After I did the Larapinta hike earlier in 2022, everyone wanted to know the blow by blow of how each day panned out. Seems like so many people are abandoning classic ‘luxury’ holidays in private villas for the adventure of travelling the world up close on foot. As the woman who once took an inner sprung king size mattress and white Saks of Fifth Ave robe (complete with shoulder pads) to a campsite, I reckon I could still do both but for now my focus has been on getaways that involve a stack of play along with big physical and mental challenges.
In October my business besties and I moved our annual business planning meeting from Melbourne to Tassie, where we hiked the epic Three Capes Trail before hitting Hobart to do the actual business work. So now I have the memory of another world famous track in my hiking boots and my mind, and again people have been asking for insider details of the walk.
Things to know upfront: there are a number of ways to do the Three Capes, including the well-known route run by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service that starts with a boat pickup at historic penal site Port Arthur. On that self-catering adventure you carry your own packs for four days and 48kms, ending up at Fortescue Bay. Our group chose something different and booked with a tour company that organises high end lodge accommodation and no-heavy backpack hiking. Think two course dinners, lunches along the route and a great bath to soak your screaming calves in at night.
That suited our group perfectly. We do enough organising of food and warmth for our families at home! This was a getaway from our normal lives so we opted for the ‘please look after us while we enjoy the views and hikes’ door. We wanted to have something in the tank for our business summit. Here’s how it panned out, day by day:
Day one: Hobart to Cape Hauy
Our walk kicked off when we were picked up by private transfer in Hobart about 8am and headed for the Tasman Peninsula. The weather was great—sunny, cool, light winds. The return walk was about 10kms out to the incredible Cape Hauy and 180- million-year-old dolerite cliffs. There were wildflowers, mind blowing scenery and a stack of steps. At the end we had the chance for a swim but had been warned the water temperature was about eight degrees. One of us was brave and went in for the full McCoy, not just the leg dip. I won’t say if it was me but it wasn’t me.
Day Two: Waterfall Bay to Fortescue Bay
This was a vastly different day—no stairs. The walk winds along the coast through rainforests with fantastic views out to seas. We spent much of the day high up in the clouds, loving the variety of the landscape and terrain. Think lots of glimpses of secluded bays with turquoise water and sugar white sand. The 18km walk was challenging in parts but we shared lots of old stories and had plenty of belly laughs.
Day Three: Cape Raoul
It was wet, wet, wet! We walked anyway. Cape Raoul is a favourite among Tasman Peninsula locals and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Lots of other hikers were put off by the sleet (we only saw three others on the track all day) so we enjoyed the stunning views without the crowds. One big takeaway was the stunning power of the Southern Ocean smashing against the cape at what is one of the world’s biggest surf breaks when the seas are right. Not that anyone was surfing it when we were there—perhaps it’s an urban myth? You’d need to be pretty brave. Lots of sharks in this part of the world. And powerful winds. Again, we had plenty of laughs on the 14km hike, which takes up to six hours depending on your pace and how long you linger for lunch.
Day Four: Crescent Bay and Mt Brown
They saved the best ‘til last. I adored this walk. It was totally relaxed and easy on our fatigued legs. We basked in the return of the sunshine and I loved how everywhere you looked, there were waterways. We sat at the (manageable 174m) top of Mt Brown, planning our future adventures and fun. A ripper day.
Whatever your hiking style and level of fitness, the Three Capes can cater. There was definitely a mix of hikers on the trail, from millennials to the occasional kid and a stack of mid-lifers like us. It’s wildly beautiful and worthwhile. No, we saw no snakes or leeches. Yes, we saw sea eagles. No, it didn’t feel crowded. Yes, can recommend—so much that I’m planning to run a program which would include a Three Capes adventure with me. This six month program is designed to get you out of your comfort zone in 2023 and make a step change in one key area of your business or life. If that’s something you’d be interested in (and at this stage it would just be interest!) leave a message in the comments or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
When my kids were small, I loved my life. Loved being a hands-on mum. Loved creating and running successful businesses amid the school drop offs and the organised chaos. Loved building a family, with all its traditions and tedium and small miraculous moments that were sometimes easy to overlook.
