Hiking The Roof Of Tasmania For My Mental Health

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I hauled my fat arse over the roof of Tasmania last week.

I had to or I was going to lose my shit!

Let me start by telling you a little about the year that was (don’t miss the update at the bottom since I wrote this!).

We’ve all had it a bit rough this past year. As Australians, we have probably been some of those that have survived COVID relatively intact. I have friends in developing countries that are suffering terribly with the complete lack of tourism in conjunction with governments that don’t have the funds to prop up their citizens. Overall we have done remarkably well.

I’ve been coping with not traveling OK, however, on top of COVID, it was a tough year last year.

At the very start of the year, I moved web providers and my old provider lost over 200 blog posts. And they lost them AFTER I’d paid for a service to export them. I come from a programming and database background and I’m sorry – but there’s no way you “lost’ them, you just don’t want to have to install the backup that will bring them back. January 2020 – pretty shit month.

So I started 2020 by rewriting hundreds of blog posts. Actually, I should say attempting to rewrite 200 blog posts because I’m still probably only 40% of the way in and some I will never remember are gone.

My website took a massive hit from Google when ⅔ of my content was gone.

COVID arrived and what traffic was left plummeted even further. Then, to top it all off I got hacked about mid-year and the hackers went crazy. They got into everything. It was actually my Charge The Globe email that got hacked and trust me when I say, almost every login you have can be reset through your email.

They deleted half the posts I’d managed to rewrite, they sent obscene messages to thousands of my Instagram followers which resulted in a massive “unfollow” trend (of course!), they managed to get into one of my affiliate networks and sent messages to half a dozen of my top affiliates. All of these rescinded my affiliate agreement, and I had to send them messages through another login simply to apologize and say it wasn’t me. Most of these still haven’t approved me again. I have had $1900 USD suspended from being paid because of these actions and I’m not sure when or if I will ever get it.

So 2020 – not a great year.

2020 crap year

What now?

That is all recoverable. I know that. However, it puts me back to having to work another 40 hour week on top of the 50 I already work simply to claw my travel blog back to the place it was just over a year ago.

That’s a lot of work and I”m not sure I’m up for it.

When I was traveling on my big trip a few years ago I was making around $2200 – $2500 USD per month from my website. It’s worth noting that I had the website for about 10 years at that point, but had been quite erratic with how much work I put into it. If I had have been more routine before I went away it could have been a lot better than that. But working to save to travel always seemed to take priority.

So I wasn’t earning a full-time income, but being on the road enabled me to have the time to do regular posts which kept it going well. Once I came home that income allowed me to get probably around half of my blog posts written for me, which meant that I was putting in around 15 hours a week to keep it at that level.

The income had started to increase and November and December 2019 saw my income crack $2800 USD for both months. I was getting excited and planned that at the $3500 USD per month stage I would cut back on my own work, get back into some more adventure travel and build it up to $5k per month and hopefully further.

At that point, I would be a self-sufficient travel blogger.

After 15 years of hard grind, I was very close to the prize.

Then a pathetic web host struck. Then Covid struck. Then hackers struck.

Then I had a meltdown.

I am very aware that there are so many people way worse off than me, but to have the only thing you have ever wanted to do plucked from your grasp when you are so close, was the definition of “cruel and unusual”. Especially at 54.

Jen looking happy albeit being stalked by a Cheetah
Me looking happy albeit being stalked by a Cheetah

What does this have to do with the Overland Track you ask?

I had to get out. I wasn’t doing well and just couldn’t decide if I had it in me to work 2 full-time jobs (plus some) for probably the next 2 years. I’ve done that for most of my life and I wasn’t sure if I had it in me again.

If you don’t know me personally you wouldn’t know that I had contracted Denghi Fever when I lived in Cairns. Closely followed about 6 months later by Glandular Fever which morphed into Chronic Fatigue. I wouldn’t even admit Chronic Fatigue was a real thing when I was diagnosed but trust me it IS! Boy is it a real thing.

