Category Archives: Travel

Life is what you make it…

Life is good! Life is so very very good!

I spent the long weekend exploring the many natural wonders of the NSW Southern Highlands. From forest bathing to rainforests to rock jumping when the path became a little wet, I really came across all of the wonderful gifts our natural world has on offer.

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Illawarra Lookout via the Barren Grounds – worth the muddy trek to get there.
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Minnamurra Rainforest – the hike is a little steep but the surroundings are sublime
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Jamberoo – you had me at ‘oo’ Truly one of the most beautiful landscapes NSW has to offer.

 

 

My other life…

A frollower (thats; friend-follower) contacted me the other week concerned I’d abandoned my blog. In the back of my mind, the daily narrative of ‘must blog today’ played on repeat. The truth is, while I am fortunate to have secured a career that fulfils my passion of writing, I am the type of person that also needs to disconnect.

When I need to disconnect there is only one place I head – and that’s into the wild. Whether its hiking, climbing, paddling or simply forest bathing, to disconnect from the career that has become my life … I embrace my ‘other life’.

Mt
Earlier this year I climbed Mt Kosciusko. I didn’t start the climb from the chairlift, I started from the bottom. With a severe weather warning in place, the climb was not only strenuous, it was terrifying in parts. Best climb of my life.
Blue
I’ve trekked so many parts of the beautiful Blue Mountains. I couldn’t count how many klms.

Canoeing

Forest Bathing

From Caringbah to Cambodia – 2 girls seek the truth! [FROM I AM ISSUE 13]

Local Caringbah girls Sarah Hutt and Brittany Woodford have been best friends since year 7. When Sarah decided to embark on a challenge to ride across Cambodia, and raise $7000 to assist in awareness of human trafficking, Brit was right there by her side.

On the 7th of February Sarah and Brittany, along with Sarah’s mum, boarded a flight to Cambodia. They were about to push their body and mind beyond their first world comfort zone by heading straight into a brutal reality affecting over 1 million girls and women globally—sex trafficking.

Originally they joined the trek in support of the Australian based organisation, Project Futures, who aim to put an end to sex trafficking all over the world. Ultimately there would be other personal challenges, as well.

The focus is on South East Asia with a group of 18 covering an area, by bicycle, in excess of 400 kilometres. They will visit the centres developed by Somaly Mam, a child slave and sex worker who fled her confines in Cambodia when her best friend was murdered in front of her, where they will view her life’s work in saving victims, building shelters and implementing programs to heal and empower survivors.

While they make their way through Cambodia, Sarah and Brittany will see first hand the damage human trafficking does physically, mentally and emotionally to it’s victims . I AM magazine was lucky enough to meet with the two friends before they departed on this brave and challenging journey.

This is quite an adventure you are both about to embark upon, have either of you been to Cambodia before?

Sarah; “No, it’s the first time for both of us. It’s going to be insane!”

Tell us about the challenge…

Sarah; “We’ll be exploring Cambodia over 11 days for Project Futures where we’ll visit the centres of Somaly Mam and witness the change that has happened in saving girls from the brutal yet common occurrence of human trafficking and sex slavery.”

Brittany; “We’ll visit centres where women who have been rescued by the Somaly Mam Foundation are providing programs to assist in the rescue and stabilisation of other girls trapped in sex slavery. These girls will continue her legacy. We will also get to experience the local life with visits to local villages.”

Sarah; “We’re excited about the opportunity to get hands on in the rice fields and harvesting, really experiencing Camdbodian life. It is insight into Cambodian life and the lives of the girls that are trafficked in Cambodia.”

Who is Somaly Mam?

Sarah; “Somaly Mam’s story is that she was ten years old when she was sold to a brothel. She was raped up to 30 times a day. If she refused, her keepers would lock her in a cage and fill it with snakes and cockroaches and leave her there for a week without food or water. On occasion they also used electric shock to punish the girls if they said, ‘no’ to any of the clients. Somaly Mam’s best friend was shot in front of her. This was the breaking point for Somaly Mam—when she made the decision to escape. She was assisted by a foreigner and eventually was able to start a new life overseas. But even with the safety of her new life she wasn’t able to forget the girls in Cambodia. Somaly Mam returned to Cambodia and started her organisation, the Somaly Mam Foundation.”

Brittany; “Sex slavery in Cambodia is horrific. Somaly Mam quotes in the back of her book that there are girls sold as young as five for a few dollars. One of the youngest girls rescued from a brothel was only two years old.”

Cycling through Cambodia is going to be tough!

Sarah; “Yes…in some places it’s going to be in about 15 inches of mud! Thankfully, though, we will be away from the Cambodian traffic. There are two days where we do 100 kms one day and then 104 kms the next. We’re not, by any means, dedicated bike riders.”

Brittany; “The road to Kurnell has become our training buddy. We’ve done quite a few practise rides out there already. It’s been so much fun discovering what your body is capable of. A few weeks ago I hadn’t attempted bike riding since I was a child. The first stretch was 40 kms, then 60 kms…we just keep going. I’m a big fan in believing our limits are merely mental blocks.  Besides, the pain we go through riding bikes across Cambodia is nothing compared to what these girls go through trapped in brothels.”

Sarah; “We are keeping those thoughts as motivation to do this. Even if our legs burn and our body aches, we would both crawl across Cambodia if we had to.”

Was it a surprise to have your mum join the cause?

 Sarah; “Well, I kind of signed my mum up. At 52 years of age she was concerned at first about her fitness level, although she is SUPER fit! And, then she received a surprise confirmation of acceptance in her inbox. My family does a lot for charity so after the confirmation she hasn’t looked back, and on the 7th of February she’ll be right there beside us.”