But somewhere along the way—and this is me at my most honest—I stopped having fun. Or at least I stopped feeling like I was having fun. The responsibility of everything took precedence. I chose holidays, meals, cars based on what would suit everyone best. If the kids were doing something on Sunday but all I really wanted to do was go to the Daylesford farmers’ market, I never said.
So this year, single and with my youngest at the pointy end of her school life, I’ve been able to do exactly what I want a lot of the time. I redid my values and realised I value play and adventure and they need to feature in my every day. I want to find joy all the time, not wait for a special occasion. I want that incredible feeling of freedom you have when you’re a kid and anything is possible.
I want to decide what’s fun, then I want to do it. Because I’ve realised life does go fast, no matter what you think when you’re stuck in a bad year. Without being too maudlin, the end is just over the horizon. And to be happy and fulfilled and make it count, we have to love the journey, the everyday stuff, in what we do.
For me, that means booking in a ton of stuff and sticking to it. Every Tuesday night I get together with my girlfriends and a coach for an hour of tennis. Going to Noosa for the Coastrek walk was an opportunity to fill up my cup and hang with three girlfriends. This month I’m off with a mate to The Break Room in Collingwood to smash stuff up in a guilt-free way.
Even seeing my brother Luke for three days in August was extraordinary. Of course we grew up together—there was us two and mum—but for decades we’ve hardly spent time together, just us. In pouring rain, we visited nurseries and botanic gardens (Luke is one of WA’s top landscape gardeners) and found we still get a kick out of each other. Why hadn’t we done it before?
Oh, yeah. That’s right. As adults, we’re so busy running businesses, raising kids, staying fit and madly building wealth that we’ve forgotten richness in life comes from being happy. From playing like we did as kids.
From really understanding that life, relationships and mental health are fragile, and that being alive means stepping outside of comfort zones and pushing hard for adventure. Getting serious about finding and having fun. When play is missing, your work and personal lives lack the energy and vulnerability which propel you forward to success.
So from now until forever, I’m letting down my hair and bringing fun back, bigtime.
It’s all about trying new things and seeing what sticks, discovering play makes life lighter.
Try it yourself. Book in one thing for next week that you know you’ll love. Then book something for the week after that you’ve never done but are curious about. An adult dance class, a guided tour of your city, a regional train trip to go op shopping. Yes, you do have time for this. Squash down those excuses and start having playing again.
The questions to ask yourself are these: are you really enjoying your everyday or are you doing things in the hope that life will be better and more enjoyable in the coming months and years?
What lie are you telling yourself that stops you taking action and playing more? Is it time to change?
Your life doesn’t have to be Technicolour spectacular. But it should be fun.
Noosa, you were fantastic. Weather that saw me up at 6am and in the ocean just after the first beach coffee of the day. Fun outdoor dining with fresh seafood and cocktails that made me feel 20 again. It felt like not just summer but other cool life possibilities were around the corner.
So far, so fabulous. Yet there was a glaring omission that really bugged me during my five days in town. Something that represents a huge disservice to women and a giant missed opportunity for brands to gain their money and loyalty.
Some background: I joined around 2300 other women (and a handful of men) to do the Noosa Coastrek, a 30km Sunshine Coast walk. Me and three Melbourne girlfriends were among hundreds travelling to Noosa to make a girls’ trip of it.
My personal mission wasn’t just to fundraise over $3K for Beyond Blue with our group (collectively, the women walkers raised more than $1.5 million) but to have a great time. I was escaping responsibility at home and work. At an increasingly youthful 51, I was having an awakening.
I’m confident I wasn’t alone. Many of the other women were also experiencing an empowering transformation during perimenopause or menopause. They’re putting their own needs first for the first time since their twenties, often after a health wake-up call.
