Michelle Ryan, Kimberly Ivy, Susan Schneider, Deb Mickle & Andrea Bayliss & Myself.

Over the years of hiking and leaving my footprints in the world I have been so lucky to have met some amazing inspirational women. They have all come into my life at different times and I feel very fortunate to call them my friends. We have met on trails in Spain, France, Italy, Scotland, England, Western Australia and Victoria. Often we would chat on the trail over a cup of percolated coffee under a huge Karri Tree, console each other while battening down between Typhoons or crunching on stale trail mix somewhere on the Camino Frances and even sharing Poetry on the Banks of Loch Lommond. Most recently introducing me to leading Women on hikes, over some of my favourite trails, something I wasn’t sure about but was encouraged to have a go and I must say I love it.
Recently I got to thinking about how we all hike a trail but also how we all prepare differently, hike differently and react to different situations and circumstances along the trail. So I thought I’d put 5 questions to the Ladies. Here are their answers.

First up – Michelle Ryan-

Michelle hiking the Alpe to Adria Trail

What was your first major step to getting out of your comfort zone and hitting the trail?
Just doing it! I hiked in my earlier years growing up but when I married had children I didn’t get the chance so much until my kids were early teens then slowly I started to hit the trails and explore again. It was fun, exciting and made me feel every time I hiked I needed more. It became addictive. My first major step however came after many thousands of km’s hiked and country’s explored when I decided to go solo. This was to go to Portugal and hike the Portuguese Caminho, 645km from Lisbon Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain on my own.

What luxury item or essential item you think you need; do you always take with you? I don’t carry a lot of luxury items but depending on the trail to what it may be. If hiking one of the European trails I tend to only take my prickly massage ball, (in fact it goes on every trail). If hiking a bush trail especially in Australia I take my grounded coffee with either my plunger coffee cup or plunger coffee Jetboil. This is not negotiable for me 😊

So, you are all excited about your next hike or maybe even in the middle of one, how do you cope if all your plans are suddenly changed, e.g. getting lost, trail closures, bad weather,injury or any other unforeseen circumstances. Give an example if you can. I have learnt over the years and many, many journeys to expect the unexpected. Be flexible and prepared to change the way you may have planned your journey, take the diversions that life gives you as often it will throw other things you may have missed if you weren’t diverted. Life is interesting like that.

If so, how has hiking changed your life? Hiking has always been in my life but more so in the past 10 – 15 years as I have made hiking more of a priority in my life. I feel alive, uninhabited, free, stronger within. I feel like me! I’m living!

What is your next adventure? Apart from many smaller adventures prior my next big adventure is the 580km St. Olavs Path – hiking through Sweden to Norway.

Michelle on her beloved Bibbulmun Track

footnote- Michelle is an avid hiker, writer and documentary film maker and my good friend. She has written 2 guide books and about to publish a third. She has been published in several Outdoor magazines. To read more about Michelle her very informative blog is walkingtwobytwo.com and her instagram page is under the same name. We first met in person in a pub in Glasgow she was about to start the West Highland Way in Scotland and I had just finished it. But we had previously met on Social Media while we were both walking the Via Francegina in Italy.

Kimberly Ivy- 


My first major step in getting out of my comfort zone was realizing I was in the midst of being out of my comfort zone already! I had just retired! Not from my career, but from how I “did” my career. I am a Taijiquan & Qigong Instructor and had been running my own studio for many years. I live in a VERY expensive city (Seattle, WA, USA) and the rent for my meditation digs was keeping me stressed out and up at night. Somehow teaching others to chill out while I was staying up at night and dealing with skyrocketing blood pressure didn’t seem right! And yet, my identity, personal, local and global as one of the few women who had accomplished all I had accomplished in my career, seemed to hinge on this brick and mortar. Deciding to let go of my studio also meant a ferocious grappling match with all these accomplishments, my identity, how I and the world saw me. And yet, I could very much feel I was a frog in a pot of boiling water, boiling towards death by stress so I jumped!  The backdrop of this was stewarding my young mother through a painful and unexpected death by lung cancer, somehow a daughter should never have to clean up her mother’s shit but I found myself doing just that. Thankfully Mom and I cleaned up our relationship shit during this excruciating and sacred process. But as if to add insult to injury, two weeks after she died I turned 60! My youth, my mother, my career had all abandoned me! I was definitely out of my comfort zone. My feet were not on the ground. The only thing I could think of was to WALK. Some midnight googling of “long walks” revealed the Kumano Kodo along the Kii Pennisula of Japan. I scheduled myself a sabbatical and left town. The story of how I actually made it to Japan and along the walk – through 2 of the worst typhoons Japan had seen in decades – is another story!

