Her epic ‘around the world’ quest captured the imagination of millions and Australia has since recognised her as a national hero, but Queensland teenager Jessica Watson considers herself no such thing. Rather, she’s just an ordinary person who loves to sail, cook and spend time with family and friends, when she can.
Jessica Watson’s schedule is hectic. Last week she competed in Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, yesterday she attended the Sealink Magnetic Island Race Week, as Queensland Tourism’s Season of Sailing Ambassador where she spoke to competitors, the Townsville Chamber of Commerce, did a big round of media interviews and signed autographs.
Next week she’s heading off to do a field trip with the World Food Program. Jessica rarely gets home but when she does get treasured time off she spends it like any average 18 year old would.
‘I am really busy at the moment. I’ve got so many commitments with new sponsors and corporate things and fundraisers, and I’m off to do a field trip with the World Food Program next week, which is really exciting. I’m an ambassador for them, so I do a bit of work there.’
‘I’ve been doing a lot of school tours with the Young Australian of the Year role, which also keeps me pretty busy. There’s not a lot of time for anything else really, but I am like any 18 year old, I like to go out, have a few drinks with my mates, or you know go to the beach on the weekend. But mostly you know whenever I get home I just love catching up with my mum and my brothers and sisters.’
It was certainly a time of celebration when she went home in May for her 18th birthday. It wasn’t a wild night of drunken stupor and bar-hopping as most might be; that’s just not Jessica’s style.
Instead it was more modest and perhaps, unique. ‘No I’m not particularly wild, I’m not much of a party girl. But you know for my 18th I had a house warming as well, so it was just a few mates and some drinks.’
Jessica’s accolades are numerous including Young Australian of the Year and Geographic Young Adventurer of the Year, and she can now add another feat to the mix, first-home owner. It’s not a commitment most young adults enter into, particularly around their 18th birthday, but life hasn’t exactly been normal for the intrepid adventurer since she was thrust into the limelight just over a year ago.
‘I moved out (from home) recently, which is lovely and it’s very exciting. For now I’m living by myself, but I’ve got a mate moving in somewhere down the line, so that’s nice. I’m five minutes down the road from mum,’ she laughs. ‘I come home I drop my washing off with her and pick it up on the way out the next day.’
It’s a pretty good arrangement but Jessica said her mum wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘I should do my washing, but mum is at home and I running all over the place!’
When Jessica comes home it’s usually an overnight stay, so she’s a constant client at the cafe below her apartment, but she insists that cooking is an interest. ‘No, I don’t cook a lot, I have a cafe downstairs,’ she laughs, ‘I do love cooking though, its just that I never get the chance because I’m only home for a night and it’s not worth buying ingredients.’
The media flocks to Jessica everywhere she goes, it’s one of the pitfalls that comes with her prominent status and role, but she always carries herself with a sense of poise and confidence, a testament to just how mature and grounded she is. She gladly speaks about her experiences, ambitious to let all know that a dream can indeed become a reality, but she does not concede to being a role model.
‘It’s not a title I give myself but I really do love going around the schools and talking to the kids and anyone and sharing my story, and if I make one or two people think that they can achieve something then that’s absolutely lovely and makes it very worthwhile.’
‘But I’m not saying to go out and sail around the world, I mean it is a lot of fun if you want to, but I’m saying go out there and go for your dreams, whatever they are, big or small. You don’t have to be anyone special to achieve these things, you’ve just got to put your mind to it and work hard and you can do anything. All the amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to meet in the last year are incredible people and have done amazing things but at the same time they’re just ordinary and they’ve just worked hard for wherever they got.’
Having sailed in some of the most treacherous waters in the world, Jessica offers some words of wisdom. ‘When you’re having a bad day, and we all have those, you only look an hour ahead, or a few miles ahead, take one step at a time. And when you’re having a great day and things are going well then that’s when you can look at the bigger picture, and you can look at the bigger goals.’
Next year Jessica plans on going to university and starting a course in the line of youth work. 'It’s something I’m quite interested in. From all the roles that I’ve been doing, and working with young people, I’ve realised that I really enjoy that so I want to continue in that area.’
It’s an experience she is very much looking forward to, particularly since she’ll have the chance to spend more time at home with family and friends.
But for now Jessica is enjoying herself, and on the topic of boys she insists there’s just no time for love. ‘No, there’s all sorts of rumours I’m sure, but I’m quite happy how I am,’ she laughs. ‘To be honest when I come home I see the family and that’s about it. In the last year I’ve headed off to all sorts of different places, so it’s been really lovely to see a bit of the world. I’m having so much fun.’
In part two Jessica Watson reveals her next adventure.