I stand at the top of Dead Woman's Pass with a massive smile on my face. In the background are two mountains with a gap between them. In the gap is an ancient ruin. Fog surrounds the top of the mountains.

A flashlight shines through the barrier between me and a cold, harsh morning. The bitter smell of cacao tea wakes me up. I hear my tent-mate start to stir and feel a heavy sigh rise through my chest. I clamp down on it before it escapes. Slowly, my aching body makes its way up and I crouch to avoid the roof of the tent. I’ve already got most of my warm clothing on; I just need my hiking boots.

I’ve never been comfortable with my anxiety. In part that’s why I challenge myself to large, life-changing trips: I want to prove that anxiety doesn’t need to hold you back. But this time feels harder and home feels further away.

Hiking boots on; beanie on. The cacao tea warms my hands as I make my way out of the tent and look out across the valley. The sky is so close here you can see rain falling below you onto such endless fields you realise roads are a figment of your imagination. I kneel and feel the dirt. Home was connected to this dirt thousands of years ago and it helps me ground myself. ‘Ha. Ground,’ I think to myself. This small pun gives me the strength to face the day. ‘By far the hardest day on the Inca Trail,’ they tell me.

I look to the south-west and try to pierce through the thousands of kilometres that lie between home and I. Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult. There are literally thousands of kilometres and my eyesight has never been that good.

I walk over to the breakfast tent that has been prepared by humble humans who have been tied to these mountains for centuries. They remind me that there’s more to us than our thoughts: humans have history, and feeling grounded is certainly worth something. I take a deep breath and a sip of cacao tea. Nope, still not a fan. But it certainly helps calm me.

Bags packed; backpack on. We start our ascent with the aim of making it all the way up Dead Woman’s Pass and down the other side. I feel short of breath for most of the walk. Carlos, one of my guides, walks beside me and offers to carry my bag.

Anxious thoughts run through my head and I nearly refuse. But, looking back between two peaks, the fog has cleared and I see a breathtaking view of ancient ruins – the history of a culture that raised Carlos. I’m on his land, in his home. I bend toward the ground and touch the dirt. A deep breath in to gather courage; a deep breath out to forget the thousands of kilometres. He looks at me with a tilt of the head and puts a hand on my shoulder. He carries my bag until we reach the top.

The Incas embrace me.

 

This piece was originally conceived for a travel writing scholarship application through World Nomads.

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  • It's been a long time between posts. I've honestly not felt the need to post anything because I think I was being motivated by the wrong things: trying to achieve the whole travel influencer/digital nomad lifestyle while bragging about my adventures in some sort of need for validation. (My own motivation, not all influencers'.) But now I'm back and I'll be posting. Not to achieve validation, but to share pride in myself and my growth as a person. To share the sacrifices and gains. To just be me. New blog up with more about those sacrifices: link in bio.
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  • Those misty, green woods in Winter 🌲🍃
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I love love LOVE the English woods. Not pictured: one food-crazy dog that I'm pet-sitting 🐶
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#theunpreparedtraveller #rowtrip #travelblogger #housesitters #petsitters #nature_brilliance #EarthVisuals #artofvisuals #welivetoexplore #natureaddict #naturediversity #ourplanetdaily #earth_deluxe #instanaturelover #nature_prefection #instapassport #aroundtheworldpix #ig_masterpiece #campinassp #flashesofdelight #travelog #mytinyatlas #visualmobs #theglobewanderer #lovegreatbritain #visitengland #photosofengland #englandtrip #photosofbritain  #focalmarked
  • When I was heading to London two years ago, my colleague at the time @merranbowedesignlust gave me a list of things to do. I didn't manage to tick off all the things on the list, but this time around I made sure I did one of her highly recommended activities: walking along the canal from Camden Markets to Regents Park. My goodness. It's now on my highly recommended list! It's beautiful, peaceful and goes past the zoo! Sure I saw some hyenas ripping another animal apart but that was all part of the experience... Thanks Merran 💕
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  • Today I walked through the woods. Words fail me, even now. It is like the landscape is from my dreams; from my imagination. I remember growing up wishing that we had beautiful woods like this near us. The Australian bush is beautiful, don't get me wrong. But English woods are so full of life in a totally different way. They are full of deep greens, vines, moisture! The birds sang around me as I walked. I felt my breath being taken away by the beauty. And I will see it again in my dreams tonight 🍃
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  • Welcome to Steyning, an old village in the south of England where the woods are a-plenty (and so was the fog today). I’m house sitting and looking after Lucky the beagle. Here’s what we saw on today’s walk (warning: will give you forest envy)
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  • Another view of Canterbury Cathedral. Seriously, this architecture is so stunning. I know the locals walk past it every day and don't take it in because it's the norm, so it takes me an extra 20 minutes to walk anywhere because I just want to stop and stare!
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#theunpreparedtraveller #rowtrip #aussieblog #aussieblogger #travelblog #travelblogger #digitalnomad #expatlife  #icu_architecture #jj_architecture #creative_architecture #arkiromantix #tv_architectural #archimasters #excellent_structure #arquitecturamx #diagonal_symmetry #instapassport #aroundtheworldpix #ig_masterpiece #campinassp #flashesofdelight #travelog #mytinyatlas #visualmobs #lovegreatbritain #visitengland #photosofengland #englandtrip
  • Welcome to Canterbury! It's my first stop in the UK and boy is it cold... for someone who has just been in an Australian heatwave, anyway. I've been walking around seeing the aights, sitting in cafes, making friends, visiting friends, hiking in Dover, and slowly settling in. It's hard, but I'm trying. I'm loving the architecture here so much!
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  • I stand on the rocks at one of my favourite beaches in Newcastle with my trusty best friend (Mikey the border collie) by my side.
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With only days left in Newcastle before I move overseas, my anxiety is building. I keep thinking of all the things that I am leaving behind, and it's making me question why I'm doing this at all.
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But, as my good friend Alex told me, there are so many "hellos" in the future. Hello to new people. Hello to new experiences. Hello again to all those I'm "leaving behind".
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So, this picture is a bit of a metaphor, as well as a stunning sunset. There are so many sunsets to look forward to. There will be rocks, tumultuous seas, and calm waters on the way to those beautiful experiences. One day at a time.
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  • When a friend recently invited me up to Valla Beach to camp with his family, I jumped at the opportunity (after finding a way to make the 3.5 hour drive when I'd just sold my car...). I've got limited time left in Australia before my big adventure and I've never actually been properly camping! So, thank you @danmurphy31. I'm so happy to have had some time at such a beautiful beach/river and to have had my first family camping experience where the whole aim is to live slow ⛺☀️🌊
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Mate, who am i?

(I ask myself the same thing)

Travelling can be really hard when you never feel like you're prepared. But, the more I do it the more I realise that being unprepared is the best way to travel. I’m Rowena. I live with depression and an anxiety disorder, which inspires a lot of my writing. My first reaction is to over-pack, over-worry, freak out, and give myself a headache. I’m consciously rebelling against that.

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