Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why I'm trekking for orangutans in Borneo.

With just two weeks to go until I leave for Borneo, I've finally written this post. Over the last year as I've been training, fundraising and campaigning for the trek, a lot of you have been so supportive and have—rightly so—been curious as to why I decided to trek for orangutans.

I believe we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to inspire change. I've always known that I wanted to do something that will keep on giving even when I'm gone. I don't want to live out my days contributing only to myself and my own life when there are so many beings around the world in need. It was never going to be enough to only do well in my career; I wanted everything else I was passionate about on the inside to be something I was actively involved in on the outside.

At TEDxBrisbane 2011, I watched Cathy Henkel speak about her work as a documentary filmmaker, producing the film Eco Warriors Rise where a group of young people spent 100 days in Borneo. This talk along with many other creative conferences I attended over the years continued to inspire me to find a way to contribute to the world.

I happened upon many other articles, videos & documentaries about Borneo since that talk. Clearly it stuck in my mind more than I'd realised; I didn't know I wanted to go there until it was already happening to me, when a tweet from WWF Australia about the Trek For Orangutans jumped out during my idle browsing late last year.

I've always cared deeply about wildlife and the environment. I've been interested in the work WWF do since I was in high school, and already being familiar with the plight of the orangutans made this a seriously perfect opportunity. I didn't think twice when I saw it.

There were plenty of reasons I could have said no, but typically when something terrifies and excites you at the same time, despite all reasonable logic, you know it's something you have to do.

Some of you also know that I suffer from anxiety & depression. Although I have been open about this in the past, it's still difficult for me to write about. I was nearly going to avoid mentioning it in this post, but it played a big role in my decision to go. Not only am I about to travel alone for the very first time, I'm about to go on a trip that's truly off the beaten track: I've basically invited anxiety to my door with the many different unknowns I'm about to face.

For the last year, I've had to be very good at self-motivating, maintaining my physical training, fundraising and planning an exhibition on top of everything else in life. In this time, my partner went through two surgeries and I had one of my own. Martin stopped working shortly after his second surgery, and even though we knew we'd be okay with our savings, it piled on extra stress we didn't need—especially given that my surgery and my trip to Borneo weren't exactly cheap.

Remembering that I can be okay and having a positive experience that will stay with me for life will help me build walls to protect me from me; to fight against the voice that tells me I can't do anything; to remember the joy that can come from being alive and amongst nature (which has always put me at ease).

This will be the first of what I hope are many fundraising challenges around the world. This year it will be for the orangutans, but maybe next time it will be for children in third world countries, or to raise money for cancer research. This adventure definitely won't be my last.

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