40 years ago, a woman set out with her dog and four camels to cross the Australian desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. Why? Her answer was, “Why not?”
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Preparing for her Trek
It’s been 40 years since 27-year-old Robyn Davidson set out to cross the Australian desert on her own. She moved to Alice Springs when she was 24 with her dog, Diggity, $6 to her name, and a dream to walk solo across the desert from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean.
What she thought would take six months to prepare for her trip took 2 1/2 years of working odd jobs, saving money, learning to work with camels, training them, building saddles, and how to survive on her own in the Outback. She was focused, and it didn’t matter if people thought she was crazy for wanting to cross the desert with camels, it was her dream, and she was going to do whatever it took to make it happen.
To help pay for the trip, she wrote to National Geographic, and they agreed to pay her $4,000 in exchange for an article about her experience and a photographer to meet up with her at the beginning, middle, and end of her trip to help document her incredible journey. That wasn’t ideal for her since she wanted to do it all on her own and didn’t want anyone coming along or caring if anyone knew about the trip, but after 2 1/2 years of working odd jobs, she was ready to make the trip happen.
1,700 Miles Across the Australian Desert
Her journey is inspiring, and the theme that runs through her entire experience is that you’re as powerful and as strong as you allow yourself to be. What was meant to take six months, ended up taking nine months. As with any journey, there were challenges such as dehydration, sick camels, and the poisoning of her beloved dog, but also unforgettable experiences and lifelong friends that were met along the way.
Thanks to the National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolan, parts of her journey were beautifully captured to give a glimpse into what it might have been like.
Robyn made it successfully to the Indian Ocean and pictures of her taking her camels for a victorious swim are delightful. Robyn’s story was featured in the May issue of National Geographic in 1978. Two years later, her memoir, “Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback“, was published.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback is an International best seller and has never been out of print.
It has been translated into 18 languages, sold more than a million copies, and won awards including the Thomas Cook Award for Travel Writing. It should be noted that Robyn is one of only two women who has won that award.
Interestingly, her book was the “most stolen book in Australia” the year it was published.
Tracks – The Movie
Robyn’s epic journey across Australia has also been made into a movie with the same name, Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska as Robyn.
They were able to use the photos that Rick Smolan took to set the tone and color of the film. Both the movie and her book are worth enjoying and will leave you inspired to live your own adventure.
Robyn’s journey across the desert is inspiring on many levels. She continues to live a life of adventure and shares what she’s learned with others. She has said, “Camel trips, as I suspected all along, and as I was about to have confirmed, do not begin or end: they mere change form.”
A few life lessons I took from her book and the movie are:
Learn to live and experience your life in the moment.
Fears are not excuses and can be used as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
Life is short, and we should rid ourselves of the fear of doing what is expected of us and live how we want to.