to do more. I'm working hard to raise smart, kind, well-rounded and adventurous children, who don't think I'm cool. I love this. I want them to think this is normal. I want this level of experience and living life is the baseline so they go on to do even greater things.

I'm not really sure where I was going with this blog, except to say I'm excited. Between a book launch, starting a new relationship, and getting ready for this expedition, I've had a lot of excitement in my life these last few months. And now, I'm about to become a POLAR EXPLORER!! Like, whaaaaat!? How is this real life? I get to be an explorer. A real life explorer like the ones I've watched documentaries of my entire life! I can't believe it. I've taken lemons and I'm turning them into lemonade, and for that I am proud. It's hard to say we're proud of ourselves though, right? Does anyone else struggle with that? I do. Why is that? Nevertheless, I'm going to say it, and I'm going to own it. I'm proud of myself. Like really, really proud of myself. I've worked my butt off, physically, emotionally, and psychologically to get myself here, and I feel like it's paying off. I'm proud of who I am, of the mom I am to my three kids, of the friend I am, of becoming the person I want to be.

I hope you are too. I hope you're able to see all of your own accomplishments and realize none of us have it easy, but that you're doing the best you can. And if you're not, I hope this inspires you to go for it and start working towards your own goals. Please share them with me if you feel up to it. Inspire me to do more, and I'll try to do the same for you!

Thank you for reading. 25 days! <3

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