Jessica Watson is the Youth Ambassador for the UN World Food Program Against Hunger.
Jessica Watson is the Youth Ambassador for the UN World Food Program Against Hunger. Cwfpjoelle Eid

Jessica Watson: Still sailing out of her comfort zone

WHAT was the bravest thing you did when you were 16 years old?

If, like me, you were a bit of a nerd, your moment of bravery might sound a little like stammering out a "hello" to the cutest guy at school.

For Sunshine Coast girl Jessica Watson, her moment of bravery was setting sail on a seven-month journey around the world in a pink boat, Ella's Pink Lady.

Not only did Jessica sail around the world, she is the youngest person to do so, solo, non-stop and unassisted.

In recognition of her achievements, Jessica was named the 2011 Young Australian of the Year and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia the following year.

She says the idea of sailing around the world came to her at a young age, which was supported by her parents and the broader sailing community.

"Everything was pretty normal really until mum and dad sold their business when I was 11. They are from New Zealand, so the plan was to see a bit of Australia before they took us back there. I like New Zealand, but I'm glad things worked out the way they did and we stayed here," she says.

"When we did a bit of travelling and particularly with the boat, the boat was meant to be this little short thing but we loved it. Eventually my siblings went back to school, but I had this crazy idea and I was pretty adamant that I was going to make it happen. So I went on with the correspondence and stayed on the boat.

"Mum and dad are timid. They wouldn't go out on a rough day, but it became my norm."

Jessica says her achievement would not have happened without the support of her family and the boating community.

"There really was a whole team of people; Bruce Arms and another Sunshine Coast sailor, Don McIntyre, he is the one who brought me the boat to lend for the voyage. It was actually quite incredible how it happened."

Jessica says she occasionally sees the sailors who helped her make her mark on the world.

"It's a bit difficult because they go off sailing, but I do run into them from time to time. They come from all around the place."

She adds that embarking on an adventure was about "responsible risk taking" and being prepared for anything the elements could throw at you.

"I look back on it and the thing I'm proud of is the mental side, to be able to manage it as well as possible and stay positive pretty much all of the time. People ask me if I would ever do it again, but unless I had that boat, I probably wouldn't want to do it.

"It really did come down to preparation… It's an adventure, but you don't do it without being prepared."

Six years on from completing her round the world sailing adventure, Jessica splits her time between Melbourne, Sydney and her home in Queensland.

She now keeps herself busy with what she thinks of as her greatest challenge, study.

"I've got a little wooden boat and I go out sailing with my friend, but I've really enjoyed studying the past few years," Jessica says.

Her chosen study program is a Business MBA with the Australian Institute of Management.

"People have been expecting me to do another big adventure, but that would almost be too easy. So I've got out of my comfort zone. I like to keep busy and challenge myself in different ways, learning things and learning a lot on the way," she says.

Jessica is also involved in making it possible for others to follow their dreams by becoming the Youth Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Program Against Hunger.

"It was something like four years ago now, maybe even slightly more that the UN approached me," she says.

"There's so many fantastic organisations out there that you feel torn you can't support them all, but they (UN) are front line and can do so much around the world.

"The first trip I did for them was to Laos, and what really amazed me was this (the food program) was happening and to be able to go over there and see and learn a little more about what they do was amazing."

Jessica's most recent field trip in her role with the UN was to Jordan and Lebanon where she met with Syrian refugees.

"It's just overwhelming the scale of it, but being able to go over to put faces to names and see what is happening, I wish everyone could do this because there are so many opinions flying around," she says.

"And there were a couple of days where I was quite emotional and upset.

"There was one mother I met. She was despairing because she didn't know how things were going to get better for her family.

"Then the next day I met a woman who was a prominent figure, like a leader in the camp, and her daughters were out working to help make things better and I just felt so inspired.

"You come back here and think there's no excuse for wishing things were better. We have things so good here."

Jessica has also been in talks with Sunstar Entertainment for an upcoming film about her, called True Spirit.

Named after the book that detailed her round-the-world adventure, Jessica says she is still getting used to the idea of having a film made about her.

"It's strange. I think it always will be. It's quite weird. I've spent a lot of time with the director and the script writer and it's taken a long time to get it to that point where it's ready," she says.

For those out there who are feeling inspired by Jessica, she says the trick to realising your dreams is to make them happen.

"My big thing is dream big and make it happen. It's amazing to have big goals, but they don't have to be a big scary thing. It can be any goal to be honest, but the important thing is to make them happen.

"There's so much inspiration out there, too much inspiration, and so many inspiring quotes… Dreams are great but they are better when you live them."

United Nations World Food Program

The United Nations World Food Program is working towards a world of Zero Hunger.

School meals are an effective safety net, helping to ensure every child has access to education, health and nutrition.

In the fight against hunger, school meals are a sound investment in the future of the next generation.

To find out more about how you can get involved, go to the official UN WFP website,

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