The Christmas/New Year break has really been a great opportunity for me to recharge and reflect on the year that I had in 2018. It was definitely a big one, with quite a few unexpected opportunities on the work front.
On a personal level, I managed to tick something off my bucket list – I walked the Kokoda Trail. And what an experience that was.
The Kokoda Trail had been on my mind since I went to Gallipoli years ago. Even though we have no family connection with the track, the war history and its impact on the local environment has always been an interest of mine. So, when my brother Greg said his next adventure would be Kokoda, I jumped at the chance.
I knew it was going to be tough – endurance was never my thing. And I’d done the research – six days of walking over 96km, 90% of it up and down hills, in hot humid temperatures, and quite possibly rain. I was preparing myself for the worst.
So, I trained hard. I didn’t want to be the person on the trip that people had to wait for. It wasn’t about being competitive and being the best, but more about me not letting the team down. I also wanted to make sure I was fit enough to enjoy it!
The best thing about the training was that it helped me prepare mentally. The long walks up and down hills, when my feet, back and hips started hurting, I just had to find a way to push through it, one step at a time, to slow down but not stop. I also counted my steps...a lot.
However, nothing can really prepare you for the real thing. I think you can describe how things are going to play out and people can understand it logically, but it’s not until you experience it that you truly understand, because it’s the emotional reaction that you can’t predict.
Watching others in my group go through that journey was inspiring. For example, my 13-year-old nephew had a hard time on the first day but then with the help of the group, pulled himself together and truly transformed on day 2. He ended up in front for the whole trip with a really positive mindset. Or my 20-year-old niece who decided to join us three weeks before we left so had not done any training. She just ground it out – she was mental toughness the whole way – it was inspiring.
What I took from that experience was not to hold back from putting myself in a position of feeling out of my comfort zone. I might feel uncomfortable or nervous, even scared, but in the end, I know I’ll be better for it, because the more I experience that, the more those reactions dissipate and I can remain calm.
Another lesson was a sense of perspective. In the moments when I was feeling a bit sore or tired, I just needed to remember the people who were on this track during the war, with no shoes, dysentery, had probably not eaten for days and were being shot at, so you very quickly got over it and continued walking. A lot of the time, we can get caught in our own world and problems but if you look up and look out, you’ll get a sense of perspective. Really, stop the whinging and move on!
In the end, our team raised over $16,000 for the Reach Foundation, an organisation that runs programs for young people to promote their mental health and wellbeing. But we got so much more out of it with the experience.
So, as 2019 begins, I’m starting to think about what the next adventure will be. How do I continue the momentum that I’ve built to mentally and physically push myself? Maybe Machu Pichu, or Everest Base Camp? I’m not necessary addicted to trekking, but I like the idea of pushing the boundaries.