Recently I was asked to share five places that have had a profound impact on me.
I’ve been lucky to travel to some amazing places, but the five listed below are pretty special to me.
I was born in the Mamao Hospital in Tahiti. I loved being in Mum’s belly so much that I was induced and even had to be pulled out kicking and screaming with forceps. Mum reckons that I had a misshapen head, and my Mamie (Tahitian grandma) would massage it every day with coconut oil to push it back into shape. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in Tahiti!
We lived with on the Presqu’ile of Tahiti in a tiny little village called Taravao. No electricity, no running water, literally just a one room shack and two kids under two. I probably go back to Tahiti once every couple of years. It’s a culture shock when I arrive, and then a culture shock when I get back home. I feel like I’m straddling two worlds sometimes.
- Mollymook, Australia
My home town. Growing up, we had an awesome house right on a surf break and every morning we’d jump out of bed, check the surf, and if it was good we’d go out and if it was crap we’d go back to sleep. And then we’d usually rock up to school 15 minutes late with these chronic wetsuit tans! It was an idyllic small town lifestyle. After my accident, the whole town rallied together and organised fundraisers and balls and everything for me. It was my home when I was a kid, it’s my home now and I reckon I’ll bring up my own kids here too.
- Lamalou les bains, France
A tiny little town in the south of France. I ventured over here around a year after my accident to go to a world-renowned burns clinic. It was a formative experience for me. I was away from Michael, my family, my friends, my community and…. I didn’t speak French that well. It was here that I realised I had to step up and take responsibility for my life again.
I travelled to Laos on a humanitarian mission with interplast. Interplast is a really cool organisation that I’ve worked with for close to five years now. They provide reconstructive surgery to people who desperately need it in developing countries.
This trip was totally eye opening. Patients were lining the hospital hallways and lining the stairwells and lining all the way out the door. Surgery wasn’t guaranteed for any of them – they were lining up in the hope that eventually they’d be seen by a doctor. Interplast only had two weeks in Laos so it was impossible for them to treat everyone. This trip reinforced to me how bloody lucky I was to be able to call Australia home.
- Kona, Hawaii
The big island of Hawaii was where I competed in the Ironman World Championships. This was by far the hardest race of my life – the elements in Kona are relentless. I faced brutal heat that was like a furnace, the burning intensity of the sun, the crosswinds and headwinds that Kona is renowned for. The whole day, I was questioning why I tried so hard to be selected for it anyway. Kona tested every single one of my mental strategies. But that feeling when I crossed the finishing chute – it was euphoric.
What’s a place that has had an impact on you? Let me know in the comments below.
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