Category Archives: Everyday Hero
Travelling broadens the mind. Travelling takes one to new places. Travelling allows new experiences. But for some, a journey abroad is part of an inner journey – a journey that takes one deeper than that into an exotic jungle or into the narrow alleyways of a new city. It is a journey taken within. It is a journey of inner growth, personal motivation and inspiration.
A few years ago, I had the incredible privilege of taking people on challenge trips around the globe, away from their comforts, their securities and their every day lives.
Vicki’s story is one that I lived, heard and researched, both during the trip and after, particularly as I taped her feet each night and encouraged her to push through whatever it was that was holding her back.
Not only did Vicki embark on a journey to a foreign land, but she took a journey within and come back inspired, determined and with a new found belief in what she could achieve.
I thought it was about time to share her story, particularly as I plan on writing more bios of some inspirational change-makers.
Through this journey, it is hoped that you too will find your inner strengths, follow your dreams, harness your potential, find your passion and live every day vividly.
Be inspired by this journey within to live a life less ordinary, for the extraordinary is within us all.
There once was a woman named Vicki who for the first 15 years of her adult life spent it home alone. Work, then home, then bed, too scared to even go out to the pub for a drink with her work mates. Vicki used her family and her dog as an excuse to go home. Until no one asked anymore.
In January 2005, Vicki decided to undertake a challenge – to fundraise $5000 for Guide Dogs and complete a challenge trip in China. In May 2006, Vicki travelled 80km on the Great Wall of China and climbed one of China’s five holy Tao Mountains, Hua Shan. The following are five chapters of Vicki’s journey within.
My life has always been unremarkable. In fact, it was boring. If I were to describe myself before the trip, it would definitely have to be lifeless. I have lived in Perth all my life, and worked in the same job for eight years. A self confessed couch potato weighing in at 140kg, I didn’t know what the word exercise meant. I was afraid to go out and mix with others. Why would I when I didn’t like myself?
On reflection, I am not sure why I didn’t like myself. I have always been extremely shy. I grew up in a very isolated environment, looking after my pop and grandma. They were my world. I guess I never developed on the social level like most people. So I simply shut myself off from everyone, becoming more isolated and insecure the older I got.
I decided to go on the Challenge after seeing it advertised through Guide Dogs. It seemed like a great way to see a part of the world I had always wanted to go, the pictures made it look easy and it seemed like a worthwhile reason to support a very worthy cause. However, not only did I find the fundraising was a lot of hard work, but the hardest part was yet to come.
I’d gone and booked myself on a Challenge, and I couldn’t hide anymore. I had to get out and meet people. I had to be the one doing the inviting. I organised wine tours, dinners and auctions. I had to force myself to go and talk to people, to open myself up, to not be afraid of being seen and to come out of hiding. My challenge had started before I’d even set foot out of the country. It became even more painful when I got to China and realised I no longer had a valid reason to hide away. I had to conquer my insecurities. I had to become someone I had never been in my life.
Physically, the trip was extremely difficult for me. At 140kg, walking such long distances during the day with little training hurt with each step. Every night I would tape my swollen feet and knees and cover the new blisters and sores appearing all over my feet with padding and bandages. This wasn’t a holiday. This was torture.
Aside from the trip being physically difficult, the greatest pain came from me acknowledging what my life had been like prior to the trip and the fact that for its entirety, I had hidden myself away. Most people I knew thought I had a great life and just didn’t have any time for them. Little did they know I kept myself prisoner behind the barriers of my own fear and insecurities.
I still get so nervous that I am sick before I go out. I still drive around and around before I can make myself get out and go in. But there is a difference. I don’t turn around anymore and go home. I go in. I am enjoying myself more. I don’t let myself stop and think too much or I will talk myself out of doing and going places. I don’t want to go back to the way I was. It would be too easy. It would have been easy to stop walking. The pain would have eased. But I would not have felt the sense of achievement, and the sense of self worth that I now feel.
Now, when I reflect on the trip and think about the Wall, the physical pain seems but a distant memory. I find myself remembering the beauty of the wall instead. I guess it has taught me that we have to go through pain in our lives to appreciate the beauty around us.
