Last weekend I faced my biggest fear – public speaking – and didn’t die!
It was an absolute privilege to be one of the speakers at the She Went Wild Women’s Adventure Expo in Sydney on Sunday. To share the stage with some of the most inspirational and accomplished women in Australia was an honour.
It wasn’t without a few hiccups before and during the talk. I had written 3 different talks and none of them felt authentic. Less than a week before the event I scrapped them and started something new which felt perfect. I made a slideshow with necessary prompts to help me through each part of it, just in case I froze up with nerves. Then on the morning of my departure to Sydney I found out my ancient software wasn’t compatible with the audio visual system at the expo.
If I have learnt anything while walking around Australia it is to improvise and roll with it. I had just enough time to switch from my little bag to the backpack and fill it with props for a “show and tell” presentation. I had a 7 hour train ride booked to Sydney during which I planned to to rewrite the talk (with props) and go over it a few times. The train was cancelled, NSW trainlink didn’t tell the 3 passengers waiting almost 2 and half hours when the replacement bus was due. I panicked, paced, drank a can of cola because I was getting a caffeine withdrawal headache because I had planned to buy a coffee on the train. I was beginning to burn while I waited in the sun in 33’C so I found some shade, took out a notebook, poised my pen to write but no words came. The crazy thought that this trip wasn’t meant to be even passed through my mind. I had no choice but to cancel catching up with friends that afternoon. Cancelling the whole trip was out of the question.
So let’s just forget Sa(turd)ay. Once I was finally in Sydney and arrived at my Airbnb everything regained its equilibrium. I let go of it all. On the way down in the bus i decided the best way to be as genuine as possible is to be spontaneous and chat with the listeners the same as I might chat with travellers I meet on the road and in rest areas. I slept surprisingly well.
The expo was amazing! So many incredible people and businesses! I had a few fan-girl moments meeting adventure women I had been following on Instagram, the brilliant founder of She Went Wild Emma and the dynamic duo Kerryann and Amy from Travel Play Live. Lisa Blair who recently returned from becoming the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica spoke and Lauren Jones from The Jonesys shared her insights from walking 1,800kms through the outback with her baby daughter Morgan and husband Justin. Meeting Claire Dunn who wrote My Year Without Matches and teaches rewilding was a special moment which made me wonder if I know enough yet to take on a few of my future plans. Fuchsia Sims from Adventure Junky was so supportive and helped me relax a little bit before and after I spoke. My fellow mental health human powered epic adventurer Amy Wildfire from Push Biking for Mental Health came and we spent the afternoon together. But the big highlight for me was in the morning when my sister, Linda, came down from Dubbo to support me.
It was a big day and my talk was just a small part of it. Even for me it felt small in comparison to everything and everyone who was sharing their part in women’s adventure.
Honestly, I thought I had bombed big time. When I walked up on stage in my bushwalking uniform, well worn holey Barefoot Inc boots, Mont clothes and hat, Wilderness Threadworks pack, sleeping mat and Pacer Poles I was literally shaking from head to toe. I stumbled through it, talked myself into a corner a few times, a quiet part of my brain gently pointed out at one stage I was starting to mumbling, everything was emphasised with nervous laughter (mostly mine) and i didn’t talk about some of the important things I really wanted to mention. I walked away thinking my adventure speaking debut was going to be the first and last, nobody will want me to speak at their events again.
How I felt was very different to how others responded. The wonderful crowd who stayed to listen smiled and laughed with me, their empathy was so deep some cried as i shared my path to recovery. Immediately afterwards and throughout the afternoon people wanted to chat about something I said and share their own plans for new adventure,roaming further. To each of you who listened, Thank You! To each of you who stopped for a chat, Thank You! To everyone who took something away from my story I wish you peace and beauty as you seek Nature through adventure. To Emma creator of She Went Wild a huge THANK YOU for this opportunity to grow and share.
Now i have new friends, feel even closer to my sister, found some products i want to try out, skills i want to learn, old pursuits i want to chase again and am booked in to share with another group of adventurous humans next year. I call that a Great Day!