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Trekking the Kokoda Trail

Trekking the Kokoda Trail

Lucy Vowels, Head of Strategy, Personal Insurance at IAG (NRMA Insurance's parent company), is leaving Australia and her young family today on the adventure of a lifetime.

Part of a team of IAG colleagues that's taking on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, Lucy has committed to the tough 96km trek while raising funds for Lifeline.

We spoke to her about why she put her hand up for the challenge. 

What made you sign up to take part in this experience?

Really it was a perfect intersection for me of an amazing social cause, a big physical (and no doubt mental) challenge.

As well as allowing me to reconnect with my love of the outdoors.

What’s been the most challenging part of the experience so far?

The unknown!

I got off track with both my fundraising and training due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances that had to take priority.  

My dad was very unwell in December and required a lot of care and support for a couple of months.  

Just after that I sustained a knee injury that I’m still working my way back from.  

While I’m trying to keep perspective in it all, I do now feel like I’m scrambling a bit on both fronts!

What do you hope to get out of the trek?

My life has changed dramatically since having children 5 years ago, and I’ve struggled a bit since to find that elusive work/life balance!   

A big part of this adventure is reconnecting with me as a person – not in my role as a mother or in my career – and having time for self-reflection. 

I’m also looking forward to getting to know my fellow trekkers better.

So far we have only spent a day together, when we first met a month ago and I was really touched and inspired by their stories and motivations for taking on this challenge.  

It’s a really diverse group and I’m excited to spend this time with them.

How is IAG supporting you in terms of covering costs?

IAG is covering the costs of the trip – there are 11 of us going.  

Our commitment was to each raise at least $5k for Lifeline.

IAG are also matching our fundraising up to $5k per person, which is brilliant!

How much have you raised so far and how did you raise it?

After a slow start I've now raised around $9k.

As a combined team we have raised over $75k!

With another $55k coming from IAG – meaning over $130k will be going to Lifeline to support their incredible work for crisis support and suicide prevention.

My biggest event was a fundraising dinner, which raised over $3k including the raffle sales we had on the night.  

We were fortunate enough to have the CEO of Lifeline Pete Shmigel attend, who shared some very powerful and personal stories regarding suicide, as well as Lifeline’s purpose and the important role they play in our society.  

I’ve also had lots of generous donations from family and friends to support me on this.

What do your family think of you going?

My husband is a bit nervous – both for me being overseas in a place and situation that is much higher risk than normal, but also I think because he has to be a single parent for a couple of weeks.

We have two young boys who will be turning 5 and 3 soon.  

In the past he's travelled quite a bit for work himself so I’m secretly looking forward to him experiencing the challenges of full time work, solo parenting, and being the house husband!!

Are you nervous/excited?

When we found out we were doing this it was 6 months ago and it felt so far away.  

Now it’s upon us and we’re down to the packing and finalising last small things to get organised I'm very excited. 

There's also a bit of nervousness, particularly with being away from home that long.  

I’ve been away for a few nights in the past for work, but have always spoken to my boys every night.  

We will be off the grid while we’re on the trek, so I do find that daunting, not being able to even talk to my husband and the kids for that amount of time.

What kind of training have you done?

I generally keep pretty fit and do a lot of running, but as I mentioned, I injured my knee in January and it's been a very slow recovery!  

Fortunately we were told the best training to do was hiking on hills with weight on, and my knee has been okay for walking and has been holding up pretty well to long hikes. 

 I’ve been trying to get out for a decent hike each weekend and have supplemented that with other training at the gym.

How long will it take?

The trek itself is 10 days with a rest day among that.  

The trek is around 100kms long – each day only involves 10-15kms of hiking, but I’ve been told you can still be walking for 12 hours on some days given the difficulty of the terrain!  

It’s hard to imagine just what it will be like.

How can people sponsor you?

They can sponsor me or my colleagues through the goodcompany website that has been set up. 

It's a great cause. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services, and somewhere in Australia there is a new call to Lifeline every minute.  

So please give generously!

Find out how Lucy went when we speak to her when she gets back from her big adventure.

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