It was my twelfth day walking the Camino de Santiago through northern Spain, and I had just spluttered halfway up a slippery, jagged hill. My heaving lungs swelled and recoiled the morning’s thick mist, and I soon found myself leaning on my haunches amidst a coughing fit. Glancing toward the gloomy heavens, I wondered if it was all worth it. The mountainous landscape had cultivated an icy drizzle and an unyielding fog — weather that echoed my sickly state. Overnight, my intestines had continued to bubble and fizz from Day 10’s suspected batch of dodgy pinchos, and a throbbing headache led a chorus of deteriorating body parts. At that moment, doubled over in queasy discomfort, I seriously questioned my life’s choices.
Thankfully, my snot-filled sinuses and fluey symptoms both dissipated at the summit. After regaining my breath, I checked to see if my phone reception had kicked back into gear. Amongst the flurry of backlogged notifications, I spotted a message from the president of the Friends of the Heysen Trail. My interest immediately piqued. Reading on the memo stated, “the Friends would like to invite you to become an official Ambassador for us and the Trail.” I couldn’t quite believe my puffy eyes. Such a prestigious honour and one I would proudly accept. My life’s choices (including the sweat, blood, tears and mucus I’d exuded since beginning the Heysen Trail nine months earlier) now seemed a little more validated.
In 2018, I began my Heysen through-hike with one goal in mind: to raise $10,000 for the Black Dog Institute while highlighting the need for positive mental health. I set about achieving this aim by providing regular exposure for the cause through publishing daily diaries on social media, the Trekking West blog and later on YouTube; the outcome was unimaginable. Not only did I surpass my fundraising target, but this life-changing adventure revealed priceless life lessons, re-aligned my core values and propelled me into the world of long-distance hiking. Then, while pondering my existence atop a Spanish hill, my pièce de résistance, the experience elevated me to an honorary Heysen Trail Ambassador.
Despite the hill’s incessant drizzle, I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on how far I’d come since switching to the life of a rambling digital nomad in 2017. This journey was lined with reaffirming revelations and enriching fulfilment, and I wouldn’t change any of it (even the dodgy pinchos) for a moment. Every experience is an opportunity to learn, grow and build resilience, and the best place to embrace this personal development is away from the ‘distraction’ of everyday routine and regularity. My adventure on the Heysen Trail trumpeted this concept, and I couldn’t be prouder to join the Friends as an Ambassador.
In this role, I will continue to promote this South Australian long-distance icon while supporting the Trail to meet its goal of expanding interest, knowledge and engagement.