Luxury item– Of all the questions I thought about this one the most! I SO wanted to say something sacred, or pithy, or at the very least meaningful. However, my answer firmly remains: EXPENSIVE FACE CREAM. I let go of a lot to lighten my packing load but I just wasn’t quite ready to let this go and don’t see myself doing so anytime in the future. 

Well, my first solo hike in the world already trained me to cope! Its all about Fierce Determination! Hope! People helping and LUCK!!!!!  It all began on Sept. 3, when a 10.5 hour plane flight turned Typhoon; and little did I know it would not be until 2 days later that I would finally make it to the land of the Rising Sun. The day I left, Japan was hit with the largest Typhoon in decades. My flight was delayed 6 hours, but by the time we were in the air we all thought, ok, its past now! And yet…. about 5 hours into flight, the pilot comes on and says, “For those of you still awake, you might notice we have just turned left.” He continues, “We have been informed that Kansai (Osaka) Airport has been closed. We are returning to Vancouver.” OMG! WHAT???? Well, turns out (though we did not know it at the time), a big freighter was undone by the high sea Typhoon waves and crashed into the primary bridge that flows traffic into and out of the man-made Island Airport. The airport was also completely flooded, and so CLOSED. 5 hours later, landing back in Vancouver, the agents told us to go to hotels or go home, there was nothing that could be done at this time. I checked in to my travel insurance and it turns out I probably could have gotten my money back since this was an “act of God.” However, I just was not quite ready to give up; I was going to get myself to Japan if I possibly could. After all, given my year what else was I going to do????  I used all my fierce determination and some fate chits and got myself on a flight to Tokyo leaving about 10 hours late. AND YET, 2 hours before that fight was to leave, IT was delayed. A little voice in my head said Nagoya airport……Or the heck with it! Go home! But, I decided to try one more time. I stumbled bleary eyed and dog eared into the Air Canada lounge to give it my last go, and shockingly got the last seat to Nagoya! It was meant to be! BUT what about my backpack! My Poles! All tagged for Tokyo. It was not until Nagoya I learned this angel at the counter got on the phone and asked one of her colleagues in cargo to hand carry my bags to the correct area. I landed and there was my pack. I wish this was the end of the story but my whole trip was, shall we say, an invitation to cope! There was another Typhoon, route closures, decisions to be made and changed within an hour of one way and then another. For me, the ONLY things to take on a trip (except expensive face cream) is the intention to change and a sense of humor. NOTHING will be as planned. All we can do is plan and then wait for it all to go awry! Like Life!!!! 

My biggest surprise is that hiking has not changed my life, it has revealed my life. I am strong, determined, funny and alive. All things I thought were associated with other things: men, martial arts, writing, teaching,  but I realize, through hiking and applying all those skills in a brand new activity that I am a beginner at, these ARE me.  I DO think Hiking has brought a much needed awareness of humility and grace. Along the Kumano Kodo I realized in parts of it, I had no business being there alone. However, Grace brought me companions along the Way and I was never alone. I guess really, as an only child from a f*-ed up family, I always felt alone and this really changed along the hike, to knowing I never am alone. Hum…I guess hiking HAS changed my life! 

Kimberly hiking the Kumano Kodo Japan


I’m looking at Asia right now, Taiwan, China but also Ireland & Scotland & MELBOURNE. On the theme of wanting to spend more time with people, I’m also looking, rather than solo adventuring, at a longer Bike/Hike adventure with my husband and other long walks right here in the US with my friends.Walking landed my emotional feet back firmly on the ground. Thankfully those closest to me were waiting with big towels to dry me off from the Typhoons of my year. My career is back on track in ways that give me more time and my life is thriving in new and exhilarating ways! YAY! 

Footnote- I meet Kimberly through Social Media on the Kumano Kodo FB Page. One morning my phone rang and this very excited American voice said its “Kimberly from Seattle Washington, we were going to be in Kyoto at the same time , lets meet up”. We hit it off straight away, many laughs, sharing typhoon stories and hunting down great photo opportunities as well as a great day walking the Philosophers Walk solving our own problems as well as the worlds. I must also say eating ice cream and trying out the Japanese food street stalls was a lot of fun too.We remain great friends and I am looking forward to when she arrives Down Under for a visit . Kimberly’s Instagram page kim_in_seattle and her web www.embracethemoon.com blog kimsights – Embrace the Moon. She certainly is a Pocket Rocket , one of the most determined ladies I know.