The pain from the mountain is a little different. There have been many things in my life that I didn’t think I could do. At 39, climbing the mountain is one of the first major things I have accomplished in my life, so the pain should stay with me forever. And I don’t really want it to go. It’s a constant reminder that no matter how bad a situation I am in, there are many others worse off than myself, and to get on with my own life. I guess it has taught me that when we go through pain in our lives and come out the other side with a smile, that we will be much better people for it, as I am now.
The pain was worth it. And I no longer fear it.
One of my greatest weaknesses in life has always been that I feel I have to do anything to get a friend. I think it manifested itself in the way I have always been passionate about helping other people. It was the only way I received any recognition or appreciation in my otherwise unenthusiastic life. Considering the protective barrier I placed around myself, I don’t think I even had a real idea what a true friend was. Since the trip to China, I believe I am starting to realise. I believe that I have had many friends with me all my life, but I just didn’t know how to see or appreciate them.
On the trip, I constantly didn’t want to let anyone down because I saw myself as an embarrassment to others on the trip. I was very self-conscious about always being last and always being in so much pain. My insecurities were discernible every day in the nos, the I cant dos, the anguish and the tears.
However, there were a few special people who supported me on the entire walk. Although continually embarrassed, I was extremely grateful to have their company. Even when I cried and said I couldn’t do it, they believed in me. Even when I begged to stop, they didn’t doubt me. They kept me laughing and singing. They kept pushing me. They made me push myself. I was happy that for the first time in my life, other people thought I could do it, and I am forever grateful they wouldn’t let me stop.
I am now feeling a little more comfortable in asking other people for help. I realise that it isn’t embarrassing. I realise that to have people around me and having friends support me through the hard times is not something I should fear or be ashamed of. No longer do I just try and make friends with people so it gives me a feeling of self worth. No longer do I think I need to put on a face so that people like me. No longer am I afraid of what people think of me. I make friends with people so I can be there for them, knowing that they will be there for me when I need them. I have learnt not to take friends for granted. And I have also learnt that it’s okay to ask for help, be helped and not to be embarrassed.
Even though I may never again see some of the people I shared this journey with, it has highlighted to me that people do come into our lives for a reason. There were people on the trip who will always be a big part of my life, for without them being there during the hard times, I know I would never have made it. Not just in China. But in my future.
Thank you my angels.
Quite often we rush through life and miss out on special things, or even just the simple things. I realised this especially while walking on the Wall one day when the tour leader reminded us that the walk was not a race. That we would never be there again and that we should enjoy and savour every moment. I took the time to sit down and enjoy the view, soaking up the remarkable history in front of me.
Back in Perth, I find I want to enjoy my life more and I want to try new things. For the first time in my life I am inviting myself to places and events. I am reflecting more on what I want to achieve in my life and am setting goals to ensure these happen. All things I had never even tried in the past.
One of the greatest lessons I learnt from the trip is that I can get through the hard way and feel a total sense of achievement once I have completed it. No longer am I doing what is expected of me. Not in my work, nor in my personal life. I now have more control over my emotions.
I’m learning about myself. I’m trying to make decisions and stick with them so I don’t slip back into bad habits. I don’t want to go back to the way I was.
I am talking about the experience to anyone who wants to listen. Even to the ones who don’t. I have taken up a newspaper drop with my sister and walking every day. In two months, I have already lost 10 kg since arriving back home.
Now I am planning my next challenge to Ladakh in northern India in May 2007. One of the goals for next year’s trip is to help someone like myself to make it to the finish.
There is so much to be achieved by having a dream, and then living it.
Before leaving home, I didn’t believe I would complete the challenge. In fact, I never believed I could do many things in my life. No one else believed I could either. My upbringing did not encourage self confidence, and I guess the gene pool just doesn’t take into account our looks.
Looking at the photos of the mountain scared me shitless. I had a terrible fear of heights, unable to even climb a step ladder. Getting me to go up the Wall on day one was a challenge in itself as it was an extreme effort to even leave my room. I woke up every morning feeling physically ill and worried.
