I recently bought a pair of rollerblades. I am pretty sure that my mum thinks I’ve gone mad. Why? Well…
About 17 years ago I was rollerblading (very slowly) up a hill (slight incline), hit a rock (pebble) and took a fall (broke my hip). Up until that moment, my whole life revolved around sport. I ran cross-country, completed at state level athletics and played every team sport under the sun. That fall, however, lead to 3 years of 16 odd surgeries, almost 8 months on crutches and resulted in me becoming one of the youngest people in Australia with a full hip replacement.
It also led to me having to re-discover who I was, at one of the most vulnerable times of one’s life – adolescence. Needless to say, after then I wasn’t too into physical activity.
So how did I end up here? As the co-founder of an amazing community of adventurous woman who are constantly working to be champions of change in the women in adventure space?
While I don’t really like to admit this – it was because of a boy. Well two boys, really. I once dated a running coach for about 6 months. During that time he never managed to get me back into running, he did succeed at planting the seed in my mind that there was more to a weekend than good food and Netflix. A while after we stopped seeing each other, I asked him to take me hiking.
Officially, Lake Mountain in mid 2016 was my first local hike, a solid 14 years after my hip replacement. We had an amazing time but he was over excited by my quick pace and super long stride and we walked way too fast for way too long (about 17kms) and I was in a world of pain for the following week.
Needless to say I was not particularly motivated to do it again.
I did though. 6 months later I took on Bushrangers Bay. This time on a date with a guy who became my boyfriend for the next year. It was on my terms, at my pace and it was the positive experience that I had been hoping for those months prior.
As my love for hiking grew, I started my hiking specific instagram @tamhikes, which also grew and grew. It was coincidentally around the same time that A. my boyfriend told me that while he enjoyed hiking, that he didn’t enjoy doing it every weekend like I did and B. a local female only hiking group Girls That Hike reached out asking me to become a leader.
Me? A leader? Who were they kidding? Clearly the world of instagram lies! Although my instagram made it look like I was hiking every day of the week – I most certainly was not. I had no skills, no experience, I was the worst possible candidate for the role – at least that was what my imposter syndrome told me.
My first ever hiking meetup I lead.
It was with 15 ladies out at the Brisbane Ranges. When it started raining and I told everyone to pull out their waterproofs I got a sudden vision of mine sitting in my boot back in the car park. Yup. The only one without a waterproof – I was clearly a failure. Oh the shame.
I persevered though and a few months later when I was suddenly faced with a disbanded meetup group, the void that Girls That Hike had left in the local community was very apparent and I decided that it was time to start my own.
Through Girls That Hike I was fortunate enough to have met some of the original Co-Founders of Melbourne Girls Outside: Eliza and Alla and also had been aware of other leaders Emily and Laura. It was through this network that I reached out and on a Friday evening over a year ago Melbourne Girls Outside was born – based out of a place of love, respect, inclusion and the belief that all ladies deserve to be supported in the outdoors – regardless of their skill.
We never anticipated that we would grow as big as we have, that we would be able to support so many or that we would see so many friendships bloom through the network that this community provides. We thought maybe we would get 100 members and that would be great. Three thousand members later I most certainly never would have anticipated the strength of the community and the voice that Melbourne Girls Outside now has being the fastest growing women’s adventure group in the country.
The last two and a half years have taught me a lot. They have shown me what my passions are in life and what I need to truly feel at peace. They have taught me invaluable lessons about leadership, support and the impacts that others can have on your life. They have also shown me how much of positive impact the outdoors can have on your mental health.
Sometimes it can be hard. It is a lot of admin, a lot of organisation and a lot of being everything to everyone. But I would not change it for the world. The co-founders and the leaders of Melbourne Girls Outside are so supportive and selfless and we allow each other to be the truest versions of ourselves. The experiences and the opportunities that I have been afforded over the last year have been incredible and I would not change it for the world.
And to those of you who are a part of our Facebook Group: you’ve seen my posts. While I am an absolute novice on my rollerblades I feel 100% supported by our community to give it a go – even if people laugh at me as they drive past! I hope that each and every one of our members feel empowered to give adventure a go just as much as I do!