Waters walks through the wild
Turning to nature for its healing powers birthed two achievements for Melbourne’s Laura Waters – hiking 3,000km on New Zealand’s Te Araroa (‘the long pathway’) trail and her debut book Bewildered which details the arduous yet rewarding journey.
Before this, the longest walking distance she’d completed was 65km on Tasmania’s Overland Track.
And while she signed herself to one of the world’s most gruelling physical challenges, what she learnt along the way was the trek’s distance demonstrated more about her mental strength than of her body’s.
“For years I’d been looking for a challenge to push me to my limits and see what I was capable of,” she said.
“It just so happened that the discovery of a new long-distance trail in New Zealand coincided with a time where I was suffering crippling anxiety after a failed relationship and the hectic pace of modern life.
“It was the perfect time to leave everything behind and throw myself to the wind.”
Travelling from the top of New Zealand’s North Island to the bottom of its South Island, Laura wandered the untamed wilderness alone for the most part after her walking partner’s decision to bow out on day two of the adventure.
Frightened at first, Laura said fear was the adrenaline she needed to get over the line.
“I managed to bump into others to walk with for sections but by the middle of the South Island I was on my own again.
“But once you can let go of fear and be comfortable with being uncomfortable then it’s quite magical.
“To sleep in a remote mountain valley all on your own with everything you need in one bag is just bliss.”
Breaking free from the shackles of a toxic relationship inspired Laura’s ambitious feat, having suffered debilitating anxiety before packing her bags and leaving in the hope of finding joy again.
“I had trouble breathing, I lived with the constant feeling that I couldn’t quite fill my lungs to capacity, my body flinched at every little noise, I was in tears all the time and couldn’t think.
“Hiking is quite a meditative experience. You’re so in the moment plus you’re exercising hard so there’s no way you can maintain bad breathing habits.
“Life is very simple on the trail; all you have to do is walk, find shelter, food and water. It totally reshaped the way I thought and I’ve tried to maintain that simplicity since I’ve returned.”
Before Bewildered, Laura had never written.
She says she always considered herself to have a way with words, but translating the days and nights spent at one with Mother Earth to page led her to realise the many truths she’d uncovered about herself.
“To articulate your journey for others you have to really delve deep into what happened and why.
“I had to consider how my life got into such an unhealthy state in the first place and what it was that pulled me out of it.”
She said she wants readers of Bewildered to feel inspired to live with “less stress, less consumerism, less fear and judgement and more simplicity, authenticity and care for (the) planet”.
Laura Waters will speak to a sold-out crowd tonight at Torquay Library from 6-7pm.
Bewildered is published by Affirm Press.