I remember a point on the mountain when I begged to stop. I didn’t want to let anyone down. But I was pushed until it was too far to go back. I dug deep as I figured that I hadn’t died yet so it wasn’t going to kill me, and I pushed myself to keep on going.
I’m not afraid of trying anymore, and am more open to giving things a go. I even mowed the lawn on the weekend, something I had never done before. It wasn’t so scary after all. I used to worry so much in the past about doing everything that I didn’t even give things a go because I was scared of failing or of being embarrassed.
But courage can take us to places that we never thought we might reach. I know. I’ve sat atop a mountain.
On the trip to China, I met someone who not only knew I could climb the mountain, but knew I had to climb that mountain. Somehow they knew that I needed to do this more than anything I’ve ever done in my life, for if I didn’t, I would never achieve anything.
They were right. For not only have I found the courage to give things a go, but I have an inner belief that I can do what looks impossible.
I still get scared, but I have learnt to not think things over as much as I did in the past. I make decisions a little easier. I don’t spend too much time anymore thinking about what others are thinking.
I like myself now. Most of my work colleagues think I’ve gotten tougher since China. I say no more often. That’s a start. I am more out there and going out more. I’m starting to put myself first.
I am starting to believe in who I am and what I can achieve in my life.
THE NEW PATH
So what has changed? After China, you can see I look at things very differently.
The biggest thing I gained from the journey is my new perspective on life. Through my own experience and journey I believe that we too often look at all the obstacles in our path to achieving our dreams. We make excuses. We believe it’s too hard. We blame our past. We don’t live enough in the now. We don’t appreciate the small things around us. We don’t ask for help when we should. We aren’t honest with our feelings.
But by having dreams and giving things a go, pushing through the pain when it happens, having the invaluable support of friends, finding our inner courage and believing we can do it, the summit of a mountain is achievable, even for a 140kg couch potato. Instead of looking at the bottom and considering all the obstacles in my way and saying I can’t do it, I remember what it was like to be at the top and looking back at what I had done. I know I can do it. Mowing the lawn was just the start.
I’m a work in progress. It’s why I’ve joined up to climb the Himalayas in 2007. I know that I climbed 5 500 steps in China and walked 80km of the Great Wall of China. I know I can walk plenty more on my journey within. It will be one step at a time.
My life is no longer lifeless. My life is now beginning.
you bloody ripper!
Every morning, you can usually find me waiting in the queue for my caffeine fix at Kinfolk Café (673 Bourke Street, Melbourne). Operating as a social enterprise, Kinfolk is not only a place to grab a coffee or lunch selection from the handwritten menu. It is a place where you will find community, sense a unique warm and fuzzy feeling every time you walk in because of the staff and volunteers that keep the place ticking, and convert yourself from coffee aficionado to philanthropist with every sip of your latte.
I’m keen on this place. I love its values. I appreciate its warmth. I value their philosophies. I admire the way they operate. Their food is scrummy. And they make darn good coffee.
Head barista, Candy, is normally tucked away behind the coffee maker, so in between her lattes and skinny flat whites, I managed three quick questions to my Everyday Hero.
Every cup of coffee is made with love. Why?
It’s definitely because of the customers. I want to make sure they enjoy their coffee and the experience. Kinfolk is not just a café. It’s a community. And it’s awesome to be able to give back to our community and the organisations we support.
Did you want to be a ballerina when you grew up?
I’ve been in hospitality since I was 16. It was my first job and it’s now my career. I can’t think about doing anything else. I’m planning on opening my own fully sustainable café in Brisbane in 2011.
Is coffee an important part of your day and why should it be for everybody else?
I need to have a coffee to kickstart the day, otherwise I can get a little grumpy. For most people, getting a coffee is the first social interaction they will have each day. So for me, it’s really important to make it a positive experience. That’s why I’m committed to making great coffee and ensure a great vibe.
And that you do my everyday hero!
Contributor: Tina Jensen (Melbourne)