Dropped into the bush with 16 strangers on an Outward Bound expedition, Vanessa discovered she had just as much to learn from her fellow participants as she did from the program itself.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants, for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.


Day eight and I’m sitting here alone in my underwear as I sweat underneath the summer sun and scab for the shade cast by my makeshift bivvy.

There hasn’t been a lot of time to process all the incredible things that have happened over the past several days. I’ve been consumed by my exhaustion and the simple need to wake, eat, trek/climb/paddle to the next camp, set up shelter, feed my body, and sleep, preparing for the next day ahead. My mind is silent. Present. Grateful. I’ve found my way back to myself in this wild place.

What brought me here?

I’m drawn to the romanticism and adventure of packing up and going bush. More than that, I’m deeply drawn to the kind of adventure that’s facilitated by your own two feet and all the belongings you can carry on your back.

Earlier this year I flew across the country to set off on a ten day outdoor education program, run by Outward Bound, that saw me dropped in the bush alongside 16 epic women to embark on an expedition through Western Australia’s Walpole Wilderness.

The last time I participated in an outdoor ed program was almost a decade ago at 14 years old. This time around I was 23, had suffered burnout from working in community disaster recovery, and was still getting over a recent breakup. The only constant between the me back then and the me now was my great affiliation with the natural world.


Tamborine Mountain – How to Spend a Day in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Brody Webb, Hang Gliders Lookout, sunset, mountains

Who wouldn’t chase views like these? | @brodyexplores


Being outside is something I’ve always loved and that feeling has only grown as I’ve become older. But the pressures of growing up and growing into my adult life caused me to lose some connection with myself and the outdoors before heading out on this trip.

The constant rain and multiple floods across NSW at the beginning of 2022 kept me inside and out of the wet at a time when my mental health was crumbling. The end of that year was marked by new adventures and new friends, but I found myself pining over an old love and sheltering once again, this time against the blazing heat and summer sun of the Northern Territory.

What did I want?

I wanted my strength back. My confidence in my mind and body. I was craving an opportunity to test myself and squash those doubts about my mental and physical toughness and bravery. I needed a reset.

I wanted to go for a walk. A long one. I had a deep desire to go bush. Wander deep into the wild places far from the everyday. I had read so many stories of women who’d made the quest, and partaken in a journey on foot, deep into unknown places – on land and within. Robyn Davidson. Cheryl Strayed. Paula Constant. I wanted an adventure like those women had had.

But I had limited wilderness skills and about as much confidence in setting off on mission like that. So I decided to start small. I signed up for an outdoor ed program.

Read more: What if You Don’t Have the Confidence to ‘Adventure’?

It was an all female expedition called the ‘Gutsy Girls Adventure‘. With five generations of women present, spanning ages from 14 to over 50, it was a space where I knew I could be vulnerable and hope to be brave, sheltered by the camaraderie of the sisterhood.


Fluted Cape Walk – A Dramatic Day Hike on Tassie’s Bruny Island, Lipei Teoh, Tasmania, hiking, female walking, dappled light, light through trees,

I wanted to find comfort in every environment | @lipeiteoh


Together we’d walk kilometres down untouched beaches, bush bash our way down gullies and over ranges to set up camp in wild places, raft across the inlet, and trek part of the famous Bibbulman Track. The experience was all I expected and more.

As this was an outdoor education program, there were layers of learning and reflection facilitated in structured ways to coach us through some of our experiences. We reflected on comfort zones and growth zones, resilience – both physical and mental – and team work. There were learnings across the whole group, no matter the age, and some were universal truths that we just had to be reminded of.

It was exactly what I needed.

We debriefed at the end of the day, side by side with strangers who we’d bonded with over the intense experience of surviving in the bush. Personal reflections made profound in the glow of the campfire and silence of dark night skies.

We’d check-in with one another throughout the course of the day, the week, the whole trip; asking Mind/Body/Soul? How do you feel in your Mind/Body/Soul right now, at this moment?

Mind/Body/Soul. One girl asked our instructor: ‘What do you mean by soul? Where is it?’

Soul is a feeling. An energy. Somewhere near your heart space. It made me wonder: When do we learn our soul? After what experience do we begin to register this radiance from within?

Why haven’t I thought about my soul before?

I think being outdoors in nature helps us to get to know our souls, ourselves. When we’re immersed so fully in the natural world that the edges of our being start to blur and we question ‘where do I start and where does the world begin?’

Awe and wonder feed the soul and the great outdoors is a never ending source of these magical things. Awe. Wonder. These feelings feed gratitude and love.

Love. For our minds and bodies as the vehicles of our experiences. For our souls, the essence of who we are. For nature, the facilitator of all our great journeys. A never ending source of inspiration.


