My travel life: Heather Hawkins, marathon and ultra-marathon runner, fundraiser, author

THE TRAVELLER

Heather Hawkins is a mother of two who, after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, started running marathons and ultra-marathons to raise funds for the Sony Foundation Australia's You Can program for youth with cancer. She wrote the book Adventurous Spirit and is an inspirational public speaker.

NUMBER OF COUNTRIES VISITED

Twenty two. Funnily enough, in some of these countries my feet have only touched the ground for 12 hours, racing seven marathons, on seven continents in seven days. I've also had a very cool "pinch me" moment running a marathon in -41 degrees on an ice floe at the geographic North Pole.

MY WORST PASSPORT MISHAP WAS ...

My passport has been frozen, coated in Saharan sand and is looking a little dog-eared right now. And my family and I over-stayed our 150-day visitor visas in Nepal in 2016 when we were on a five-month trek along the remote 1700-kilometre Great Himalaya Trail. Fortunately, we avoided jail (unlike the traveller ahead of us in the queue at the immigration office in Kathmandu) and paid a small fine instead. Phew! My heart was racing.

I GOT MY FIRST PASSPORT WHEN

I was three years old, in 1968. It was a joint passport with my mum and two older brothers. Our family was migrating to Canada and at the time I was recovering from the mumps, so unsurprisingly I looked a little crumpled and unimpressed …

MY PASSPORT PHOTO IS

marginally better than my very first one … sigh… Why can't we smile? We'd all look a whole lot better.

I CAN'T STOP GOING BACK TO

Nepal. No surprises there. It's a special place that's truly captured my heart: with its breathtaking trails, majestic mountains and warm, gentle, spiritual people. It's a place where you can completely disconnect from the Western world, reconnect with yourself and live completely in the moment with your backpack and boots.

MY LAST TRAVEL DESTINATION WAS

outback Australia. I raced in a gruelling, but amazing, ultra-marathon called The Track, running a distance of 520 kilometres in 10 days, carrying my own food/gear in a backpack. The event started west of Alice Springs, finished near Uluru, and ran via Curtin Springs Cattle station where I worked 32 years ago as a young governess. I love how travel takes us on adventures and also gives us a chance to reconnect with our past.

MY NEXT TRAVEL DESTINATION IS

PNG for 11 days in August 2020 to trek the Kokoda Track with Huma Charity Challenge. I really love trips like this, combining the element of adventure with fundraising for a charity. Come and join me.

I'M REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO

trekking along such a significant track … gaining a greater understanding of the historical events and honouring the soldiers who faced this journey under fire. I know it will be a profoundly moving experience, and I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with my fellow trekkers.

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WHAT I REALLY WANT FROM MY NEXT TRIP IS

to have a brand new adventure trekking in the jungle and see a part of the world that is so close to our doorstep, yet so often overlooked.

I LOVE TO TRAVEL BECAUSE

in the lead-up to every trip there's always that wonderful sense of anticipation, then during the trip there's the experience itself, and afterwards, it's all the memories that live on inside – they are more precious than any worldly possession.

MY TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY IS

to seek out experiences that will nurture your adventurous spirit. Go to places that will change you, challenge you, take your breath away and where you see nature in all its perfect rawness and majesty.

THE ONE TRAVEL MISTAKE I ALWAYS MAKE IS

that my eyes are always inexplicably drawn to the in-flight movie that the person is watching in the row in front of me … last time it was Mega Shark 

THE ONE THING I REALLY DO GET RIGHT WHEN I TRAVEL IS

that whenever I'm trekking or running in an overseas event, I create a comprehensive checklist for my gear. That way nothing is missed.

IF I HAD TO SIT IN THE MIDDLE SEAT THE OTHER PASSENGERS I'D WANT ON EITHER SIDE OF ME WOULD BE

Mother Teresa as I would love to learn more about her humility, love for others, her faith and hear stories firsthand of how she lived life so fully by living it for others. And Gene Kelly, because he starred in, choreographed and directed my all-time favourite movieSingin' in The Rain. I love watching old Hollywood classics on flights. And just between you and me, wouldn't it be fun to turn a moment from real life into a scene from a musical.

THE ONE FAMOUS TRAVELLER I REALLY ADMIRE IS

the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton - he's the epitome of resilience, endurance and courage. With his expedition ship hopelessly stranded and crushed between ice floes, he successfully guided his entire team in lifeboats through a treacherous maze of ice and sea to Elephant Island. Then he embarked on a perilous 1500-kilometre journey in a modified lifeboat with a small crew across the wild, open seas to South Georgia Island, to seek help. He's such a remarkable man who put his life on the line for others and never gave up in the face of adversity.

THE ONE FAMOUS PERSON I'D LIKE TO TRAVEL WITH IS

Linda Beilharz "the Icy Pole Lady", who was the first Australian woman to successfully ski to both the North and South Poles and traverse the icecaps of Greenland and Patagonia. Imagine her stories ... wouldn't it be cool to head off on an adventure with her?

AIRLINE FOOD IS

truly sensational when you're flying between the seven continents, running 295 kilometres in 168 hours. I ate every single thing on my tray.

AIRPORT SECURITY IS

sadly necessary, but very reassuring. It's also where I tend to hold up the queue, wrestling off my big leather trekking boots.

HOTELS ARE

absolutely heavenly when you've been out in the elements and looking a little feral. Oh, the simple pleasures of a warm shower, comfy bed and the sight of an overflowing breakfast buffet …

I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO GO

on the ultimate Aussie road trip across the Nullarbor Plain. To wind the windows down, hold onto the steering wheel and go … and go straight … and keep on going … then fly back home from Perth.

I'VE NEVER WANTED TO GO TO

Hmm, I can't think of any places in particular, except those currently affected by civil unrest.

AISLE OR WINDOW?

Window, as I love to settle into my seat, position my airline pillow and look out at the top of the clouds for a change. It's a little reminder that flying really is a remarkable thing.

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