Now coming into their prime and dedicated to creating their best lives, they’re independent, professional, experienced, highly adventurous. They’re cashed up and looking for fun. It’s why there are bucket loads of women over 40 (like me) who take up hiking and do things like the Larapinta.
These women are seeking connection—reconnection with self and friends as they prioritise their own needs after decades caring for kids.
And this is where Noosa got it wrong.
There were thousands of women in town with money and time to burn, and brands really missed the opportunity to offer add-ons to the event.
It was a golden opportunity for Noosa to gear up and reap the benefits, but there was little evidence that the wellness, lifestyle, travel and hospitality industries cared or even saw it. A notable exception was Champion apparel, who saw the value in reaching this valuable segment by sponsoring our outfits for walk day.
As a marketer with a special interest and expertise in women and their consumer needs and spending habits, I was bewildered as to why brands ignored the collective power of this event.
The facts: Coastrek—which has raised over $40 million for mental health via 40,000 participants—nails it in catering for Gen X women creating new lives. It sparks connection with other women by having all participants walk in teams (tick), provides a perfect excuse to get away with friends by having their fundraising walks out of town in great locations (tick) and does good, which makes the women feel good too.
I couldn’t believe brands weren’t fighting over rights to partner with Coastrek and develop strong relationships with a captive audience of thousands of women who were busting to buy.
Brands need to know that Gen X women represent a key transition moment for brands. Most don’t even acknowledge it, which means they lose revenue and opportunities to boost sales, reputation and visibility.
Here’s a snapshot for these brands. Women over 45 who are working and balancing the needs of dependent older children and the increasing health needs of ageing parents regularly feel overlooked by media and brands. They feel as if they are Invisible Mums.
Despite being an increasingly affluent shopper who often influences or controls the finances of three generations, these women say they’re rarely seen in advertising let alone catered for in services and products they might want.
In Marketing to Mums’ study of 1800 Australian mothers, Invisible Mums were the most dissatisfied segment. Not surprising, perhaps, given 94 per cent of those working in the ad industry is under 50 and lacks empathy for these women in a competitive marketing environment.
Business and brands that cater for women over 40 and mums, I’m your ideal client. And I’m also Australia’s longest standing, best researched marketing expert to the mum segment (I launched the world’s first podcast about Marketing to Mothers in 2018.)
If you want to learn more about Gen X women and how to reach them, I’d love to share what I know personally and professionally.
Let’s talk. And let’s hope that next Coastrek, there are wellness, athleisure and travel brands smart and motivated enough to grab the great marketing opportunity in front of them.
I have a friend whose husband works in insurance. He’s an expert, the guy you want to call before you take out holiday insurance or decide on a home and contents policy. It’s just that most people don’t know about his day job—insurance gets such a bad rap he tells people he’s in mediation!
So when I was moving house recently for my next life chapter, I approached the insurance side of things with trepidation. I figured there would be a stack of googling, weeks of comparing prices, red tape and frustrating phone calls to help desks (although as a hard core marketer I always love seeing different business models and approaches to securing customers.
Ha. My doomsday scenario could not have been further from the truth. And it was mostly thanks to discovering Honey Insurance when I was shopping around for new contents insurance.
Honey does things differently. I’d never heard of them before but was happy with their competitive quote and their mission. They promise ‘smarter home insurance helping you prevent avoidable accidents’ and their positioning statement is they are turning insurance on its head.
Literally. No sooner had I signed up than I received a VIP invite to come to the Honey House.
The Honey House is an experiential marketing strategy used where customers attend an event to visit a custom designed upside down house. (https://www.honeyinsurance.com/blog/heres-whats-up-with-the-upside-down-honey-house/) The business banks on that being such a novelty that you take lots of Insta worthy images while allowing Honey to highlight their mission to eliminate the 50% of insurance claims which are preventable.
I love seeing a business positioning on being different and I love that Honey uses experiential marketing as their strategy to amplify their difference. It’s a perfect strategy for millennials who are seeking out something cool and innovative along with reliable.
