Adventure is out there
Growing up, I never had the inclination to discover anything beyond my fence line. The extent of my exposure to the great outdoors was the odd grade 0 bush walk with my family and to be honest, I didn't like it all that much.
My idea of travelling was lounging by the pool in some exotic country sipping cocktails and nibbling on crisps. Sure, I enjoyed riding my bike to the park and building sandcastles at the beach but it didn't get any crazier than that.
It also didn't help that people formed immediate opinions about me and my capabilities due to my short stature. I was often described as ‘cute’, ‘adorable’ and ‘didn’t look a day over 16’! Not exactly words an adventurer make.
I guess when you are surrounded by 'popular opinion' you begin to believe them yourself.
So how did I find myself here then, my life consumed by rock climbing, mountains and exploring distant lands?
Well, I went on holiday many moons ago - to lounge by the pool in some exotic country sipping cocktails and nibble on crisps - and happened to meet several female backpackers who were off on a grand cross-continental adventure spanning over a few years.
You can travel for a few years? I had no idea! They had already been through south east Asia eating crickets and weird things and wading through rice paddies before travelling around Australia in a van, petting quokkas and seeing parts of the desert most locals will never see in their lifetime. After that they found themselves diving with sharks in tropical Fiji and would be moving onto South America to venture through the Andes.
I was completely sucked in by their stories and decided that I wanted to be a part of it.
It took me over a year to research, plan and save for my own great escape.
When I told people I was backpacking solo, it was surprising how much negative emphasis was placed on me as a woman. Wasn't I afraid of getting raped/murdered/stabbed? How could I go alone when I was a woman and a small, vulnerable one at that? My response was always the same: I had a serious case of wanderlust and my thirst for adventure far outweighed my fears. I wanted to escape the bubble that I had grown up in and do something different. I wanted the title of explorer, not tourist, to experience worlds unfathomable to my current reality and return with a more open mind.
For three months, monkeys bid me good morning in the Panamanian jungle and turtles swam alongside me as I dived the crystal blue waters of Belize. I got lost in Honduras because I missed my bus stop and almost got robbed in Egypt.
I almost got robbed again in Spain but after a whirlwind time in Belgium and France making lifelong friends and eating ALL the delicious food, those grievances were quickly forgotten.
I spent the following years continuing to travel, ticking off more of Europe and revisiting old gems.
At home I surrounded myself with other like-minded travellers which led me to discover rock climbing. Boy, has it has been the light of my life since. Rarely is there a sport so accepting of participants of any skill level or where age or gender has no bearing on performance. The constant war between mental stamina and physical strength is both exhausting and exhilarating.
The true magic about climbing, however, is the time spent outside in nature, enjoying rock that was centuries in the making. Since moving interstate to be closer to the mountains, every weekend is spent outdoors dangling off cliff edges and traipsing through the bush. I am healthier, fitter and stronger both mentally and physically than ever before. Travelling has now become about more discovering a destination through its landscape rather than its landmarks.
And to think that it began all those years ago, simply because I wanted to see what else was out there.
So if you've been thinking about doing something, whether it's climbing (which I highly recommend, by the way!), compete in an ultra marathon, or scale a mountain solo,
Just take that first step. You will be surprised with where it’ll take you.
Written by our ambassador Vanessa Fang