Earlier in the year I watched ‘Tracks’ for the very first time and it was one of those movies that left me feeling completely differently about myself and my life afterwards. I remember walking downstairs to make a cup of tea and feeling as though there was something wrong with the environment I was standing in. Suddenly, I craved the experience of being outdoors, alone, without the ‘stuff’ of modern life all around me.
For those of you who haven’t seen the film, or even heard of it, here’s a brief overview: ‘Tracks’ is based on the true story of a young Australian woman, Robyn Davidson, who trekked 1700 miles across Western Australia, accompanied by four camels and her dog. Along the way, she encounters many challenges that impact on her physically and emotionally. Robyn relies on sponsorship from the National Geographic magazine who send a photographer, Rick Smolan along to check in with her occasionally and photograph her journey. Robyn’s desire to be alone is threatened by the arrival of her annoyingly enthusiastic new companion, however, Robyn learns the value of having other people around to help her. I won’t go into much more detail as I would really like you all to go and watch this movie for yourselves, even of you’re not someone who wants to travel.
So how exactly did ‘Tracks’ change the way I felt about myself? Well, I guess I’ve always been someone who was concerned with how other people viewed me, despite openly classifying myself as “not a people person”. I used to wear a lot of makeup, and put a lot of effort into creating an image for myself that was appealing to other people. I really have no idea why. It never really brought me anything, except maybe the comfort of knowing that at least some people might have looked at me and liked what they saw. Watching the beautiful Robyn (played by Mia Wasikowska) wandering around the desert with hairy legs and dehydrated, flaky skin made me realise that it doesn’t matter what-so-ever what you look like. When you’re following such an epic dream, the last thing that should concern you is your appearance, surely? So, since then, I’ve scaled back on the makeup, especially when I’ve gone on a long walk or on a mini adventure. And I’ll tell you something – it’s incredibly freeing to stop caring whether your face looks perfect or not! Even in my day to day life, I’ve stopped wearing lipstick every day, and it’s been months since I’ve worn heavy foundation. I’m still pretty, because I’m a good person. Who cares if my eyeliner is “on fleek”?
As well as making me care less about how I look, ‘Tracks’ has also inspired me to be less materialistic. To be fair, I’ve never really been all that into technology, nor do I feel it necessary to wear brands and follow the latest trends. What mean is, in terms of travel, I’m much more open to stepping out of my comfort zone. In the past, when daydreaming about travel, the hotel had always been a major factor in what I was looking for. These days, I’m happy as long as I have enough warmth, decent facilities, and a room that meets basic health and safety requirements. Sure, I’m still much more of a ‘Princess’ than Robyn, who roughed it in the great outdoors almost every night, but I’m not nearly as picky when it comes to a place to stay. Who knows, I may even go camping for the very first time in my life at one point. I actually found myself daydreaming about it the other day… Watch this space!
Aside from the fairly trivial stuff, like makeup and hotels, ‘Tracks’ has also inspired me in other ways. The real life Robyn’s bravery and determination to see her trek through, despite facing so many difficult challenges and set-backs, stirs me beyond words. I’ve always been an anxious person who needs to plan everything to the last detail, always with an escape plan in case things go wrong. I think perhaps this is why I haven’t really travelled that much in my life. I’ve always had dream destinations in mind, yet I have never actually gone… I feel now that I need to change that and get out there a lot more. It seems a small thing, but one of the first things I did after watching the film was to go for a really long walk by myself in nature. It didn’t exactly test my bravery, but it gave me a chance to feel that same freedom, motivating me to change my mindset on travel. If I want to go somewhere, I should go there! Nothing, not even fear, should hold me back. Since then, I have taken several risks – I’ve gone on a spontaneous trip to Belgium, and I’ve booked a trip to Norway with a stranger from the internet! I’m also trying to get over my fear of driving in unknown places, which really has held me back from exploring the world around me. I even plan to drive in the snow in Norway, which will be a huge challenge!
‘Tracks’ has also taught me some lessons about travel, especially when it comes to travelling alone. Robyn was a highly independent woman when she set out on her journey, and her stubborn, solitary nature made it difficult for her to accept the company of others. During her journey, which peaked the interest of many people, Robyn was bombarded by people with cameras, including journalists, and her very own photographer, Rick. She hated being the centre of attention, and it seemed that the people cared more about getting a good shot of her and her camels than they did about her well-being. In one particularly poignant scene, Robyn is visibly panicked by a swarm of journalists who disturb her during a particularly difficult part of her journey. Despite never being in a situation even remotely similar to this, I empathised with Robyn. I myself find being around people difficult, unless I know and trust them, and am in the mood to socialise. I have often felt panicked in social situations, especially around large crowds. In a way, this is something that puts me off travelling – having to be around, and even speak to, people I do not know or trust. It seems an unfortunate necessity, and I know I’m going to have to get over it. I’d like to think I’m already trying to work on my social phobias, but I still have a long way to go.
There were some characters in ‘Tracks’ who helped Robyn, and I found this very settling. Along the route, Robyn finds a handful of people who gave her shelter, company, and even guided her through sacred Aboriginal ground. Allowing herself to open up to these people and accept their kindness most likely helped Robyn mentally in a way she probably didn’t realise she needed. At one point in the story, Robyn says, “It’s been a while since I’ve had anybody to talk to”, showing that she does, at least some of the time, need other people around. I guess I related to this scene as, even though I crave solitude and find people both confusing and infuriating a lot of the time, there are certain people I could not imagine my life without. They are the ones who ground me, and we all need that. I’d like to believe, if I were ever brave enough to do some solo travelling, I’d find some kind people like Robyn did, who could help me along my way.
One thing I found fascinating about ‘Tracks’ was the glimpse it gave me into the Aboriginal culture. Robyn encounters several Aboriginals, some of whom help her in the most extraordinary way. The way they are portrayed in this film makes me want to learn more about them; they seem like such peaceful, humble people, so far removed from the vanity and selfishness of the modern Western society I live in. I feel that there is definitely something we could all learn from cultures such as theirs. In the film, Rick demonstrates the ingrained selfishness of Westerners by taking photographs of a secret Aboriginal ritual. His disrespectful actions upset the community, and Robyn, who always acts with the utmost consideration of the differences between herself and the Aboriginals. While I’ve always been mindful of other cultures and how I ought to behave, I am aware of how ignorant I am to most cultures around the world. ‘Tracks’ serves as a great reminder to do plenty of research before visiting any place, to ensure I don’t break any cultural rules!
Finally, one very important lesson I learned from ‘Tracks’ was this: it is not going to be easy. Again, this comes back to my anxiety; I’ve always veered towards the safe side, never really straying too far in case I got lost or ran into trouble, but really, where’s the adventure in living like that? As Robyn says, “I am well aware of the hardship I will be facing. I am the first to admit I’m remarkably unqualified for such a hazardous undertaking. But this is precisely the point of my journey. I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything.” I feel these are definitely words to live by. If a girl from Australia can walk 1700 miles by herself, I can certainly go on a few adventures too!