Honey also gives a $500 cash voucher to the best photo taken in the Melbourne Honey House and tagging the business—a cheap and pretty organic way of encouraging lots of user generated content.
“We give our customers free technology and services from day 1 to keep homes safer, which rewards them with a lower price on their insurance,” says CEO and founder Richard Joffe, who called his business “smart” home insurance.
Underwritten by RACQ, Honey raised $15.5m, the largest seed investment in Australian history, from industry leaders such as AGL, Metricon, Mirvac, PEXA and many others, according to Joffe.
The idea of an upside down house as a marketing strategy was enough to see me bundling my daughters into the car for a trip to the city to learn about our new contents insurance. Alice even got off school early and Lucy met us after knocking off from her fashion job.
We had a laugh together and learned a few tips. And it was a first for us—a family trip to an insurance pop up. The message? Businesses that try something different and leverage social media in fun and eye-catching ways get noticed.
I’m hoping the back end service matches the front of house! Kudos to Honey Insurance for bringing a bit of sting and zing to the insurance industry.
(Picture credit: Tegan Paisley)
Before I walked the Larapinta Trail I thought a lot about what hiking for six days on a route classified for hard core experts would give an inexperienced and not particularly fit suburban mum. Blisters, sure. Tears, definitely. Self pride, hopefully.
Turns out it was a big tick for all those things and a whole stack more. But what surprised me most about my Larapinta adventure was what being in the outback taught me about business.
The power of the group
Strangers before we said our first tentative hellos on day one of the trek, each member added so much more to the overall experience—yes, beyond that even of the guides who were incredibly knowledgeable.
The biggest takeaway for me was that overall we had a better experience because of the diverse thoughts from the group. We learned so much from each other, from life stories with messages about what inspires people to take on hard stuff to fresh perspectives about what counts in life.
Result: going forward, my group programs will now have more group interaction and allow for opportunities for others to share to enrich my clients’ overall experience. There really is no ‘I’ in team!
The power of switching off
You may remember I’ve embraced a four-day work week this year with Fridays being MyDays. I love them. Doing the Larapinta took my switching off to a whole new level. For six days I had no phone, no email, no computer. Nobody could contact me for anything at all.
There were long periods of deep silence. Despite the exhaustion from all the hiking I actually feel rested in the brain. A month on, I can actually think again. Larapinta has taught me the power of removing distractions both in my everyday but also the value of completely disengaging from work for periods of time in order to significantly increase my creativity, decision making.
Result: I now see time away from work as essential rather than a luxury. In an era when lines between leisure and work hours are blurred, I recommend exploring turning off and tuning in to other things.
The power of up levelling
Without question, the extreme physical challenge really stretched me. The Larapinta allowed me to let go of what no longer serves me and free up room and space for new opportunities and ideas. It was out on the Larapinta surrounding by rocks and stars and nothing man made that I was able to create room for thinking about an exciting new program I’m working on and will launch in 2023.
The plan is for it to allow people to up level in both life and business and take positive, powerful steps towards realising their goals. It will be completely different from the work you’ve seen from me to date. Stand by for full details late this year.
Result: Having mastered partnerships and marketing to mums, I want to truly master what makes people tick and what we need to thrive at home and work.
As they say, I really did leave it all out there in the outback. But I also came home with a whole lot more than I left with.
The morning after we arrived back in Alice Springs after finishing the Larapinta Trail walk in May, I headed straight into town and into Outbush in the Todd Mall.
Opened in 1986, the locally owned business stocks everything you need and then some for an outback adventure—think authentic Australian brands like RM Williams, Thomas Cook and Blundstone. All terrific, but what drew me was the website promise of “old fashioned friendly customer service.”
Easy to say. Harder to pull off.
My mission in the shop was to buy an Akubra hat. I wanted it as a trophy to acknowledge the achievement of completing the Larapinta Super 6 Day (aka my Hawaiian Ironman event). I wanted to be able to look at it and wear it feeling so bloody proud of myself.