Yeah, yeah, not everyone is into talking about souls. I get it. Stick with me though, there’s more!

What was the point?

There are so many reminders that come from spending time in the outdoors and separating from your material self. Nature. People. Connection. Resilience. Love. The key themes that mark my memories of the time spent hiking through towering Karri trees and paddling the tidal waters of Deep River.

Some of these learnings came from my own experience out in the bush. The inner mental and physical journey that my mind and body underwent. Other learnings came from being a part of a team, the observations and group work that makes something like this expedition possible.

For this reflection I was asked to distill my experience down to some key learnings. With the time I’ve had to reflect on and make meaning of my experiences from those ten days in the bush, linking them to lessons learnt over time and the challenges I’ve faced before the hike, and since, I’ve been able to put into words some of the reminders that come when spending time in the deep outdoors and wild places of your Mind/Body/Soul.

Read more: 13 Unexpected Things I Learnt About Thru-Hiking (While on the 1200km Heysen Trail)

1. Independent women still need a support crew

I like to think of myself as a smart, strong, capable, and mostly independent woman. It’s been something I’ve always strived for. To be independent. In charge.

But independent women still need a support crew. For the tough times, because there undoubtedly will be times where you need someone to lean on. But for the good times too. People to share your fears and dreams with. People to lean on and learn from.

Being strong doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. My intentions for this outdoor ed experience were for an intensely personal journey but a key takeaway was the very real need for a strong social network and support team to catch you when you fall.

Read more: Why You Should Adventure in a Group


Accepting help doesn’t translate to weakness. Strength is also about knowing when you need extra support

2. Personal growth isn’t a competition

You lose nothing by supporting others to grow.

Being witness to someone else’s personal growth and inner journey is magic. To be with that person while they’re vulnerable, uncomfortable, wading through murky waters, an unknown version of who they are, in the process of making themselves anew. To remind you of your own learnings, cementing those universal truths. Or to teach you something, making known something new, which may instigate your own growth.

I’m of the belief that being in a space, or present to people learning and growing, compounds the experience, it can catalyse the environment for you and push you into your own learnings and growth. So lean into it. It’s not a competition. Leave ego at the door. Support. Check-in.

We’re all on our own journey, learning and growing at a different pace. It’s impossible to compare ourselves to others in this moment. Our pasts, presents, and futures are all different.


Our adventures through life are unique. Aim to be curious about others rather than comparing their story to yours

3. You’re never too old to go adventuring

We were in the presence of some kick ass women who were doing the cool thing. Leaving stereotypes at the door. Adventuring despite. Making careers out of their love of the outdoors and empowering other women to love it too. Sharing philosophy and wise words while also being so open to the new learning brought by younger years and fresh eyes.

These women were changing the rules for what it means to grow up. What it means to grow up and be a woman – as a mother, as a career woman, as both. We’re still our hobbies.

These inspiring women were great role models to me and the younger generations of women on this trip. Inspiring courage and curiosity in wild places. Reminding us to care for and nurture your sense of adventure and curiosity in the world, a sense of wonder, and play, and living without fear of failure.

Read more: Rediscovering Love and Adventure in Your 60s


Hikes in the Perth Hills, Kate Gibson, bush, hiker, trees

Adventure has no age limit! (Thank goodness!) @thehikecollective

4. You’re never too young to know how the world works

I’m ashamed to say that in the beginning I rolled my eyes at some of my younger peers on this trip. The conversations they had, their worries and fears. So high school I thought. But this was before I got to know these girls and the journeys they’d been on.

I was so impressed by the maturity of these girls and how they carried themselves through the world.

I was also humbly reminded of where I came from. We’re all young and maybe naive in the beginning, but our perspectives are still valid and carry truth.


It’s amazing how well you can bond with strangers over dinner in the dark!

5. No matter your age, there’s always something new to learn about yourself

We constantly reflect, reshape, and reform ourselves. Our comfort zones are ever changing, growing, and shrinking with each new experience or dormant period. We are new in every moment.

We met up a month after our adventure. We reflected on the key moments that stuck with us most since our time together. We reflected on how we told our stories to people back home. We reflected on how we felt about ourselves.

Overall there was a strong sense of resilience within the group. It was tough but we were tougher. Yes it was physically challenging, but our mental fortitude got us to the other side.

Resilience is the truest test of strength I’ve come across so far. Our bodies aren’t bound by our physical strength, but our inner resilience. That’s the reminder I needed to discover for myself at this particular time in my life. I’m grateful to have had some incredible women by my side while I discovered it.

Read more: 6 Ways To Bring Campsite Mindfulness Back Home With You


Every person in this line was willing to take a chance and step outside their comfort zone. Are you next?