After a few slow glimmerings that turned into a thick orange band around the horizon, the sun came up fast at Mt Sonder. That I was on top of a mountain in the heart of Australia to see it happen on a May weekday was a high point in my life. I wasn’t just on top of a big rocky pile. I was on top of the world.

Nailing the final climb of the really tough Larapinta Trail was even more breathtaking because of the lows which had led to me—a mum of three with a love of comfort and a nodding acquaintance with cardio—deciding without much notice to tackle my version of the Hawaiian Ironman.

2021 was awful for a lot of people. My own year was truly devastating. In quick succession, I was hit with the suicide of a family member, the ending of my 27-year relationship and managing the poor mental health of a child.

Since then, I’ve sold the family house, found somewhere new to live, had my eldest daughter leave home for uni, been mired in mediation where the memories and triumphs of a long marriage are commoditised and broken down. Hard.

So the Larapinta Trail represented an opportunity to process everything that had happened and find space to think. To get out of my everyday life, reset without phones and responsibility. Walking it was about walking into my next chapter.

And there was a lot of walking. 130kms of it over six days!

Along the way I did a lot of thinking. One endless day that will stay with me was day four. Somewhere around the five-hour mark I got the cranks and walked by myself to really reflect on where my life is at and whether I’m comfortable with decisions I’ve made.

That day, I kind of said goodbye to my husband. That night, I dreamed we became friends again and he got remarried, with me wishing him well on the morning of his vows. I felt great.  

When I got home from the Larapinta, I bumped into him for real in the supermarket. It was like seeing an old friend: hi, how are you? No animosity. I feel I’ve done my letting go.

And that’s what the whole life changing trip was about. Letting go rather than dreaming of the new life. That’s the next stage. On the final morning, up Mt Sonder, someone said, “Katrina, you look so happy’. I was giggling (and singing a Muppet Show song!) Why wouldn’t I be happy? The sun was rising on a woman with a clean slate and desire for change.

Before I left, I had a conscious desire to uplevel my personal life because I know when you do, it flows into everything else—business, connections, health. It’s so powerful. Uplevelling gave me perspective devoid of distractions—I feel stronger, creative and completely energised with a zest for challenges.

Yes, I learned a lot about myself on the trail.

On a superficial level, I finally discovered those elusive glutes. And I’m not letting them out of my sight. To keep working them, I’ve signed up for a couple more hikes later this year. I’ve enjoyed the forced self-care that training gave me and the way it taught me to prioritise my own needs.

I found I can do hard things. 2021 and the decades before it proved I can handle stress but the Larapinta tested me in new ways. It’s created self-confidence. I’ve come home a foot taller, so deeply proud of how I stretched my capabilities physically, mentally and emotionally.

I learned the magic happens when we step out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves. Actually, I’ve always believed this but stepping so far out of my comfort zone really reinforced it and has me intrigued by the idea that the further we leave behind our comfort zone, the greater the reward. Risk more for a bigger pay off.

I fell in love with simplicity—early nights, proper hydration, great healthy food, whole days of exercise. Getting the basics right made me feel incredible. I want more of it. I want to be able to maintain some of the great changes I made out in the desert. That starts with sticking to a baseline of 10K steps a day and drinking at least two litres of water. My hair is fabulous, my wrinkles and rosacea have disappeared! I feel stronger and rested. Slowing down feels good. 

I’m aware of impact. Trek Tours made sure everything we brought to camp each night came out. And I mean everything. We recycled, composted and minimised use. It made me reflect on my own impact and I’m working through what I can do at home to contribute in a bigger way.

Overall, I feel like I’m back in the driver’s seat. I’m creating a great lifestyle with an awesome balance of working with great clients and having fun adventures.

I feel empowered to step into my second act knowing I’m capable of anything.

I feel more open and confident to do things I’ve never done before. Hell, if I can do the Larapinta I really think I can have a go at tackling most things.

The Larapinta taught me to be more in the moment. To be truly present and not distracted. I absolutely loved not being able to be contacted and to focus on enjoying this once in a lifetime experience.