I’d only been in the store a couple of minutes browsing when instore expert Barry sidled up to me. He told me Outbush is the major stockist of Akubra in the Northern Territory and that since Covid stocks are low. They can’t keep up with demand.
But Barry was quietly confident he could help me. He whipped into action, measuring up my head and giving lots of advice about how the hat should feel on my head to ensure I got the fit just ’so’.
Forget the hats. They were good but Barry was mesmerising. Not just in his commitment to the promised old school service but in his personal story. Now in his 80s, he survived melanoma in one eye a decade ago and found himself spending time in his son’s store engaging travellers just like me.
I tried on at least 10 Akubras before one really spoke to me.
Hard part done, Barry invited me and my two friends to take a seat. He wanted to give me a lesson on how to look after my new trophy. It was like a theatre performance. Barry posed every kind of scenario: What do you do if someone sits on your hat and it’s bent out of shape? What happens when you get caught in the rain wearing your Akubra? What do you do if your hat gets dirty?’
Of course, it wasn’t his first rodeo so Barry had a well thought out, immediate response plan for every kind of scenario (although many involved putting on the kettle, steaming the hat, reshaping and leaving it to dry in a draughty bathroom upside down or repurposing a nifty piece of packaging to clean the hat much like a lint brush might work.)
It wasn’t Barry’s ability to prepare me for any possible hat disaster which was extraordinary. The level of care he showed to his products, his clients and the business made me feel I was leaving the hospital with a newborn.
Every step of the purchase process at Outbush was fantastic and so incredibly authentic, from the young man at the front counter—who referred me to ‘Grandpa’ once I announced I was there to buy a new hat—to Barry’s wonderful care instructions.
Next time you’re in Alice, call in to the shop where Barry works (https://www.outbush.com.au) and get fitted for your own Akubra. You pay for the hat. The incredible customer service is free.
You’ll know yourself that great, memorable customer service is the difference between a business developing an army of raving fans or one of disappointed critics. It’s the one thing you have to get right before anything else.
It costs you nothing yet it’s priceless.
This is your wake up call: how’s your customer experience? Are you providing your customers an experience like Barry gave me?
Since it opened in 2002, the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia has morphed from a favourite local walk to a world famous trek with up to 5000 walkers each year.
Now that I’m one of them, I’m being asked a lot if I would recommend it (absolutely), if I would do it again (absolutely not) and if have advice to share.
I sure do. Here’s my Top 10 trek top for anyone tackling the Larapinta. Many of them are transferable for other long hikes. You’ve got this!
1: Fly Nets. Total game changer. Flies didn’t bother us for the first couple of days then they were everywhere. Fewer than half our group had nets and nearly went nuts. I loved mine as I popped it over my hat and it didn’t touch my face or bother me at all.
2: Trek Tours. Faultless. The things I loved about them were: 1) They have a low guide to trekker number—we had 2 guides to 8 walkers. I spoke to other trekkers in Alice Springs who had 16 in their group with 2 guides. 2) Impact—Trek is serious about leaving no impact wherever they camp. Anything we brought in or created (and I mean everything!) came out with us. Their commitment to minimal impact was highlighted in a non-preachy way 3) Incredible guides—Lani and Kenna were incredible with their knowledge of the environment and their ability to keep us motivated 4) Great group—Trek Tours attracts great people. Our diverse group bonded and worked immediately as a team with many helping me when I struggled on the inclines.
3: Rural and Remote First Aid—as part of our preparation we consulted with Scott Brown from Rural and Remote First Aid. It was an hour very well spent and I recommend it for any first timers who don’t have a medical/health background. Scott prepared us about responses to situations we might experience. So worthwhile. Reach out to Scott here: https://www.instagram.com/rural_and_remote_first_aid/
4: No Polarised Sunglasses —I fell four times on day one. I don’t mean little trip overs I mean legs up in the air, wedged between rocks—real bruise-inducing falls. It was recommended I remove my sunglasses which were polarised. No more falls. Apparently polarised lenses can distort your sense of space. Given you have to be constantly focused on which rock to place your feet on with each step, this really changed things for me.
