Guided Learning

September 2022

There's something exhilerating and empowering about being able to do something that you didn't think you could. And in those moments where doubt takes the front seat, it's great to have a team of supporters genuinely cheering you on. It's even better if you have someone who's done it before, to guide you through.

I was fortunate enough to have all of that on the weekend and it was a great reminder of how capable I am, and how important it really is to have true support around you.

On the weekend, I went on a guided offroad adventure. I'm not going to call it a tour, because that makes it sound like it was a leisurely trip where you sit back and just take in the scenery, and that wasn't what I did. Sure, there was beautiful scenery around me and yes we did stop a few times, but the day was about being offroad... both learning how to do it properly and safely.

After a long drive out to the middle of (what felt like and probalby was) absolute nowhere, with a CB radio as the only form of communication whilst driving, we set off with our guide through some dense bush and a lot of mud, rocks, rivers, ditches, bogs, trees, sticks and fallen branches. I'd driven offroad before, but never that deep and the terrain was never that bad... it was basically stuff that you shouldn't do alone.

With a car full with my kids (plus snacks) and the music still pumping, I followed our guide through the trails and through some large bodies of water that I wouldn't have considered doing if I'd been given a choice. I'm not exaggerating when I say that a lot of the terrain was rough and that you needed to "walk" your vehicle over some of the rocks, and that many of the pools of water on the "path" were more than waist deep; So that meant really following the guide and listening when he advised everyone to keep left in the next bog, or else find you and your vehicle window deep in the water. (Of course, there's always at least one in every group that doesn't listen and our group was no different.)

But despite having to follow the guide, checking that the car behind you was following you close enough to see where you were turning or the path you were taking, checking the terrain in front of you and all the stuff beside you weren't going to scrape the car or cause a problem, making sure you didn't go too fast around the tight corners and smack a tree or have your tail end slide out in the mud, and making sure that you were in the right gear... it was fun. Yes, there were many tricky parts to the drive but it was a lot of fun.

We stopped for morning tea and again at lunch, at two wonderfully scenic spots. We met and chatted to a lot of other like-minded people and all the kids played together with sticks and rocks they'd found, during the breaks.

And I must say that I was feeling pretty good after lunch, especially after watching another guided group of vehicles ahead of us, that didn't seem as equipped for offroad as our group was, drive and get stuck in terrain that we just drove through with ease. I don't think any of us were feeling cocky, but we were all feeling pretty good about our own skills and that of our vehicles.

But of course, our guide left the trickest terrain for last... it was a surprise that had all of us more than a little bit nervous to do.

You see, we'd spent most of the day mostly going up hill. There were a few descents but nothing major. Just a gradual incline all day, before reaching some steeper ascents. And since we all know that what goes up must come down, we knew that the afternoon would be tackling some more descents down the mountain path... but no one guessed that we'd be guided down a rocky slope so steep, that if you were walking, you'd likely be sliding the entire way down on your backside, and you'd probably only stop by sliding straight into the side of the cliff ahead or by flying off the edge into the gully below.

This slope was steep enough to freak out even the most optimistic of all the kids. Even some of the adults were asking if there was another way around. There wasn't.

But our guide knew what he was doing.

After almost a full day with us, he knew what we were all capable of and he knew what our vehicles were capable of. He'd quietly prepped us for this part of the trip without any of us knowing, by taking us through more and more difficult terrain, as the day wore on. He knew we could do it, and he also knew that for this part in particular, we'd all need an extra hand. And he was ready to help.

So first, he had all of us park our car and get out; Firstly to take a look at the slope ahead. He then talked us through it and drove down it himself, slowly, as we all watched. (However I don't think it made any of us feel any better when we watched his entire car tip forward and to one side, at one point, when one of his front tyres slipped into a ditch between the massive rocks he was driving over.) When he was done, he parked his car at the bottom of the slope and walked back up it, to guide us down one by one, by both radio and with hand signals as he stood to one side of the path.

To say that I had my heart beating through my chest was an understatement. I was the first one in the group to have to do it after the guide. Everyone else was standing there watching, ready to record it all on their phones.

But my kids - my biggest cheering squad, reassured me that I could do it, even as they nervously got into the car and fastened their seat belts. There was no option b and I figured that if I could drive down this slope without tipping the car over, hitting a tree or the massive cliff face to my left, or rolling it off the right edge of the cliff, I'd be good.

So I turned on the engine, set the terrain mode, put on hill descent control and shifted into 1st, and slowly started. I trusted that the guide would lead me right and I followed his instructions to the letter, feathering the brake all the way and accelerating where needed.

And before I knew it, I had completed the slope. I didn't tip the car. I didn't bottom out or slip the wrong way on the rocks. I didn't hit a tree or anything else. And as the kids let out the breath that they were holding on to, they screamed out "yeah mum - you legend - you're the best driver here". And hearing it made my heart melt. I was so thankful to my kids for being my cheer squad and for beliving in me. I was thankful to the guide for the prep throughout the day and for leading me through it. And I was proud of myself for tackling something that I wasn't sure that I could do.

The whole day, with all the little challenges and obstacles throughout it, reminded me of how important it is to not just believe in yourself, but to have others believe in you too. It reminded me of how much easier things can be when you have someone experienced and capable, leading you through things that you've never done before. It reminded me that despite the fact that I usually find myself doing things alone, it doesn't always have to be that way. There are some people out there who don't flake out on you when you need them. There are some people out there that are the anchors in life and sometimes, you need them. To find them, you just need to really look... and ask.

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