Courtesy of the author
- I felt fearless when I was younger, but when I became a parent, my survival instincts kicked in.
- I wanted to feel like my old self again and signed up for a four-day hike in the Victorian Alps.
- It was challenging, but it reminded me of who I used to be, and I’m glad I went.
When I was younger, I felt invincible. Like I could do anything.
In my 20s, I lived in Canada and London and backpacked through dozens of other countries. I wasn’t afraid to take risks, and I took many.
After promising my dad I wouldn’t go out on Ipanema Beach at night, there I was on my first night in Rio, dancing in the moonlight after a few too many caipirinhas.
I ziplined through the Andes in Peru and white water rafted on the Kananaskis River in Banff, Canada.
In Vietnam, I hitched a ride from Sapa down a mountainside on the back of a motorbike with some random guy one foggy evening, and in London, I would often walk home alone in the early hours of the morning after a night out. Not my smartest decision.
But those younger versions of myself felt fearless.
Becoming a mom made me stop taking risks
When I became a parent, something shifted. Some primal instinct kicked in — not only to protect my child but also to survive for them.
During those early weeks of pregnancy, I felt like some sort of super-smelling bloodhound. I remember going for a bike ride and feeling like I could smell the earth below my tires. They say this heightened sense of smell is your body’s way of protecting your baby against external threats.
Becoming a parent awakened a whole new world of instincts and somewhere along the way, I stopped taking risks. The problem was that the greatest joy, passion, and thrills I have experienced in life have come hand-in-hand with the experiences that have terrified me the most.
I signed up for a four-day hike to feel like my younger self again
It’s been eight years since I had my son, and I adore my family, but I felt like it was time to do something just for me. Something that reconnects me to those younger versions of myself. To that person who would take risks — albeit in a much more measured way now.
I decided to sign up for a four-day hike up four local mountains around the Victorian Alps near where I live in the town of Bright, in northeastern Victoria, Australia. Not an easy feat, especially for a mother of three with little (OK, let’s get real, zero) training.
When the big day arrived and my alarm went off at 5.30 am, I felt a nervous sense of anticipation in the pit of my stomach. I jumped into the car with four other women (some were also moms, like me, who are looking for adventure) and we drove to the base of the first mountain.
Just 15 minutes into the steep 1723m hike up Mount Buffalo, I started to feel like I’ve made a terrible error in judgment. “How am I going to make it to the top?” I thought to myself. “Is it too late to pull out?”
The views from Mount Buffalo on day one of the author’s four-day hike.
Courtesy of the author
At first, I had to fight the urge to leave
I fought the urge to turn around and drive home. As I trudged on, I ended up having the most amazing conversations with other women on the trail. We discussed everything from life and love to hobbies, parenting, skincare, and aging parents. After around three-and-a-half hours, we finally reached the top.
On day two, the alarm went off again at 5:30 am. That day was the biggest mountain — Victoria’s second highest peak, Mount Feathertop, at 1922m elevation.
I walked this one alone, deep in thought. When I finally approached the summit, my fear of heights overwhelmed me. I sat at the top of the mountain, about 100m from the finish line, unable to move as panic set in. Although I couldn’t quite reach the end, I felt a sense of achievement that I had come this far.
Then, it was day three. Muscles I didn’t know existed ached, but I kind of liked it. I felt more alive than I had in years.
The mountain we climbed that day, Mount Hotham, proved particularly challenging. The trail followed a river for about 6km, then climbed steeply. Towards the end was the hardest part. Someone had warned me about “the wall” and I now understood why they called it that — it was a brutally steep climb.
The views were amazing and I was glad I went
When my friend and I finally reached the razorback, the view was spectacular. It was springtime and fields of purple and yellow wildflowers danced in the breeze. White butterflies flitted around us as we neared the finish line. I felt a deep sense of happiness and appreciation for my puny little life.
Day four was a winding climb up Mystic Hill followed by a steep descent that put my 38-year-old knees to the test. When I finally approached the finish line, I spotted my husband and three kids waiting for me.
The views from day four at Mystic Hill.
Courtesy of the author
My heart overflowed with gratitude and I thought about the lessons I would take away from this experience. For one, I told myself that I would start saying ‘yes’ to things that challenge me more often. And I won’t be afraid to step outside my comfort zone and try something new.
Because at the end of the day, that’s where the magic happens.