5: Poles—I wouldn’t consider doing the Larapinta without them. Great for balance and leveraging to get up and down rocks. They helped with my struggles with inclines and were also beloved on descents by those in our group with knee issues. Big thanks to Mandy for letting me take her poles out for a whirl.
6: Function over fashion—there’s a huge opportunity for someone to design fashionable hiking gear but I went function over fashion all the way. I wore merino tops which were excellent at keeping me smell-free and a cheap linen blend shirt from Kmart to protect me from the sun.
7: Short gaiters—there’s an ongoing argument about short or long gaiters. The long ones are really only required early in the season, say April, when the grass and spinifex hasn’t been walked through. Once the path has been trodden the short ones are fine. Our cheap gardening gaiters from Big W were perfect.
8: Look up—I know this sounds crazy but you’re so focused on the placement of your feet with every step that it’s important to stop regularly and look up at the view.
9: Discover the glutes BEFORE you go—I really tried to find these elusive muscles before leaving but just wasn’t able to master it. By day 3 I found them by necessity via overworked thighs and hamstrings. With the huge amount of steep inclines, it’s something I wish I had found before.
10: iPhone13PRO—Someone in our group had this phone and their photos were significantly superior to everyone else’s. If you’re due a new phone, this one captures what others can’t. I had my phone on flight mode and turned it off when I wasn’t taking photos so I only needed to charge it once in the guide’s car.
I could add more (like getting a properly fitting pack and boots and practicing walking in them) but they’re generic to most hikes. Most of all, know that amid the deep discomfort of a lot of it, you’ll have laughs and life-changing days. And enormous satisfaction and self pride.
The growing popularity of the Larapinta Trail lulls people into a sense of false security—gee, if Felicity from publicity is doing it, it can’t be that hard. Trust me, capturing global attention doesn’t mean the trail is getting any easier! The relentless rocks are still there, the gradients are unchanged, the physical and emotional hardships will challenge you.
But it’s worth it.
Because it was the only trip available at relatively short notice, my friend Kate and I signed up for the epic-graded Super 6 Larapinta Trail adventure. This isn’t your standard Larapinta tour. It was the six hardest sections of the track scheduled back- to-back with no rest days. All sections were graded either hard or very hard.
I knew all of this before going and did months of consistent training but it was screamingly clear on the first hour of the first day that I had massively underestimated just how tough this adventure was going to be.
Most days we walked from 8 to 12 hours with a break for lunch and a morning tea and afternoon snack. We were in bed early. One night, shattered, I unrolled my swag and was in bed at 6.30pm. No melatonin needed—I was exhausted to the bone.
In a group of eight people ranging from 30 to 60 years, I was the least fit. One brother and sister were doing the Larapinta Trail as a warm up training exercise for a much longer, more demanding hike through the US in July. Wow! Great perspective for me, because this seemed my pinnacle, my Hawaiian Ironman event.
Here’s how it panned out, day by day:
I fell over 4 times. Not just little trips but full-on stacks. After one spill I was like a turtle on my back with legs and arms in the air, unable to get up. I fell back from the group on a long mountain ridge ascent and I was seriously wondering whether I was going to make it through the first day, let alone six.
My mind wanted to keep going but I questioned if my body was up to the task. I was absolutely shocked by how hard it was. My big fear before leaving was being told to travel in the car for a day because I was too slow, and on this first day it felt like a real possibility. I was terrified.
The 19km hike over section 3 of the trail took us almost 10 hours. I could hardly sleep that night, thinking, ‘WTF, can I do this?’ Throw in adjusting to a communal composting toilet—you don’t want to be last to go, trust me—and sleeping in a swag (I usually like to take my own king size mattress camping) and I was in a whole new world.
