Re-defining trekking

With a 40th birthday on the horizon and a nagging sense that something was missing in her life Frith Hudson Graham decided to give herself permission to take time out.

Reminding herself of what it was she liked to do before husband and small children she booked two adventure trips –  a hike on the South Coast track in Tasmania a 100km Kokoda Challenge.

“The things we do to give ourselves a break!” says Frith, Founder of all girls trekking company, GirlsTrek.  “But it really worked.  I was back – suddenly my life felt bigger again.  The scales were more in balance.  People noticed and were commenting on how happy and fit I was looking.

“My journey is not everyone’s but it is a lot of people’s in some shape or form.  Women really relate to it and our business has been built  on the philosophy of giving yourself permission.  GirlsTrek is about seizing your power and recognizing that you need to prioritise breaks for you because you really are worth it.”

Taking time out gave Frith the headspace to work out where she wanted her life to head and from this GirlsTrek was born.  Since 2010 the company has taken over 1000 women on trips in Australia and overseas.  Her treks are proving very popular for women living time-poor, high pressure work and home lives who testify that even a short walking trip helps them return to their lives with greater clarity and renewed plans for the future.

Frith was raised on a farm and attributes her free childhood to her sense of adventure and love of the wilds.  After finishing school and university she was very keen to see more of the world and took off overseas.  Reminiscing about these days she talks about a trip she and a friend took down the Yukon River in Canada.  “We rented a canoe, filled it with provisions and took off for 12 days.  It was pretty wild. We caught fish for dinner, camped on little islands in the river and didn’t see another person the whole time!

“I admit, that in the past I have had a tendency to be rather extreme in some of my challenges,” says Frith.  She talks about having an epiphany after being devastated with coming 10th in a 100km race in the Blue Mountains.  Upon getting home she had a light bulb moment.  “It was the realization that doing adventurous things and pushing your body really hard is not necessarily what it’s about.  The real gift is actually just being out there – the fact that you are mobilizing your body and giving it a crack!

“I am a really good walker these days and GirlsTrek is all about accessibility.”

On return to Australia Frith started her career working with Flight Centre where she learnt the ropes of the travel industry.  Then she met and married Don.  “We cruised along nicely,” she says, “pursuing our independent careers for a while before deciding to have kids.”

She describes life with one child as ‘a piece of cake’ going back to work quickly afterwards although madly rushing between work meetings and back to feed a baby did add a new dimension to life!  The arrival of their second and third children tipped the scales and it was then Frith decided to check out of her career into full-time motherhood.

“I kept my hand in the work scene but my focus was on being a good Mum, a good wife, a cleaner, a carer and social maker.  That was when  I noticed ‘it’ for the first time – that small erosion of self – of putting ones needs, desires and preferences fifth in line.”

As her 30s trickled on this erosion became an ever widening ‘gully’.

Founding GirlsTrek in 2010 was a turning point not only for Frith but for women’s trekking. The company is re-defining trekking delivering the perfect girls’ getaway that offers a balance of physical challenge, hot showers and crispy sheets at night along with good food, wine and company.  Frith and her team really get women.  They know that their clients have left behind busy family and working lives and that they don’t want to have to lift a finger or think about anything while they are on holiday.

Frith believes that this is one of the big factors that brings so many repeat clients.  Self-proclaimed GirlsTrek ‘’lifer’, Lindsay Kasprowicz says, “as an adult, the ultimate relaxation happens when you step away from the daily detail, incessant problem-solving and constant forward planning.  GirlsTrek literally take care of the lot!

“We all remember the stunning scenery, great company and amazing food but it’s the super-smooth scheduling, the fact that you don’t need to navigate, that your bus is waiting for you and your bags magically arrive at the next stop  that I love.  And, your tea is hot, even in the middle of the desert!

“I always return from my GirlsTrek feeling like I’ve been cared for in small but very important ways.  It’s a bit like how we women care for our loved ones.  These are not necessarily grand gestures but daily, gentle care and it reminds me of how nice it feels to be looked after,” says Lindsay.

Frith also believes one of the keys to the company’s success has been their philosophy of inclusion. “Forget about hard core, forget about ‘I’m not fit enough’, forget about what if I don’t like any of the other girls on my trip. None of these phrases belong at GirlsTrek. They are a foreign language to us.”

A recurring theme emerging from the trips is that walking, talking and laughing with a bunch of other women puts life in perspective.  Being side by side and sharing a common experience despite the fact that the women in the group may come from different walks of life, are different ages and from varying circumstances is proving to be very therapeutic and connecting – food for the soul.

GirlsTrek offers packages to suit different fitness levels (easy, moderate, challenging and tough) starting from two day mini-breaks, with the longest trip being 13 days.  Every trek includes a specific fitness program to help people prepare and be ready for the level of trip they are taking.

Destinations include Stradbroke and Fraser Islands, King Valley Walking & Wine in South Australia, the Larapinta Desert Adventure and the Mt Kosciuszko Summit.  Overseas trips can take you trekking in the New Zealand back country, Kumano Kodo in Japan, the Bali Temples, Norway and Italy.  For full details of upcoming trips go to GirlsTrek.

Article by Amy Clarke

There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new sun. This is Where Wild Things Roam.