Gutsy Goddess—Ann Daniels

I am honored to introduce Ann Daniels, world-record-breaking polar explorer—one of the first women in history to reach the North and South poles as part of all women teams!

“When your back is against the wall you have to come out fighting.”

“I chose this challenge as I found myself the divorced mother of young triplets and had to do something to fight my way out of my own dire circumstances, both mentally and financially.


Catlin Arctic Survey 2010
© Martin Hartley

“My most favourite place on earth is the Arctic Ocean, where the surface underneath your feet moves constantly and changes every moment of the day. A few years ago myself and 2 other woman made an attempt to reach the North Pole from land, crossing the Arctic Ocean from Nunavut, in the North West territories of Canada and hoping to make a world record by being the first all women’s team to walk to the North and South Poles. We had already completed the journey to the South Pole.



The journey North was fraught with difficulties from the start. For the first 27 days we endured temperatures on the thermometer of between -46°C and -50°C (-51F- -58F). We suffered from Carbon monoxide poisoning and after 3 terrible storms we each had frostbite of the fingers and toes. The ice cracked up beneath our tent on more than one occasion and after 37 days of an 80-day window of opportunity we had completed just 69 miles of the 500-mile journey. Despite losing a team member on our resupply plane we refused to give in and against all expectations, even our own, we made it to the North Pole safely.

“Your future is your own responsibility and staying a victim is not the answer when there are other options. You can be a good mother and still have a full and varied life. Don’t let fear of failure stop you having a go at anything. Even if you don’t get the result you want, you will have experienced something unique to you and will have learnt something.

“I am currently working on a program to help recovering mental health individuals to take part in an expedition which will offer hope to other sufferers and shine a light on what can be achieved rather than focusing on what can’t.”

Always Remember: “You are good enough. Don’t let anybody else take away your self worth. You are good enough.”

For more on Ann Daniels please click here.

For an amazing inspirational video check out her “showreel” at the top right of her page.

We’d love to have you join the conversation. Please comment below—you never know who you might inspire or where it might lead.

For more Gutsy Goddess click here.


  1. Great story … so inspiring!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is inspiring!!

  3. Reading that she had finished only 69 miles of the 500-mile journey after 37 days gives me hope that I may yet finish my own project!

    • admin_laughingatthesky June 16, 2017 at 12:41 pm

      Haha Nancy. I was thinking something similar. If she can walk for days in -58F then I should be able to sit on the sofa and write at 70F. Now if I can only write well.

  4. The inner fire and perseverance you had on your amazing quest , inspires me to keep on going in my quest to put my body back together after back surgery and set backs. I will be whole again.

    • admin_laughingatthesky July 23, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      I hope your back is healing quickly Kretz. I can tell from your story that you too have inner fire and perseverance. Hang in there. Dennis and I are thinking of you.

  5. Amazing!

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 18, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Welcome to our community, Judy, and thanks for being part of our community. I’m glad you found inspiration!

  6. This is such an inspiring story! This sentence really spoke to me today: “Your future is your own responsibility and staying a victim is not the answer when there are other options.” I’m going to write this down in my journal as a reminder to myself. Thank you!

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 18, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      What a great comment Modern Gypsy! I remember once feeling stuck in a difficult place, rehashing old stories, and someone asked me why I “chose” to be there. It was eyeopening for me, that I really did have a choice. Ann Daniels quote is true; while we can’t erase our misfortunes we can choose to stay the victim, or be the survivor, or transcend the stories we tell ourselves. Welcome to our community!

      • Yes, I liked that quote as well. I wrote a journal book, The Rock Star ABC Book of of Meditation and Memories. Where v is for victory not victims. I’m going to add that quote to my book.

        • Welcome to our community Andrea! I will check out your book. How about “T is for transcending”. I feel like we need language beyond “victim” and even beyond “survivor” and “silence breaker”. I’ve met so many strong women who have done so much more than survive. Haven’t you? They take quantum leaps beyond where tragedy leaves them—to do important and inspiring things.

  7. I used to live in the same small East Devon village as Ann just a few years ago so especially good to see her again – she wouldn’t know me under my blogging name though. We knew what she did and always (anxiously) followed the expeditions. It wasn’t far between our houses, certainly that was easier to walk than some of her challenging expedition walking!

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 18, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      Small world Brytin! I first heard of her on the radio in New Hampshire, US, upon finishing a 12,000 nautical-mile voyage to Fatu Hiva. After having several amazing mentors who supported my journey, I wanted to give back. She certainly fit the profile of a Gutsy Goddess. Anyway, so glad to meet you and to check out your blog. If she comes back to town please say “Hi, and thanks for the inspiration” from me! And please come back when you have the chance and join our community!

  8. Wow! What an adventure to take on. I love reading or hearing about women who bravely take on challenges. Awesome story!

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 20, 2018 at 10:15 am

      Welcome to our community Erin. I love hearing and reading about women who take on challenges too. From your name above, Unbound Roots, which I love, I suspect you’ve been on a few adventures yourself. I look forward to perusing your stories. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Wow what an amazing story. Such a brave and inspiring woman 😊 Had she visited the artic before this trip?

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 20, 2018 at 10:28 am

      She was a divorced mother of triplets and needed a job. She replied to an ad that called for “ordinary women” and it spoke to her. With no equipment and very little experience, she ended up persisting until she became part of one and then many arctic expeditions. She is an amazing woman and has a very inspirational showreel on her website which I just realized is not linked above; I will do that shortly. It is well worth a watch whenever you need a bit of inspiration. Thanks for your visit and comment.