Section 4 of the Larapinta Trail saw us climb up to Brinkley Bluff, a ridge 1200m up on one of the ranges. It was a 22km, 9 hour challenging day with lots of tough inclines for me but no spills for me—yay! I worked out that my polarised sunglasses were a liability because they caused visual distortions, and that I was overbalancing through not being used to carrying a backpack. Lessons learned.
I was again blown away by some of the gnarly ridges I was clambering over. I never would have dreamed in a million years that I’d do just once anything like I was asked to do multiple times a day on the trial. Again, I felt waaaaay outside my comfort zone and fretted about the days still to come.
Hiking up to Counts Point on section 8 of the Larapinta Trail delivered spectacular views over the ranges and a shorter day—yep, only 17km over 8 hours. By this time the tops and bottoms of my feet were hosting impressive big balloon blisters, even though I was doing all the right things and retaping them every morning and using hikers’ wool.
There was nothing I could do about them, and while everyone knows the discomfort of walking with just one blister—the curse of summer when you put on sandals after months of socks—this was on a new level. But something odd was happening. A third of the way in, I was really conscious that I was doing something I never thought I’d be capable of. It was building my confidence and already making me feel I’d achieved something big.
After two demanding days, I was able to keep up with the group. Given their high level of fitness I was pleased that my body was quickly adjusting to demands placed on it.
The relentlessness of the rock kept shocking me. Because you spend so much time focusing on where to place your foot with each step, I had to consciously stop to look at the view during the walk. I got to recognise the distinct walk of every group member. I learned the quality of their rock selection and their stride distance which helped me with my own rock choice.
It’s hard to describe but the rock is endless so often the path is hard to see. It’s a choose your own adventure as you work out the path through the rock which will work best to your rock scrambling strengths—little sharp rocks and short strides or bigger rocks and steps.
One of my biggest smiles came at Counts Point, high up on the ridge, where a bench seat has been installed. The only seat I saw on the trail. It was so welcome as normally we had to choose a hard rock to sit on. My bum appreciated it—it’s the little things.
The landscape changed to Mulga forest and back at camp at the side of an empty creek bed we had a lot of bush mice. They did my head in less than the empty creek beds filled with endless loose rocks. Super hard on the blistered feet after an hour of walking. Consolation prize: I found my glutes for the first time ever.
We woke at 4am to hike the 32km section 9, which the trail’s official website calls ‘difficult’. Man, this was a tough day. It felt endless. The first few hours hiking in the dark were wonderful, and we stopped for a fabulous science lesson by other members of the group. It felt like we were in a planetarium, so vivid were the planets and stars. The very rare alignment of Venus, Jupiter, Neptune and Mars was amazing to see.
We trekked to Inarlanga Pass, one of my top three highlights of the Larapinta experience. Thanks to deep red rock towering over on both sides, it had a very spiritual feel. A little further on we did a one hour incline as a group, and it marked my breaking through of the mental barrier around ‘I suck at walking up inclines’. I kept up with the very fit group, a personal achievement I kept up for the rest of the rail.
But then I started to tire. I got the cranks. I walked by myself for long stretches and contemplated my life decisions. I resolved lots of stuff and felt really comfortable with my decisions I made out there on this ever so long walk—12 hours all up. I reckon after hiking for 12 hours I can do anything. Another mental block busted.
Because we couldn’t get access to section 5, there was a late change to section 11A. It was perhaps the most likely to be our ‘rest’ day if you call sleeping in until 6am and hiking 20kms a rest! Highlights: awesome views of Mt Sonder, an awesome picnic lunch on a sandy bank of a water hole (wraps, dips, cheese) and crossing a waterhole by carefully balancing on a floating log.
This is where you could see we were a tight team. We encouraged each member as they made their attempt with one of the group members helping each person make their initial step onto the log. It was unexpected fun and made me think again that I can deal with anything that comes up.