Now I’m one of the lucky ones, and after a year off work, many days of laying on the couch, and struggling to get to the shower, I eventually recovered. I still have to be very careful and have had one full relapse about 6 years ago, but for the most part, I’m very healthy and rarely experience any symptoms. But it is always lurking and as I get older I find I”m much more conscious of it.

The thought of working 80 hour weeks again just filled me with dread. For the first time ever I just didn’t know if it was worth it.

I know that in 12-24 months I could probably have it all back on track, and a year after that maybe get to my goal of a full-time income from my blog.

I also know that if I work 50-55 hours a week on client work and just walk away from Charge The Globe, that in 2 years I’d probably be in the same boat finance-wise.

But that would leave me always in that boat. I’d never be able to give up work completely and just be a travel blogger. I would have walked away from the chance.

The thought of everything I’ve worked toward for particularly the last 5 years (but the last 15 all up) just vanishing into thin air was quite distressing. Traveling and blogging together isn’t hard. You are there in the moment, you can write while things are fresh, you are excited about new destinations and new adventures, and while it is still a good level of commitment, it’s fun and it rarely feels like work. Or so I thought….

So I sat down and tried to balance the scales between

  1. just pulling the pin and working like a crazy person for 40 weeks a year and getting maybe 10 weeks to travel, and
  2. working like an extra crazy person for the next 18-24 months and possibly being able to bail on the 6-6 (I haven’t done 9-5 in 30 years) and just travel and blog at some point after that.

Looking closely I started to think about how I look at my travels now. I have a full backpack of Camera gear, drones, GoPros, and accessories that I’m always lugging everywhere. I love taking photos but I’m not great in front of the camera so I don’t do many YouTube videos. It’s often just me as well, so it’s hard to take any good shots or footage of yourself. Once I started really looking closely, I saw how often I was quite removed from what I was doing or what I was seeing.

I had started to think about everything with someone else in mind. I really felt like I’d moved into the space of blogging for others.

If I’m really honest, that was probably more distressing than realizing that possibly my last 15 years of work was for nothing.

So I had a decision to make.

  • Bail on Charge The Globe and just work at something I’m good at but I don’t even really like, or
  • put in another 2 years of an even harder slog on the possibility I could get back to where I was.

I needed to walk.

That’s why I love hiking. Mostly, you are removed from civilization, you just have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, and while I don’t feel I’m ever consciously thinking about things, I often get to the other end and instinctively know what I want to do.

So fingers crossed and without a single piece of camera gear on me (except my phone), I went hiking the Overland Track.

My trusty Altras

Hiking and being one with the Overland Track

If you are Australian and a hiker you’ve seen those quintessential Overland Track photos. A hiker heavily loaded with a colorful pack is pacing it out on boardwalks, striding through the grasses with one of the most scenic mountain backdrops that might exist in Australia.

Like this one below:

Jen hiking the overland track

The Overland Track is considered one of the top hikes in the world and I can absolutely see why. It is also one of the Great Australian Walks that I’ve never done, so Tasmania here I come!

The Hike Begins

The weather is consistently wild in this area and the bright sunshine that surrounded us as we left Launceston faded into the distance as we near Cradle Mountain. Over 2 and half hours, 20 degrees celsius turns into 5. I step out of the van in my shorts only to be shivering within minutes. As we take our snacks and tie our tents on, I look around and realize it’s not just me that’s tearing at my pack to grab my fleece and puffer. We are all doing it. It’s freezing.

There’s a palpable excitement in the air and in no time at all we are all ready, packs on, trekking pones in hand, and keen to get moving. Did I mention it’s cold and wet?

We take the obligatory photo at the starting point and leaving Ronny Creek behind us head off toward the mountains that we know are there, even though they are hiding under a thick blanket of mist. I felt it.

I was hiking again!

I want to scream out “Yippee-ki-yay, Motherfucker” but I decide to curb my enthusiasm – at least that much. I’ll put the lid on Bruce for now.After a few kilometers, a lung-busting hour-long hike up to Marion’s lookout sees us cresting to freezing cold buffeting winds but thankfully not so strong they blow you over. Stan our guide tells us of days when they’ve had to hug the rockface and crawl the winds are so strong and I’m immediately grateful that isn’t today. I can’t imagine how your knees cope with that!

