Walking 3,000km while Fundraising for I Am Hope and planting one tree for every $10 raised.
Kia ora friends and whānau!!
I’m about to take on Te Araroa - New Zealand's Trail. While doing so, I'll be fundraising and advocating for two causes I'm most passionate about - creating a healthy mind and a healthy environment. If you're interested in knowing more, all the info is below!
WHAT AM I DOING?
Te Araroa is New Zealand's thru-hike spanning from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south. It's a 3,000km route and should take me approximately 4-5 months to complete! Along the way, I'll get to explore everything New Zealand has to offer. From connecting with local families to making my way through Aotearoa's various terrain such as beaches, volcanoes, mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys. If interested, you can find more info here: https://www.teararoa.org.nz.
WHY AM I WALKING?
Basically, I realised a few months ago that I'm carrying a lot of crap into adulthood and I'd kind of like to dump it somewhere. So, I thought the trail could provide a good place for me to leave some of it.
In all seriousness though, I thought this would be a good way to take some time to do some mental processing. At the end of 2018, my sister Whitney took her own life. She had been struggling with some severe mental health issues which meant that there was a multitude of catastrophic events taking place that lead to that point. Some of these events took place throughout childhood but were intensified in the last few months of her life. While I won't go into details, I will say that I became extremely numb to the grief and loss I was feeling (or should have been feeling) after she died. I think I knew that if I allowed myself to start healing, it would bring up a lot of unprocessed childhood trauma as well. So, I just chucked it in the too hard basket because why on earth would I want to face emotions that I’d been suppressing for pretty much my entire life?
But, you can't run away from these things forever! It wasn't until the beginning of this year that certain triggers started surfacing. This meant that I had to identify where these triggers were coming from so I finally chose to take responsibility for my own healing. I realised that I actually wanted to be able to feel negative emotions again and find a way to process them in a healthy way. So, I decided to start seeing a counsellor which helped me to do this.
Anyway, you're probably reading this and wondering why I'm sharing or where I'm going with this. So, I guess to go back to answering my original question of 'Why am I walking?', I've recognised that I'm still only at the beginning of this healing journey. While I've learnt so much about myself over the past year and seen more personal growth than ever before, I'm aware that I still have so much processing to do. There are moments when it's fricken awesome and witnessing the growth is super bliss. But, there are also times when bringing up past trauma and grieving feels unbearable and never-ending. Although healing probably is never-ending, I've realised that upon finishing uni this year, I’m in the prime time to give myself the space to slow down and just be. On top of that, I just wanted to take some pressure off and give my brain a break before entering the workforce.
In all honesty, I'm actually loving this stage of growth that I'm in. I just thought that Te Araroa would be one of the best ways to allow myself to fully experience all of the emotions possible. Also, I figure that if I get to the end of the 3,000km and I haven't found a place to dump the weight of the load I'm carrying, then at least I'll be a lot stronger and know how to carry it with more ease. Nevertheless, this whole ramble leads to my next point of who I’ve chosen to fundraise for.
WHO AM I FUNDRAISING FOR?
Along the way, I thought it would be cool to raise funds for a cause close to my heart and one of my fave charities - I Am Hope. Every year throughout Aotearoa, between 120 and 180 young people die by suicide and an estimated 3,500 more attempt to take their own lives. Some of these youth can be stuck on counselling waiting lists for up to 6 months to receive the help that they desperately need. I Am Hope have recognised that this is not okay and they allow young people to take agency of their own mental health development. They do this through speaking and communicating directly with kids and providing counselling by registered mental health practitioners when they need it most. As outlined above, counselling and taking action over your own mental health is something that I find really beneficial. I wish that I had gotten over the stigma associated with counselling a lot sooner and I wish that my sister had received better mental health care. So, all donations will go directly to I Am Hope so that our rangatahi can also receive the benefits of counselling and ending the stigma associated with mental health issues. Although it’s hefty, my goal is to raise $3,000 for the 3,000km I’ll be walking and the 3,000+ youth who attempt to take their own lives each year. You can find more info on the charity here: https://www.iamhope.org.nz.
TWO ADDED BONUSES!!