We were woken at 1.30am to hike 8kms up Mt Sonder in the dark, for section 12 of the Larapinta Trail. More pesky inclines and a slow, steady pace over 4 hours. Walking the 1400m up the NT’s third highest peak as a group made me feel incredibly supported. The view from the top over the Western MacDonnell Ranges was an incredible reward for the six days it took to get there and having a private front row seat to a Central Australian sunrise felt life affirming.
It lit up what I feel is my next chapter after a 2021 where behind the scenes I dealt with devastating life blows—the end of a 27-year relationship, the suicide of a family member, the mental health problems of a child—and discovered I’d come out stronger.
The Larapinta Trail was a total reset for me. An emotional, mental and physical uplevelling of my personal life so I can now uplevel with my business, health and relationships. Finishing it gave me enormous pride and self-respect. I know that will flow on to what I have to offer to the world and how I show up.
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.
Everyone thinks their mum is the best. There’s a good chance my mum Helen really is though—a single mum in the 1970s, she was always fun and resourceful and hell bent on raising independent kids prepared for the world.
She informed and inspired how I show up in the world and make and keep money. Here’s five things I learned about business and life from my mum.
One: Dream big
Helen encouraged me to set wildly ambitious goals. At 14, my first one was bankrolling a trip to New York. I got a job at KFC for $3.28 per hour and saved madly. At 16, I had enough saved for three weeks in that fabulous city. Making a dream come true as a teenager was a huge education. It encouraged me not to fear chasing big bold ideas. With a well-crafted plan, it can happen.
My question for you: Are you dreaming big enough?
Two: Do something you’re passionate about
Mum was huge on her kids doing things we were obsessed with and hated when my brother struggled to find his thing. She took him to tennis, cricket, football. Nothing stuck until he discovered the local surf club. He became a passionate surfer.
Helen said passion should be your main driver. When I started my own business and as my business has evolved I’ve held onto knowing I must be doing things I’m passionate about. It’s why you might be noticing some changes in my business to incorporate some new ones (stay tuned).
My questions: are you really passionate about what you’re doing? Is there something you’re deeply passionate about that you haven’t brought to life yet?
Three: Don’t listen to the naysayers
Back to Helen. She decided her dream was to live in an Italian villa. It didn’t matter that we actually lived in suburban Perth and she didn’t have the money. Heads shook whenever Helen brought up her plan: ‘There’s no way that can happen love, get real.’ Ha. One night she invited Perth’s leading architect over for a drink and they struck a deal—mum would get her house designed because the architect was intrigued by the novelty value. She subdivided our block and built her villa.
The lesson is there will always be people who tell you everything about your idea/strategy/decision is no good. It’s super important that you have trusted people who deeply understand you and your business to seek counsel from. Don’t go to the masses—you’re likely to be swamped by naysayers.
My question: are you protecting your energy and surrounding yourself with the right kind of supportive people in business?
Four: Be different
Mum always walks to her own beat. I could tell you a million stories about how my mum was different to all the other mums. Or just show you a photo of me at my first communion in a Helen-chosen maroon slack suit with pink and white bow tie, amid a sea of little white brides.
Mum taught me that to get noticed you need to do things differently.
My question: are you avoiding the same-same and looking for ways to amplify your key differences and get visible?
Five: At the end of the day, family is everything
Balance is important. Set clear work boundaries. This one took a while to learn but this year I’ve nailed the four-day work week and won’t ever work in January again. I work with many parents who are also business owners and this is a really difficult area to master. I hear you.
I’d encourage you to map out your holidays before you start your annual planning. Subtle shifts in prioritising family holiday time is a great first step. Another idea is getting rid of social media apps from your phone on holidays. I haven’t had email accessible from my phone for more than seven years.
Hels, on Mother’s Day I’ll be out on the Larapinta Trail dreaming big and getting right out of my comfort zone so we won’t be able to speak. I want you to know how vital your lessons have been on my thinking and how I run my businesses.
Thank you. Love you, Mum.
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