Susan Schneider –

Susan in Kii Tanabe , start of the Kumano Kodo

My first major step, and I can remember this clearly, was how far am I able to walk?  So I put on my sneakers and headed off down the road.  My aim was to walk to the Carrum Bridge ( approx 16 K’s) and I would ring Terry my husband to pick me up when I got there.   I didn’t quite make it but because of a storm that set in, not because I physically couldn’t.  I walked eight kilometres which we measured on the drive home.  I wasn’t tired or puffing,  and walked at about five kms an hour.  I remember being very proud of myself and it gave me the confidence to sign up for the 30km Fred Hollows walk. This is a walk to raise money to restore sight in many countries for people who would not have that opportunity.

2.  The first item that comes to mind is ‘bum wipes’  very closely followed by lip balm.  Friends are very grateful when you have bum wipes and they don’t!

3.  I’ve always been a person who copes well and stays calm under pressure or in an emergency.  Falling in a heap may (does) come but not until the emergency is under control.  Last year on day 2 of the Kumano Kodo I got word from home that my Father had taken a turn for the worse in hospital after a fall, and that if I wanted to see him I should come home now.  By eight o’clock that night I was on a plane home and was lucky to be able to spend time, and be with Dad when he died.
I believe that the best way to manage any emergency or  unforeseen circumstance is to be prepared.   In this instance I had everything I needed on hand to help me through, including emergency and travel agent phone numbers. 
Tell those that matter you love them before you leave!

Susan in her beloved Scotland. Looking down to Loch Lomond while walking the WHW

4. I didn’t start hiking until I was 60,  now I can’t imagine life without it!   It hasn’t changed what I already had, because I wouldn’t want that to change but it has added a new dimension to my life that I don’t share with other family members and that is a good thing!  It allows me to be me while exploring this wonderful world we live in, whether it be my own back yard -the Mornington Peninsula Victoria or tracks further afield.  I have become more conscious of our environment and of how fragile and precious our planet is.

5.  The Camino Frances is planned to be my next BIG adventure, however there are other walks closer to home that need to be finished first – walking around Port Phillip Bay, Mt .Kosciuszko but the biggest challenge of all is making the time to walk every week in my own part of the world.  Walks don’t have to have a name, it’s just a matter of one foot in front of the other and not stopping for a couple of hours!

Footnote- Susan and I have been friends for many years, and my friends know her as my ” Walking Buddy”. During our many hikes together we have laughed till our sides hurt, cried, made up poetry, sung very badly at the beginning of our multi day hikes. “On the Road again” being one of our favourites. We usually get to one or two lines and stop because we can’t remember the rest of the song. We talk about our lives and what we still would like to explore. I admire her for her commitment to family, her thoughtful quietness and her enthusiasm for having a go. She has made me a better person showing me tolerance and showing me that there is more than one side to an opinion. I am looking forward to walking the Camino Frances again with her next year.

Deb Mickle

1 – Hiking the Camino Frances in Spain solo. It was mid November when I started with shorter daylight hours, cold mornings and evenings  and very few people walking.There was less infrastructure compared to today and many locals were on holidays with cafes and Albergues closed. While I had hiked in Australia, this was my first overseas hike and I was definitely out of my comfort zone as everything was different including the language; as I walked I settled into my day by day rhythm and found my comfort zone by the end of 800km.

2 – My luxury item– Talcum powder.

3 – Contingency – there is often a contingency option. I often think through a contingency option/s  before a hike to enable that flip and adjustment . I was at the start of Bibbulmun hike in Western Australia  where I live.  The section was Northcliffe to Walpole. I was very sick the night before hiking. I was with a supportive group and my option was to hike half a day with half pack and decide my outcome. My decision at midday was not to continue and I returned to Northcliffe solo. After 2 days back home I was well and able.  I drove south, arranged a lift to the food drop point. I sat in the drizzling rain and welcomed my surprised hiking buddies with afresh food treats. The following days went well and its was very satisfying to have exercised this as an option.  Mental resilience and confidence building.

Question 4 – Hiking has gone from a desire to actuality and not a phase or passing interest. Hiking has given me new friends, exposed me to new cultures and taught me new skills. I read and watch topics on hiking and love talking about hiking with like minded friends and strangers. It has developed my resilience and flexibility. There is often an unplanned event or circumstances alter and its reassuring to now I have the mental and emotional agility to adapt due to previous hiking experiences.

Biljedup Brook Valley – Willyabrup Cliffs.

