Hannah Green's new book, My Journey Home, recounts her journey overcoming homelessness and PTSD. Surfing has played a critical role.
Your book is called My Journey Home. I sense the word ‘home’ is meant in more than one sense here?
Honestly, I hadn't really thought about this - but you're absolutely right. Home as in where I'm now living, but also to me the sea feels like home in the sense of it feeling safe and where I feel my calmest.
Why do you think your problems disappear when in the water surfing? Is there something particular to surfing, versus other sports, that makes this happen?
The sea gives me a sense of calm that I struggle to find elsewhere, but it's also an escape and the chance to be free of everything I usually have to deal with when I'm not in the sea.
I think with surfing you have to be so mindful - if you take your mind off what you're doing for even a few seconds you could end up in a rip, on a reef or colliding with another surfer. So you really can't afford to not be 100% focused.
Also, it gives me both the ability to just jump in on my own if I'm having a bad day and can't face being around other people and the chance to jump in with my friends.
How did you come to be involved in surf therapy? Is this route becoming more common?
One of the homelessness charities I was accessing referred me into a new pilot programme in 2019, so it was a new thing in this area. The Wave Project - who provide surf therapy programmes to kids - now operates in 24 locations across the UK, so it does seem to be growing quickly.
In your experience of working with other people, how typical do you think your own experience of surf therapy was - i.e. moving from scepticism to freedom?
Many of my friends and the kids we work with at the Wave Project have similar experiences of surfing to me - the freedom that the sea gives us is definitely something a lot of people seem to share.
Beyond surfing, what factors are important in your ongoing healing?
My friends - from surfing and at Camerados (a UK-wide movement) - my job (and colleagues!) and my writing.
I read in one of your pieces that your hardship has reinforced your faith in humanity. I found this oddly refreshing. I feel we often encounter that term, especially in an adventure context, through people travelling and meeting welcoming strangers - in other words in contexts characterised by positive, privileged interactions. It’s easy to have faith in such situations. But your use of the term stems from people who are not privileged, and even people who have treated you badly. Why do you think these experiences have reinforced your faith in people?
I think because I experienced both people and systems that caused hurt (maybe unintentionally!), so when I met good-hearted people who really did only want to help, I was able to really appreciate that.
Everyone's behaviour is shaped by their own experiences. People don't choose to be bad people or do bad things, but the things they go through shape who they are and how they behave.
What do you hope people take from the book?
I hope that people can take hope from the book. Hope that things can get better but also hope in humanity.
I also hope the book starts to make people think about homelessness and some of the common misconceptions. People presume homelessness is only sleeping on the streets and that is just not the case, there are thousands of people every night who are sleeping on things like sofas or unsafe/unstable accommodation.
What does the future hold for you?
A few people have asked me this recently and I honestly don’t know how to answer it. I could never have dreamed of being where I am today and it feels like I’m living in a film. I will definitely keep writing and I would love to write more books in the future whilst obviously continuing to surf.