Hayley Talbot: On Motherhood & Adventure
Hayley Talbot is about to embark on a 400km solo kayak down the Clarence River. To celebrate all the wild Mums out there, we're sharing her story of motherhood and adventure and why she feels it's so important to weave the two tightly together.
Words and Photos Provided by Hayley Talbot
Should we be extraordinary in our children’s eyes because of what we give up for them or for what we show them through the continued pursuit of our own actualisation? It’s all too easy to bury our potential in our children, thinking we are doing the best thing for them – but surely it’s this type of martyrdom that leads to frustration, disappointment, and fracture when our children invariably choose their own path. How much better that they are able to witness and be inspired by the hard work, commitment and determination it takes to achieve our dreams, whilst being the wings beneath theirs while we’re at it? The key is presence. Presence when working on our dreams, and presence when we’re supporting them through theirs.
I take being a role model to my children very seriously, because ultimately it’s what I’m showing them, not what I’m telling them, that’s shaping who they are. As a mother of two boys, this is what has deeply inspired my next adventure, which even after almost two years of preparation, is still a task bigger than the person I am. But that, among other things, is the lesson. It’s the courage to dream, and the guts to see it through. It’s having the character to make a promise and to keep your word.
They’ve been by my side as I stuck at and finally completed my Law degree. They’ve been with me through a fashion career of events, photo shoots and late nights working on articles, collections and campaigns. And they’ve been with me as I’ve journeyed back behind who I am in order to go forward, getting completely wild and pushing myself outdoors. They’ve seen me find myself in my kayak on the water, cry at the beauty of landscapes, glow from running through the bush. They’ve seen my curiosity and love for learning and studying bushcraft, and the respect and solemnity with which one should approach learning about our dreamtime stories and customs.
They’ve seen self-discipline and the research it takes to be informed, and the resourcefulness it takes to deal with obstacles. I’m by no means perfect, I consider myself an absolute work in progress – but I do the work to progress. I have a strong apprehension and conviction of the values I want to instil in them and develop in myself, and I’m trying my best to demonstrate these lessons by leading rather than outsourcing and lecturing on life from the sidelines. Without the noise and stimulation of society, I’ve found no better teacher than nature, no better forum than the free-thinking limitlessness of adventure. In the wild we are undone and rebuilt. We can rinse off our conditioning and venture onward, unencumbered by boxes and rigidity.
Children are born explorers. And as the landscape of their upbringings becomes increasingly digitalised, keeping children in tune with nature has never been more important. To wonder, to marvel, to dream, to discover, to experience life in the crystal clear high definition of all five senses engaged in the real world – that is the reward. It’s knowing that a grazed knee is worth the lesson and the confidence earned. That falling over teaches a child balance. That allowing a child the freedom to try from a young age inspires an innate and true evaluation of risk as they grow, cushioning them later on as they become more daring. It’s knowing that so many children, particularly girls, are conditioned to be fearful, and that while we’re busy preventing the bumps and bruises, we can be inadvertently closing tiny gates of confidence in their hearts and minds, that create walls in their perceptions of potential and possibility. A life of adventure is an embracing of the unknown. An embracing of the unknown, is the initiation of potential. Potential is limitless. I want my boys to know this.
The best way to immerse children in a life of adventure is to embody that spirit and to live it ourselves. Having them right there with us for the ride, and adjusting the activity and being flexible. It’s shifting the view from the tunnel vision of the summit or the finish line and taking the time to look around, to stop, stay and wander. Bringing children into the adventure adds a marvellous richness to the experience for parents. It’s not without its challenges, things often don’t go according to plan, but the key is to roll with whatever is happening and to allow the plan to shapeshift. I think being a mother has been the best training as an adventurer, and being an adventurer has been the best training for motherhood. It starts with anything from going for a walk in the rain together, climbing a tree together, exploring caves, going for a ‘storm swim’ in summer as the rain peppers your skin in the warm water. It’s noticing and talking about feathers and flowers, weather and winds, and anything that causes us to pause in presence, to be appreciative, to question, and importantly to challenge our perceptions of comfort, because this is where we grow. It’s looking at things differently, holographically, from other angles and vantage points. Small metaphors of vital wisdoms are just a tiny part of what nature and leading a life of adventure with my family gives to me.
My advice for mothers is to not feel guilty about owning who you are and what you need to be your best, because that self-awareness positively effects everyone in your orbit. It is my conviction that I must grow so that I can give. And this is the example I seek to set for my boys; that they have the courage to grow so they can contribute meaningfully and not consume blindly. I don’t want them to settle for anything less than they can be, and I feel as though that particular tenet is best demonstrated in deed rather than word.
Next week I will embark upon a 400km solo unsupported kayaking journey from the source of the Clarence River to the Coral Sea, sustaining my life from the river and the land. A physical challenge without question, but it’s the revelations I have when I am alone in the wild, when the civilised mind falls silent and the spirit speaks, that I relish. In preparing for this trip I have undertaken bush survival and navigation courses, spent time learning with indigenous elders and locals, and clocked up countless kilometres on the water kayaking. The kids have shared in a lot of my preparation and it feels as though we’ve been on such a journey together already. Paddling into their arms at the end will be greatest icing on the adventure cake.
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