My next Adventure is in July 2019 with a 270km hike in the Cevennes region in south east France on the GR 70 Stevenson trail from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean-du-Gard . The route was traveled by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1878 with a donkey. Unlike Stevenson,  who had a 100 kg of equipment, including an ingenious multi-use sleeping bag made from a waterproof tarpaulin on the outside and of wool inside which allowed for nights outside, this hike will be without a sleeping bag or tent with nights spent in gites.

Footnote- I met Deb on the trail when she was completing her 3rd Camino Frances in Spain. We both were staying in the same Albergue. We met again in Santiago De Compostella and had lunch and dinner together celebrating with mutual friends our epic achievement of walking the Camino. Fast forward and again our paths crossed with mutual friends in Western Australia. Deb is one super quiet hiking achiever. I am so looking forward to hiking with her on the GR70 Robert Louis Stevenson Trail and experiencing it with her. Hopefully we won’t need a Donkey to carry us or our packs.. Debs Instagram devorahdeb

Andrea Bayliss

Enthusiastically greeting the Sunrise

What was your first major step to getting out of your comfort zone and hitting the trail? – I sustained an elbow injury from doing power-lifting at the gym. I had to stop gym and I couldn’t swim (my other passion).  I always liked walking but not around the streets where there was noise and fumes.  I live close to the Dandenong Ranges Victoria so I decided to go for a walk up there.  From that moment, I was hooked on hiking. 

2 – Credit card for a decent coffee at a cafe after a hike!  My essential item is my PLB.  ( Personal Locator Beacon) Even in the Dandenongs there are mobile black spots and tracks where few people go.  It’s my little insurance policy. 

3- I guess I’ve been fortunate in that not too much like that has happened to me. This might also be because I tend to not do anything more than a day hike.  Getting lost is what I do best though (hence my blog/insta name).  However I’ve never actually got lost in an area where I was ever concerned for my safety and welfare.  I tend to take wrong turns in reasonably local areas which might add a few kilometres to my hike but never puts me in any danger.  In fact, these misadventures usually become exciting adventures!

Question 4
If so, how has hiking changed your life?
– I don’t even know where to start on this one. Hiking has opened up my world and taken me to the most beautiful places. Places I never knew existed, even close to where I live.  Hiking has totally fulfilled my need to connect with nature; the forests, the bush, the wildlife.  Mentally, so cathartic.  It has made me reassess what matters and what doesn’t in this life.  I no longer stress over small things.  I have met the most grounded and beautiful people through this outdoors community who inspire me every day.  I wish I’d got into hiking decades ago.  But maybe it’s happening now, in my mid 50s, for a good reason. I’m just thankful that I found it at all, no matter how late in life.  Hiking has made me confront my own vulnerabilities, something I’ve never been good at.  I’ve struggled with that but I’m learning to let go of what I thought I was (strong and not vulnerable to anything) and embracing a new, somewhat scary realization about who I am. There has been one ‘downside’ to hiking.  It’s something I’m in the middle of writing about in my own blog.  It’s that I am bored with my conventional life of having a 9 to 5 office job.  Before I discovered hiking and the outdoors, my ‘normal’ life satisfied me.  Now I feel almost resentful that I have to live this life that drains life from me instead of fulfilling me like the outdoors does.  I feel like a caged tiger.  I said to someone recently that hiking has been the best and the worst thing that has happened to me.  I’m in a constant struggle with how I can change things so I don’t feel this way.  My blog post that I’m halfway through talks about this. 

One of Andreas favourite hikes in Melbourne The Werribee Gorge

My next adventure – A solo hiking road trip to Tassie in late April.  I’m taking my car with my swag and tent in the back.  I plan to have no plan.  I know the places I’d like to see and do day and half day hikes but I’m not locking into anything.  This will appease my craving for freedom and solitude. I can’t wait! 

Footnote – Andrea is one amazing lady. From a handful of friends she founded the Meetup Group Ladybirds on the Loose. It has grown from a handful to over 1,100 members, its aim is to empower and encourage women over 40 to get into the Great Outdoors. She now has 17 Leaders of which I’m proud to say I am one, on hikes for beginners, intermediate and multi day hikes. What an amazing achievement in just a year. Her sense of fun and caring flows through the group. Andrea has a very honest and humorous blog : getlostwithandybee.com instagam with the same name. Meetup group Ladybirds on the Loose. FB Andrea Bayliss

I hope you have enjoyed meeting these amazing ladies as much as I have writing about them. I hope by reading their stores that you think about who inspires and encourages you on your journey through life and especially hiking. I would love to hear from you and your stories.