Despite being unhelpfully pigeonholed ‘not sporty’ as a kid, Brooke Nolan discovered her inner explorer in her twenties and has never looked back. Maybe because of these early experiences, or maybe just because she’s a lovely person, she enjoys nothing more than sharing the stoke through volunteering and contributing to We Are Explorers. Meet Brooke — she’s down to earth and heaps of fun and she’s our Explorer Of The Month for September!
I work as a copywriter and marketing strategist at a branding agency in Sydney. It’s pretty varied — one day I’m writing the copy for packaging on a new product, and the next day, advertising campaigns. I also do some freelance journalism.
What got you involved / inspired in the outdoors in the first place?
To be honest, I always associated the ‘outdoors’ with ‘exercise’ and ‘sport’ — something I’d been emphatically told I was useless at as a kid. Because of that, I avoided anything to do with the outdoors until my late twenties when I started going on day hikes back in the UK. Then, I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for my 30th — my first multi-day hike — and was hooked. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I’d learned at a young age that keeping fit can be more than just hockey or netball.
What continues to get you out the door to explore?
I love the simplicity of the outdoors — how nothing matters but the sunrise, the sunset, getting to camp, and questions like, ‘Where shall we pitch the tent?’ and, ‘Should we swim in that waterfall before or after lunch?’ All of the stresses of everyday life disappear and it’s just you and nature. I think we’re our truest selves on an adventure, un-afflicted by day-to-day shit that, let’s face it, doesn’t really matter.
What’s an essential piece of outdoor gear you never adventure without (and why?)
I love my Life Straw, which instantly filters water. With the heat here in Australia, I’ve learned that water supply is one of the most important considerations of an adventure. I also love my fold-up camp chair from Mountain Designs. People take the mickey, but I’m telling you, it’s worth every single one of its 600 grams at the end of a long day on the trail. Especially when accompanied by a nice bottle of red.
Where’s your favourite place to microadventure in Australia or NZ?
I’ve been here two years now but Australia continues to amaze me with its diversity of landscapes. A few stand outs: the Acropolis and Labyrinth in Tasmania, the Warrumbungles, all the hidden spots in the Blue Mountains. And over in New Zealand… the Doubtful Sound by kayak.
What’s your funniest adventure story to date?
On my first solo overnight hike (The Tarawera Trail in New Zealand) I got my hair caught in my tent zip and had to cut a massive chunk out to free myself, I got attacked by sandflies and had over 100 bites on my body, and I forgot to buy gas for my stove so I had no food. To top it off, a group of 50 scouts then turned up. Not the picturesque experience I hoped for, but it didn’t put me off.
And what’s your favourite activity to sink your teeth into outdoors?
Hiking (or bushwalking I should say?). Although I’m partial to a kayak too. Basically, stuff that you can just get on and do with minimum equipment or training. I adore long-distance hiking and would love to do a long distance trail like the Te Araroa one day.
What camera gear do you use?
I’m definitely more of a writer than a photographer, but I have come to the conclusion that you can no longer be one without the other. With that in mind, I recently bought a Fuji XT20 and did a photography course.
It’s early days but at least I now look the part, even though I have no idea what 99.8% of the buttons do. If anyone wants to teach me, I can repay with red wine and bad jokes?!
Tell us about your car, any tips for those looking to make a camper on a budget?
Aw, I love my car. She’s a Honda CRV called Freeda (short for Freeeedddooooommmm). I converted her for a month-long road trip by removing two of the back seats, cutting a $70 foam mattress to fit, buying some black pillow cases that I throw over the windows as curtains and stocking up on cooking equipment from Kmart. The whole thing cost me less than $100 and I slept in her every night for a month, and have continued to pretty much every weekend since. Proof that you don’t need a fancy vehicle, carpentry skills, or a lot of money to live the #VanLife.
Have you had any disasters on any of your trips? What happened?
I got altitude sickness, two stomach parasites and salmonella on day 2 of the Inca Trail. Let’s just say the Inca Trail is not a place you want to get the shits. I was in hospital for 4 days afterwards.
I also got marooned on the Bolivian Amazon for a few hours and we had to free ourselves with sticks from tangles of weeds whilst crocodiles watched us. I narrowly escaped a flash flood in Argentina on a hike. My boots broke on the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail and I lost seven toenails as a result.
Oh, and I got stung by a stingray kayaking in Ku Ring Gai. It took a year to heal, and I’m actually pretty gutted the battle wound isn’t still gory. If anyone ever wants an eventful adventure, just take me along.
Why did you get involved in the Explorer Project?
Although I write every day for a living, I’d forgotten what it was like to write for fun — and about subjects that I was actually passionate about. It’s helped me fall in love with writing again. I also really loved the idea of encouraging and inspiring people to go on adventures and experience the outside, to not hide inside their whole life (like I did for most of mine) because you don’t think you’re good enough or you don’t know where to start.
What are you most digging about the Explorer Project?
A few things…
- I’m a pretty sarcastic person with a dark sense of humour, and I’ll sacrifice my own dignity in a second for a laugh. That’s kicked out of me in the corporate word, whereas here I can write in my own voice for a change (thanks guys!)
- Sharing adventures (and locations) comes with responsibility and I love that We Are Explorers is now starting to use the platform to educate people about how to protect wild places.
- The community. Not just the people I’ve met through the Explorer Project but the wider WAE community too. There’s a group of 5 of us who met after a girl called Sam posted on the WAE group looking for adventure buddies. They’re some of my closest friends now and we go away every month. We’ve climbed the Castle in the Budawangs, moonlight hiked in the Warrumbungles, wild swum in Wollemi and even braved Bondi on a Friday night. *Shudder*.
Tell us about the volunteer work you do in the outdoor space.
I’m a big believer in giving back, and also learning about the natural places we use as a playground. I volunteer for Intrepid Landcare which runs conservation events for young people and I’ve also started working as a volunteer guide for Emu Trekkers — a not-for-profit hiking company that raises funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and other charities. It’s pretty special to be able to combine something I love (adventure and the outdoors) with making a difference.
What advice do you have for others living (or looking to live) an outdoor lifestyle?
If you’re living an adventurous life already, my advice would be to introduce others to it. I firmly believe that adventure and nature has the power to create positive change in a world full of bullshit and unattainable ideals and I reckon that starts with us being kind to others who may not have the experience or the knowledge we’ve been lucky enough to gain.
And if you’re new to it, start small. Go for a bushwalk in your local area, join a climbing, hiking, or kayaking group to meet other people. And never judge yourself against others. Adventure is relative and one person’s adventure or experience is no less ‘rad’ than someone else’s’.
Man, that was bit deep for me. Maybe just buy a tiny camp chair. Take wine. Always jump in the swimming hole even when it’s freezing. Always wake up for sunrise even though you don’t want to, and always carry more snacks than you think you need.
Oh, and if you’re feeling lazy and can’t be bothered to go — imagine yourself old and decrepit with bad knees and the fact that one day, you won’t have the choice! Depressing reality as a motivator? It works. Trust me.
Where are you off to next?
I’ve got quite a few weekend adventures planned around NSW in the next few months, Then I’m off to the South Island in New Zealand for 2.5 weeks over Christmas and New Year, where I’ve booked a 5-day mountaineering course. I’ll learn all of the mountaineering basics, with the hopes of one day putting them into action somewhere. I probably do some multi-day hikes while I’m there too, but not sure which ones just yet.
Inspired by Brooke’s story? Get involved in The Explorer Project!
Adventure with Brooke…