Anyone who knows me well will know that I can be terrible at making decisions!! In fact, I contemplated for a looooong time whether I wanted to add a fundraiser to my walk or not. (I actually wanted to delete all social media and disconnect from society altogether.) But, my friends and family have insisted on updates and I also figure that if I can do some good and advocate for something I'm passionate about along the way, then why not?! Although I knew straight away that I Am Hope were a charity I wanted to fundraise for, I also really wanted to fundraise for an environmental organisation as spending time in nature and looking after our environment is another one of my fave things! Plus, I believe that creating a healthy environment goes hand-in-hand with creating a healthy mind! However, I couldn't choose an environmental organisation that I knew enough about, so I decided to advocate for the environment in my own way - I am pledging to plant 1 tree for every $10 donated! I know that planning the logistics of this could be a bit difficult - like where the heck am I going to get the trees from?!! But, I do know that if I want to do something bad enough I'll always make it work (& I've got five months of walking to think about the logistics 😅)!!
Secondly, to make the fundraising more FUN and hopefully encourage donations, my friends suggested doing some challenges along the way (because walking 3,000km isn't enough 😆). One friend has already suggested the first one - if I can raise $250 by the time I reach the end of ninety-mile beach (the end of day four/100km point), then I have to eat my dinner (some kind of rehydrated hot mush), out of my deliciously sweaty tramping boot! So, 4 days to raise $250 - definitely achievable!! I’ll try to post updates on this page at various points along the way as well as on my Instagram: @bailey_whitnack, if you feel like following along (obviously permitted to having cell phone reception & battery). Or, if you have any challenge ideas, then please send them my way!! Even if you can't/choose not to donate, I'd still love you to get involved through suggesting challenges!! It's gonna be fun and will give me so much encouragement on the days that I feel like giving up and going home! (Disclaimer: I won’t do any challenges that I think will put the safety of myself or others at risk.)
If you've taken the time to read my ramble, then thank you!! I appreciate you! Also, thank you in advance for supporting me and these causes!! I'm both excited and terrified of the challenge to come but I definitely know it'll be worth it!! Oh, and if you feel like joining for any sections of the trail, I would literally LOVE that!!! So if you feel like coming for a walk, please get in touch! :)
Te Araroa Days 1/6: Cape Reinga - Ahipara, 100km 🌊 30 November 2021
I already have so many stories I want to share! But I obvs can’t share them all now so let’s just talk about Ninety Mile Beach & how it was pure punishment, cause I feel like nobody sheds light on the actual reality of it! 😂 Yes, of course there were aspects that were rewarding. But I don’t want to sugarcoat it - the rewards came with a lot of pain. 😅
I actually think walking Ninety Mile Beach was one of the most physically & mentally and physically challenging things I’ve ever done. I’ve been on some hard hikes but I don’t think the beach compares. You look one way & see km’s & km’s of beach. You look the other way & you see km’s & km’s of beach. It all looks the same with barely any landmarks to tell you whether you’re getting close to camp. It’s just never ending sand (see 6th pic for reference). Plus the heat!!! Oh my goodness!! No shelter from the sun & SO. DANM. HOT. 🌞
While I did have to muster up strength from places I didn’t know existed, I knew I was strong enough to get through, even if I wanted to give up every step of the way. And now that the beach is done & I’ve had a rest day I actually feel so excited to take on the next section of the trail!!
One last important note for now - one of the best things I’ve come across so far is the generosity from other people. Whether it be from people I’ve hitched a ride with, other walkers, camp managers, just other people at campgrounds - people are so, SO kind, giving & caring!! That kindness has truely gone a long way, especially at the end of a long day on the beach. So don’t forget to be kind people. It makes all the difference in the world 💜
THANK YOU to everyone who’s supported me in anyway so far! I really underestimated how much & how quickly people would donate so as promised, I’ve video myself eating my kai out of my boot yesterday morning to complete my first challenge (I felt really embarrassed to be videoing myself & talking to the camera lol so bare with, I ramble a lot). (This page doesn’t let me add videos directly with the updates & I can only add one photo, so if you want to see the video or more photos go here: http://instagram.com/bailey_whitnack
If you have other challenge ideas send them through & if you’re willing & able, please donate to I Am Hope through this fundraising page.