What do you think will be the hardest part of this challenge?

Brittany; “It’s going to be emotionally draining. And dealing with the anger at the reality of things, I expect will be hard.”

Sarah; “Listening to these stories of brutality against human beings first hand is going to be a thousand times harder than pedalling the bike.”

What do you hope to gain personally from the journey?

 Sarah; “I want to know that I can do it. That I can push myself beyond the limits that I know right now. Physically and mentally. This is definitely a personal challenge.”

Brittany; “I want to be exposed to this. I’ve always helped out with charities and raised money, but I’ve never been there, you know, seen it. I want to see the truth!”

[For more information on Project Futures or the Somaly Mam Foundation go to: http://www.somaly.org & http://www.projectfutures.com]

READ THE LATEST ISSUE OF I AM MAGAZINE BY HITTING THE [READ THE MAGAZINE] TAB AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surfing! A new experience ticked off my ‘have-an-experimental-life-by- facing-your-fears’ list.

Surfing! A new experience ticked off my ‘have-an-experimental-life-by- facing-your-fears’ list.

Last weekend my boyfriend and I took the opportunity to leave the city and the Shire for wide open waves. Well, being a lifelong surfer, he was slightly more eager than I was.

You see, I’m terrified of the ocean. I love to look at it, sit by it on the beach, and hear it beating at the shore…But! I don’t like to get in it. It terrifies me! As a chronic sufferer of severe anxiety, the ocean is one of my great arch enemies. I step into the shallows and the tide instantly wants to grab at my calves lurching me deeper into it’s domain in an attempt to take control from the queen controller. It would be great to just step into the water and have it ignore my presence as I would its. Ideally, the water would lay still and silent around my feet. Instead, it is cold and full of motion, presenting itself to me as a strong overwhelming body that could take me by surprise at any given moment, while the underwater occupiers hide safely beneath the turquoise reflection of the ocean’s coat. All entities conspiring to whisk me into the abyss.

Sounds dramatic and a little humorous, huh? This is honestly how fear chooses to talk to me; it is the most effective way to dish drama to the Drama Queen.

We rented a cabin at One Mile Beach Caravan Park. The major perk, it was a stone’s throw from one of the best novice surfing beaches in NSW. I was psyched…3 days before actually having to stand in front of my waiting wetsuit and learner foamie. My boyfriend, who I will refer to from this point as ‘SASI’ – Seriously Awesome Surf Instructor, was very patient, laughing at all the right moments and pushing me with a firm ‘you can do this’, at others. This experience was at the top of my ‘face-your-god-damn-fears’ list. I HAD TO DO IT! And, surfing really wasn’t the challenge; it was just a big enough reason to make me face my fear of the ocean.

Getting the wetsuit on was, however, a challenge. Hats off to guys that do this so elegantly in car parks. I almost smacked my head countless times on the bathroom vanity – it’s like trying to squeeze your ass in to those 90% off sass&bides that are clearly two sizes too small – times ten. It was impossible and a serious cardio workout. Once I got it on, it was a different story. I became Angelina in Tomb Raider…I was wetsuit-spanking HOT!!! Well, at least it felt that way. I have never stroked my own ass so much in my life. My bod was rockin! If I could get away with wearing a wetsuit everyday of my life, I would! Instant self-esteem escalation.

As my anxiety had set in during our quick ‘let’s check out the waves before we suit up’, escapade, the whining began pretty instantly. Waxing my board became a precise and drawn out process due to avoidance of what I knew I was expected to do, now that I was suitably attired. Looking into the trustworthy eyes of Sasi, I picked up that 6 foot something surf board, slung it under my arm and head straight for the beach.

That’s what you wanted to hear, right?

First of all, the board had wax on it. That stuff may smell pretty but it is simply gross, and there was absolutely no way I was messing up my wetsuit. Safely holding the board wax side out, I set off. Within a few short metres of the cabin front door I encountered a problem. I was born, let’s say, petite. My legs are not lengthy and therefore my arms aren’t either. In just a few short metres of lugging that board, my arm started to ache, followed by a trail of anxious whining. Cue Sasi stepping in to carry his high maintenance girlfriend’s board under his free arm.

The journey continued from that point with me seriously lagging behind, while my man carried both boards with what appeared to be the look of a seaman hearing his siren call, the call of ‘his’ sea. He was off and I could bloody well make it, whenever I chose to get there.

I did make it. I made it to the beach. I posed for a photo. I grabbed that board under Sasi’s instruction and head courageously towards the sea.

“The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli! I got about fifty feet out and suddenly…”

No, actually it wasn’t. It was calm and welcomed me with waves that were perfect for my first real ocean experience. I am 37 years old. This fear I have of the ocean has been with me my entire life. Where did it come from? I have no idea. I’m not sure it is even directly associated with the ocean. It is just another side effect of a person overcome with lifelong anxiety, fear of placing themselves in a position where their control could be compromised by something greater than themself.

The photo taken of me, belly pressed to my foamie, sums up what that experience felt like. It was powerful, scary and a massive challenge, but, taking that small step into one of my greatest fears and riding its wave, brought the most profound joy… childlike joy.

I’m not, nor do I have any intention of becoming, a weekend wave warrior. I’m a person having an experimental life and surfing was a truly great experience.

Dear Sea, I’ll be seeing you. Sam xxx

[Gratitude to my soul mate, my Sasi, for holding my hand and encouraging a new experience that brought me true wholehearted joy.]