In her memoir ‘The Only Way Home’ and YouTube video (see below) Liz Byron explains what it meant leaving her roller-coaster marriage, career, family dinners, large library and a comfortable, charming home to trek 2,500 kilometres through rural Queensland on the rugged Bicentennial National Trail.
Liz, mother and semi-retired sociolegal researcher, writes from her New South Wales Northern Rivers home. Her writing is confronting and visceral in its honesty.
Each step on this radical journey of self-discovery helped Liz make sense of grief and trauma, including the tragic loss of one of her four children. Liz’s fierce independence was confronted daily as she tackled details of equipment, food supply, lack of drinking water, thorny grass seeds and the hilarious will of her two devoted donkeys Grace and Charley.
EXCERPTS FROM LIZ BYRON INTERVIEW
What advice would you give to someone wanting to do a long distance trek?
LIZ : From the various facets involved in a long-distance trek, consider where you might lack experience and spend time acquiring the experience you need. From thirty years of overnight bushwalking, I was experienced at living outdoors, packing light, negotiating difficult terrain and camping, cooking in all weathers. However, I had no experience with large animals and allowed myself four years to get to know my donkeys, learn how to handle them on the road and have them face as many scary situations as I could predict might arise.
What was your most essential piece of equipment?
LIZ : My hoof pick. Everything about trekking depends upon the donkeys’ feet.
You talk about having to learn about adjusting your standards of what to expect, how did the BNT trek compare to what you expected?
LIZ : Adjusting my standards was more about adjusting my expectations of other people and myself. A strong theme in the book is that – because of all my outdoor experience – physical challenges were easily overcome. It was almost as if surviving physically demanding situations was no longer part of the lessons I needed to learn. The challenges were much more about relating to people from whom I needed help – because of the extremely dry conditions and NEVER part of my trek plan – so accepting my limitations, and theirs, changed my standards of what to expect in all sorts of social situations.
What was the most important thing that working with donkeys taught you about yourself?
LIZ : Accepting the way things are, like donkeys do, is far healthier, for both mind and body, than getting lost in thoughts about how things should be.
Several years have passed since you walked the Bicentennial National Trail, have the lessons you learned endured?
LIZ : Yes. Because lessons learned from experience, in other words, from our mistakes, naturally endure.
Thank you, Liz, I enjoyed reading ‘The Only Way Home’. Your unique memoir shows strength of purpose and insights into your remarkable journey.♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021
WOLLONGONG CITY LIBRARIES – YOUTUBE
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THE ONLY WAY HOME
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