When British born Brooke Nolan moved to Australia, she expected to stay for a year. Four years and too many adventures to count later and she’s here to stay. In fact, she loves Australia so much she wrote a book about it. Well, a chapter at least.
The Biggest Book of Yes
The Biggest Book of Yes is an 800-page beast of a book, packed with 49 stories of adventure written by everyday people just like you.
A project by The Yes Tribe, every book sold goes to helping kids with XP (a rare skin disease) get into the great outdoors on their own adventures. So go on…whatcha waiting for?! Buy it now and get a shed tonne of inspo and feel good vibes from a bunch of adventurers.
I wrote my very own chapter in the book, about making the move Down Under. From break-up emails and panic attacks to conquering fears and tackling epic Aussie adventures, this rollercoaster tale will resonate with anyone who calls Australia home.
A Preview of Brooke’s Story…
I unzip my tent and peer through the gap as a blast of cold air shakes the sleepiness from my eyes. It’s pitch black, the faded outline of the crescent moon just visible through the thick fog that cocoons my tent.
‘So much for Australian weather,’ I think to myself. Every ounce of me wants to crawl back into the relative warmth of my sleeping bag and snooze until the sun comes up. ‘There’s no chance of a sunrise in this weather anyway,’ I placate as I lay back down.
Five minutes later, after having a stern talking with myself, I peel back the covers and start to pack up my camping gear. I came here to conquer my fear of wild camping alone and watch the sunrise from the top of the highest mountain in Australia. And that’s what I was going to do, whether I could see much of it or not.
Trying my hardest to ignore the voice in my head telling me to go back to bed, I pack up my soggy tent, switch on my headlight, hoist my backpack onto my shoulders and navigate my way through the mist to the faint trail at the top of the valley. A sharp right turn and I know I’ll hit the base of Kosciuszko mountain some point soon.
One hour later, and I’m at the top nursing a mug of strong coffee, with my fingers crossed that the sun might make an appearance. It’s colder than I expect and my hands grasp the metal, trying to absorb as much heat as possible.
The fog still hangs heavy, visibility no more than 25 metres in any direction.
‘Then, just as I am thinking about cutting my losses and heading back to the car, the fog begins to lift. The first rays of sunshine break through the gloom. And it’s glorious.’
At barely 2,200m Kozzi – as it’s colloquially known – is hardly Everest. But, nestled in the country’s alpine region, it’s pretty much as close as you’re going to get to ‘real’ mountains. Rolling peaks surround me in every direction, in a soft light which kaleidoscopes from pink to purple to shimmering gold.
I stand still, alone, and reflect on how much I’ve changed. On how far I’ve come. Go back a few short years and the idea that I would ever have solo wild camped was laughable. That I would have hiked, willingly through the foggy darkness to reach the top of a mountain? Call me a comedian and get me a stage.
A Lifelong Fear of the Physical
Throughout my life, I have feared physical activity of any type. As a child, I was teased (by teachers and peers) for having no coordination, thanks in part to my terrible eyesight and assisted further by the fact that my limbs stubbornly refused to do anything that my brain told them to do.
Exercise had always been a source of sheer embarrassment and shame to me. I was a typical British woman, scarred by the horror of school P.E. lessons. As for the outdoors? I’m not even sure I knew it existed.
Those formative years spent avoiding exercise shaped me in unimaginable ways. As I got older, even going to the gym, or for a run, all I could hear was the deafening sound of my own voice saying ‘you’re fat’, ‘you’re useless’, ‘you’re letting everyone down’, ‘you’re not good enough.’ It was relentless.
Yet despite that damaging internal monologue, here I was, on the other side of the world, living a life where every decision I made was geared towards helping me get out on more adventures – adventures that are inherently physical by nature.
Wild camping alone is just one of the many fears I have faced since moving to Australia and I’ve certainly experienced much bigger adventures since. But sometimes, it’s the small moments that stay with you the most.
‘By tackling, one-by-one, the misconceptions I have about myself, in this case, my ability to wild camp alone, I’ve realised that perhaps I might not be as useless as I’ve been telling myself all these years.’
Where it all Began
Like most people’s stories, mine has many beginnings. A series of moments led me to the top of that mountain on the other side of the world. And not all of them were good ones.
‘I just don’t think this is going to work.’ The email was longer than that of course, but you get the gist. It was over. And he’d waited until I’d boarded a plane to Australia from the UK to tell me. Our plan for me to travel while he was on deployment in the navy was a fairytale that wouldn’t have a happy ending.
What I didn’t know then was that that heartbreaking email was going to change my life in ways I could never have imagined. While it might not have felt like it at the time, it truly was a blessing in disguise and gave me the freedom to discover a new country without the constraints of having to think about someone else. It freed me.
I’d applied for my Australian Working Holiday Visa long before I met Mr I’ll-wait-till-you’ve-boarded-a-flight-and-then-send-you-a-break-up-email.
I was nearly 30 years old and had spent my twenties slaving away for a communications agency, believing that ‘career’ was the most important thing to me.
I drank too much. I hung out with people I didn’t even like. I worked far more than I was paid to. I was in debt but could never really work out what I spent my money on. I was anxious all the time and started having body-depleting panic attacks that made me feel as though I’d been kicked in the stomach over and over.
They started from nowhere; first a little breathlessness when I got stressed at work and then suddenly, I was having them in crowded places like train stations, after tough meetings, or whenever I felt like I wasn’t good enough. And it never made much sense to me. My life – on the outside at least – was great. To everyone who knew me, I was still the same confident person I always had been. I masked my feelings with the sarcasm and wit that was my M.O.
When the promotion I’d been working so hard towards was finally put on the table, I realised that perhaps I didn’t want it anyway. It was time to listen to my body, and instead, I headed to South America for a three-month sabbatical to think about it. It changed everything. And as much as I hate the whole ‘I found myself’ cliché, I really did.
For my 30th birthday, I hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and it sparked something in me I had never felt before; a sense of calm and awe that I didn’t even know I’d been missing in life. I changed my sabbatical’s entire itinerary after that; switching from tourist-filled sightseeing to off-the-beaten-track hiking trails.
I discovered that my own company was nothing to be afraid of. In fact, I loved being alone. I discovered that I loved hiking, kayaking, camping, exploring.
‘I loved having dirt under my nails and salt in my hair. I loved to wake up in the wilderness surrounded by nature. I loved freedom, flexibility and seeing the stars above me while I was miles from civilisation.’
I learned many things on that trip, including never to eat Guinea Pig from a cart on the side of the road. But above everything else, I learned that – if I was going to be happy – I needed to trade in the office life, where my eyes were dead and my smile was false, for a life where I could immerse myself in what made me feel truly alive.
Sabbatical sadly complete, I arrived back home to Bristol in the UK and handed my notice in. I took a four-day-a-week job in another agency; an agency that gave its staff flexibility and autonomy.
I had laser eye surgery; correcting my terrible minus 6.5 eyesight and finally ridding myself of the thick glasses and frustrating contact lenses that held me back from living the life I wanted to. I started hiking locally and tried my hand at abseiling, caving and rock climbing. It was already an improvement to that elusive work/life balance that we all seek. But I wanted more.
I needed a bigger ‘yes’. And it turned out that Australia was a bigger ‘yes’ than I ever could have hoped for.
Want to read the rest? Buy your copy now.