Expedition travel, connecting with nature, others and yourself
By Jemi Crawley
It is 4am. The night air is still cold. It's dark, but the rolling valley and ridge line is bathed in moonlight. I don't mind the early start, the rest of the team seems eager to go as well. Over weetbix and powdered milk, we lay out our map. We have learnt to navigate almost completely by ourselves now and carefully plan our track for the day. Soon, we are collapsing bivvies and packing our packs like clockwork. Our morning routine has become so well practiced that we are done in no time. Rolling out of camp well before the sun is up is such a brilliant feeling, and I know that today we will be doing something great.
Many people stumble across their passion completely by accident, and I was no different. I began hiking through school when our year was offered the opportunity to participate in a week long Youth Leadership course in Tharwa ACT with Outward Bound Australia. Unaware of exactly what I had signed up for, I invested in my first pair of hiking boots and started my (now very expansive) collection of hiking gear. After a farewell from my family, I embarked on my very first hiking expedition.
What an adventure it was! In those 7 days, I met so many new friends from local schools, I challenged myself, I tried things I had never tried before and stepped well out of my comfort zone. Nature was such a brilliant classroom and in it I learnt so much more than I ever thought I could. It wasn't just learning things like putting up a bivvy, tying knots, properly adjusting a backpack and deciphering which items you would actually require on expedition. These were real lessons about yourself and your connections with others. I developed my communication skills and my leadership style and came home with a passion for the great outdoors.
After coming home, I was determined to return and complete another course. With plenty of saving, I secured my spot on the Australian Alps Navigator course in Tharwa. My family was a great support, gear shopping and finalising my payments with my mum, commencing training in preparation with my step dad. We began hiking on local trails, often with me carrying a full backpack, so I could test my gear and fitness. Soon, I was off on my adventure. The 12 day course gave me the chance to further develop my leadership skills, and though there were plenty of ups and downs, I made so many happy memories. From raft building to abseiling, to hiking and camp set up, the course helped me to push myself and really explore my potential. As the course finished, I found I was even more determined to pursue a career in the outdoors.
I've always found there's something a bit different about expedition friendships. You make memories, real memories, of that time where you waited out a storm whilst crouched in lightning position for an hour, or when you woke up to a possum on your feet eating tomorrows sandwich bread, or when you lay under the stars sipping camp fire hot chocolate. These memories don't fade, and that is what I love about them. I like to think of hiking expeditions as really living. Experiencing the cold, the rain, the fatigue and frustration, but also the laughter, the success, the joy and the elation. That's why I am going back again.
My next expedition is a little further to travel. I will be embarking on the 21 day Mind Body Soul course with New Zealand Outward Bound, and celebrating my 16th birthday whilst on expedition! My hiking cupboard has grown exponentially with gear, and my training is well underway. For me, the preparation is just as important as the expedition itself. My training regime has changed significantly over the weeks. It began as a vigorous and demanding physical challenge, but I found that the ambitious plan didn't really foster all aspects of my expedition preparation. Changes came in the form of adding more time for mindfulness. My initial calendar had factored in plenty of physical training, but no training for my mind.
It took me a while to find a schedule that worked, but I found a balance when I added in journalling, meditation and gentle stretches into my weekly routine. To me, hiking is not just about summiting the mountain or covering the distance, it is about connecting with nature, with others and with yourself. When I changed my training plans to reflect what I wanted to get out of the course, I found myself feeling much better about my preparations.
I love being able to share my passion for the outdoors with those around me, whether it is talking in front of the school assembly, or even just going on a weekend hike with my friends and family. I aim to become an outdoor educator when I finish school so that I can introduce others to the beauty of nature. I have learnt so much from hiking and expeditioning, and I believe that through outdoor education I could pass on such lessons to others.
Sustainability is also very important to me. As a science student, I am well aware of the impacts humans can have on the planet. I believe in environmentally friendly lifestyles, both on and off expedition. It is vital that such breathtaking natural ecosystems are maintained, not only for the native flora and fauna, but also for future generations and for us ourselves.
There is something so genuine and beautiful about hiking. The feelings you get, both the good and the bad, just can't be emulated anywhere else. The memories, lessons and friendships you form on an expedition last a lifetime. Hiking makes me who I am, and I can think of nowhere that I would rather be than out on the trail!
Enjoy the adventure,
Follow Jemi on : @_trailwanderer