It’s way too wet to climb Cradle Mountain and some are a bit vocal in their disappointment. I’m not sure how they thought we might climb it when we can’t even see it, but everyone settles quickly and we march onward toward Waterfall hut, our first campsite.

Over the next 5 days we climb up and down mostly gentle slopes across the roof of Tasmania. The weather clears on the morning of day 3 and while the nights are cold the days are stunning. We continue on through forests of tall timbers and towering palms. The cold weather rainforest is everywhere, resplendent in shades of green you can’t imagine are real. Lakes of tannin-stained waters that remain crystal clear, sunsets that leave you standing in awe, and the odd wombat or tiger snake interaction reinforces to you that with every step you are indeed in the middle of something amazing.

Even 8 hours of balancing on tree roots and rock hopping over mud aren’t enough to offer any kind of discouragement. You eventually realize you’re wet anyway and slop through the mud piles like a 4 year old let loose. About halfway through day 3 I realize I’m really having fun.

I don’t care if anyone needs a blog post about hiking the Overland Track. I’m impressed with the photos my phone takes because I know the story. I know why they are special, and even if they are only 3000px wide and in jpeg and not raw, they still reflect my memories and my experiences and I don’t have to make others see the same thing.

The photo of what must have been a thousand spider webs across the fields one morning as we leave camp makes me smile and while I’m sure it would have been a much better quality photo with my “good” camera, would I have just stood there and absorbed it so well if I was trying to get the best shot for my Facebook? Would I have stood on the boardwalk staring at these perfectly symmetrical cobwebs for at least a minute, or would I have been rushing to get a great shot and then rushing to catch up?

Spider webs at Windemere Hut, Overland Track
Spider webs at Windemere Hut, Overland Track

Slowly I felt the stress dropping away. I spent time with my fellow hikers and learned of some other great trails in and around both Tasmania and Australia. I appreciated the wonderful cooking of our guides Stan and Ryder, and at one point on my 2am trip to the outhouse I just laid down on the boardwalk and stared at a magical display of starlight. One you can only get in a remote location.

The scenery is diverse and evolving and apart from some bruised feet from the 8 hour day of clambering over tree roots, I’m fully intact with not a spasm in sight. I’m always up first and am loving the “to bed when its dark and get up when its light” principle that always seems to accompany multi day hiking trips. I’ve not even read much. Apart from an hour at bedtime, I find myself sitting with not even a thought of my latest book. Just sitting. Enjoying the surroundings and my fellow hikers and most of all just being still.

Hiking is not physical fitness to me, it’s mental fitness.

If I could hike for a living – that’s what I would do. Oh wait, that’s what I’ve been trying to do! Travel and hiking for a living. That would be my perfect life.

We leave Narcissus hut on the ferry across Lake St Clair and to the endpoint of the Overland Track. While I do feel accomplished, mostly I just feel better. I’ve not consciously thought about what I might do re my website for even one second the entire time but in the van on the way back to Launceston I know what I must do.

At the finishing point at Lake St Clair
At the finishing point at Lake St Clair

So what did I decide?

I’m 54 years old and I’m still working at something I don’t want to do and I’m doing that because some arsehole considered it fun to destroy so much of my work.

Well guess what – you aren’t going to win and if it means 70 hour weeks for the next year and a half, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m clawing back what is rightfully mine and fingers crossed, in the process finally getting to somewhere that I have always wanted to be.

Traveling, hiking and fully self funded.

But you knew that didn’t you? I swear, this wasn’t clickbait – I genuinely had no idea what to do, but a week hauling my fat arse across the roof of Tasmania quietly gave me the ability to know.

That’s why I love hiking.

If you would like to do the Overland Track yourself, check out my How To Hike The Overland Track post for more info.

Hiking Tasmania's Overland Track
Hiking Tasmania’s Overland Track