I few years ago, I came across the story of a then 13-year-old Dutch girl, who wanted to sail around the world single-handed. She had the support of her parents, yet the Dutch authority concerned with childrens’ and young people’s welfare thought it was a bad idea. An adventure such as the one she wanted to embark on, was considered to have too great of an impact on the teenager’s psyche and she would be missing out on her school work. Therefore a court order prevented this girl called Laura Dekker to go on her big trip around the globe. Laura Dekker became to be known as Sailing Girl Laura and when she turned 15 she finally embark on her solo venture after a Dutch court ruling stated that she was allowed to do so with her parents’ permission. Off she went and returned a year later finishing her monster journey at the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. The story of Sailing Girl Laura caught much media attention within and beyond Dutch borders. Some claimed Laura had pushy parents. Some where questioning whether the state has a right to intervene in a young person’s decision if it is backed by parental approval.
Lowlands country is known as a land of many rules and regulation and these rules are by no means meant to be broken (You can imagine my great cultural confusion in Egypt when a rule is never a rule and money can buy you permission to or exemption from practically anything). These rules are meant to assist us leading our lives in an orderly fashion, but can be experienced as overly restricted, paralysing and patronising. Should rules be able to be bent in some extraordinary cases? Sailing Girl Laura was born on a boat, lived a sailing existence during the first years of her life and when settling on land she ate, dreamt and slept sailing. Choosing to go on such an extraordinary mission at such a young age was to be expected. Is it not something to be admired and supported if a young person wants to do something outstanding, especially if her parents, who would be able to judge best what she would be capable of, support her? It is a great good that the state cares about the welfare of its children and young people. Yet, not all people, young or old, are the same. Lowlands country is a country of equality and where the aim is of us all to levitate to a sort of middle ground. The rich get taxed enough not to be disgustingly wealthy, the poor receive enough support that a life on the streets can be avoided. In principle everyone has access to the same schools and there is no such thing as Oxbridge or a Russell Group. Cronyism exits in every country, yet those sometimes paralysing and patronising regulation for all, go a long way when it comes to equality in restrictions. All are equal, but not all are the same. I do acknowledge that when a rule is not a rule for all, where is the line to be drawn?
However, with her accomplishment Sailing Girl Laura is the youngest person to have sailed around the world single-handed. Although I understand why Guiness is not to mention Laura’s achievement in its book of records not to encourage young people to embark on risky undertakings, Laura Dekker’s odyssey is a true achievement of which I am sure she is very proud. She is an inspiration to young and older people alike. In times of economic gloom and cultural pessimism we need proof that the human species is capable of extraordinary things and I believe the state should acknowledge and support this. I hope Sailing Girl Laura will realise that the world has more to offer than sailing alone and that she understands the value of a good education she might have missed out on. Yet, Dark Fairy salutes you. I certainly have your sense of adventure. I hope that I also share your courage and determination to achieve great things.
Hail the Young Queen of the Seven Seas!