  10. An enjoyable read of another woman pushing her boundaries. I have tried to push my boundaries for most of my life and it is even more important for me as I grow older. Thanks for sharing!

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 20, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Welcome Suz and thanks for the comment. As a sister traveler, it’s great to meet you. I’ve been pushing boundaries too and agree that they have become more important as I’ve grown older. My New Years resolve this year is to take more risks, be more present in joy, make the world a bit smaller through connection, and a bit better through volunteering and love. I hope your travels continue to push boundaries and be joyful. And if you’re in Lourmarin/Provence please stop and say bonjour!

  11. What an inspirational woman, I really admire her guts and determination. 🙂

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 20, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Thanks Judy and welcome to our community. If you would ever like to leave a rhyme, you don’t need a reason. We’re always up for a smile. I’m glad you found Ann inspirational!

  12. Get in there Heidi, very impressive outlook and an inspirational read. Heck of an experience too. Comfort zones can be so debilitating and negative to sit in. Been there, done that and fighting to get out if it’s sits too long is a dreadful thing for self esteem and recycling negativity. Very impressive outlook and kudos to you for helping others with mental health too

    • admin_laughingatthesky January 20, 2018 at 10:46 am

      Thanks so much Gary and welcome to our community. I find her outlook impressive too. In fact, if I need a bit of a boost to get out of my own comfort zone it’s fun to watch her video. Part of my New Years resolution is to take more risks so I’m with you on that. Her work with helping others, and also her environmental efforts for the world’s oceans get my kudos too.

  13. Truly inspiring. I love learning about people like this x

  14. Wow! When I was feeling like I needed some adventure and a way forward after my divorce I made a few more friends and tried to enjoy modern art…going on an Arctic expedition is a whole other universe of possibility. Amazing journey. And the perseverance and endurance it must have taken, even from these brief words, I can only imagine.

    • Welcome to our community Angela! I see it as an amazing journey as well. I hope modern art has brought you as much joy as the arctic has brought Ann. My adventure, sailing to the South Pacific, came in part after an introduction to Gauguin. Art can open our creativity and take us to new heights, don’t you think? Thanks for your comment.

  15. What a wonderful post – so full of inspiring quotes from a strong woman. I love the fact that she is using her own strength and experience to help others recognise theirs – so important in the road to recovery from mental illness to health. So glad you shared this!

    • Thanks so much Claire. I’m glad you found inspiration from her quotes. I love how when she was in a low point in her life, her response was to take responsibility and literally climb to new heights. She does an amazing Ted Talk if you have an interest. And, welcome to our community.

  16. What an inspiring story! It shows we can accomplish our goals if we have grit!

    • Thanks Lisa. I suspect we all have some of that “grit” even when we don’t know it. Looking back at my own story, some of the times I felt I had no grit, in retrospect I had considerable courage. For me, women of courage helped me in my journey and that’s why I like to feature them. Glad you found it inspiring like I did.

  17. I am completely and utterly in awe of this woman. What an inspiration. Women are the weaker sex indeed- pah!

  18. I’m so glad to read about Ann. So inspiring.
    This blog is SUCH a breath of fresh air after all the movies, tv shows, and other ways our culture portrays women! We are so often depicted as caring more about makeup and fashion than about strength, meeting challenges, and achieving goals! GO FOR IT laughing at the sky! 🙂

    • Simonne, heartfelt thanks for seeing the blog as a “breath of fresh air.” So many women are achieving incredible goals and feats. I continue to be amazed not only at the strength of women, but also of how far many have come and what they have had to overcome. I love your last line—GO FOR IT.

  19. “Inspirational” and “amazing” are two over-used descriptions but in this case, they are warranted in bold letters. The dual challenges of dealing with financial problems and keeping one’s mental health can bring down the healthiest of us. Brava to Ann for taking charge and for setting up an expedition to help others take charge!

    • So true, Susan! I heard her story on NPR to start and was blown away. After looking her up and viewing her Ted talk I was so happy that she agreed to be interviewed. In the NPR interview, she said something about seeing an ad in the paper seeking “ordinary women” to apply for Arctic expeditions. She talked about not having any experience, or equipment, having to borrow boots that didn’t fit, but she just kept at it and showed us all. I’d say she is extraordinary. Thanks for the comment.

  20. I can hardly imagine the courage and strength your journey must have taken. Thank you for the inspiration! I look forward to watching your video and sharing it with my daughter.

  21. Very inspiring. Love this
    “Your future is your own responsibility and staying a victim is not the answer when there are other options.”

    • Welcome to our community Masha. I love that quote too. For me, it took years to move from victim to survivor, and then it was another leap to feel I could inspire or be an activist. It is a very very challenging move. Thank you so much for commenting.

  22. Wow! Just, wow! I remember reading this story as I was perusing through your site, but it still impresses me. What an incredible woman, an incredible feat, and an incredible story. I absolutely love reading about women who have overcome great obstacles just to come out stronger. Ann’s story inspires others, and yet she is constantly working with others to help them find their courage. A gift that keeps on giving. Wonderful, Heidi!

    • Erin you have such a gift with words and are such an inspiration yourself. I can envision you out there pulling a sled with Ann Daniels. You two are kindred spirits. As you already know, I too love reading about women who have overcome great obstacles; it gives me courage and helps to propel me forward. Thanks again for coming and sharing your thoughts.

  23. What a gutsy woman and an inspiring story! Really enjoyed and have shared.

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