CONAN: Why do you do it?
Ms. SPOTZ: Well, I've been doing challenges for a few years now,
and I'm really passionate about linking up with charities. This row
is called Row for Water, and my goal is to help a thousand people
gain access to safe drinking water for life.
Ms. SPOTZ: So, yeah, a billion people don't even have access to
this most basic human need. So I'm really passionate about being
able to challenge myself and then raise awareness and funds for a
CONAN: But you could run 100 miles to do that. You could gather
the world's largest ball of string or do something else. Why have
you decided to do this particular challenge?
Ms. SPOTZ: Well, I found out about ocean rowing really randomly.
I was on a bus in Australia just chatting with the person next to
me and they mentioned that their friend rowed across the Atlantic
two times. She did it once with her 50-year-old mother. So, ever
since I learned about it, it's just been stuck in my head since-
yeah, it's just been a dream of mine, so...
Though enthused and passionate about raising money for Blue Planet, Spotz reveals her row is about more than clean water. The idea that she could accomplish such a unique challenge (after all the mother of the friend of the dude on the bus did it!) captured her imagination. She wanted to make it happen for herself.
Raising the money for the trip and the charity was a two year long process more complicated than the actual rowing. Oh, and the rowing was a dangerous undertaking- people die trying to row across oceans. A disaster could have resulted in an expensive rescue effort that would have undermined the overall social contribution Spotz eventually made, not to mention terrify her family and friends. And yes, as Neil Conan suggests, she could have gathered a ball of string to raise money, but how cool are balls of string?*
Other skeptics from her native North-East Ohio went farther. Someone on a Plain Dealer message board suggested that what Spotz really needed to do was stay home and look for a husband. Another said, "there are over 100 billion things to do with one's time that are more beneficial to mankind than this exercise in abject silliness." The first message was deleted and "Stan the Man," the author of the second, promptly received the message board smack-down he deserved for his own (negative) contribution to mankind. Though most people supported Spotz, not everybody could connect rowing across the Atlantic with helping people.
But Katie Spotz did something special. Her solo row contributes more to others than the $75,000 she raised for Blue Planet. Spotz wanted to row across the ocean for whatever reason- it was cool, she "thought it was a good idea," whatever. Most importantly, she had an ambitious goal, figured out how to achieve it, and then did. I like living in a world decorated by people like Katie- people with unique levels of creativity, initiative, and commitment. They give me hope that I can realize my own aspirations, both the simple and the crazy. They also reminds me that to get where I want to go, I have to be willing to row across oceans.
I think I join many Americans in my fascination with people who do and get what they want- especially when what they want is something extraordinary or seems a little nuts. Stories like Katie Spotz's get stuck in my head. I don't know why. They're just crazy cool.
*If string's your thing, by all means, please follow your dreams!