Terra Roam (centre) is surrounded by friends and family after finishing the walk in Newcastle. (ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)
Modern-day adventurer Terra Roam has become the first woman to walk solo and unsupported 17,000 kilometres around Australia, crossing the finish line in her hometown of Newcastle last week.
But the 46-year-old said a lack of recognition had seen the feat “completely ignored” for the first 12,000kms or so.
“I especially noticed the silence in adventure circles,” Roam told Australian Geographic, her primary sponsor, in April this year.
Covering 17,000kms over four years Roam, born Toni Nossiter, was met at Nobbys Beach by a small band of family, friends and supporters.
Crossing the finish line in Newcastle on May 2. “Thanks to everyone who made this happen. To all the friends, family, followers, communities who supported my walk around Australia, thank you!” (Instagram: @TerraRoams)
She planned to write a book about her odyssey that included being stalked, injured and hospitalised.
“I want people to know — women, everybody to know — that whatever you dream you can achieve,” she said.
“You just need to mould your life around, or plan your life around, your dreams, and just go out there and start.
“You don’t need to complete everything in one go. It took me a very long time and several sections to walk around Australia. But don’t sit on that dream. Make it happen.”
Terra’s ‘roaming’ began at an early age
“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are from, your skills or the weather, adventure is always close by and waiting.” (Instagram: @TerraRoams)
According to her mum Gwen Nossiter, who was there at the finish line, Terra’s ‘roaming’ began at an early age.
“Ever since she was a baby she’s been a very strong person, unusually strong, so we knew she’d have no trouble doing this,” Ms Nossiter said.
Her dad Paul Nossiter said family holidays to national parks involved lot of walks with Terra and siblings Steven and Linda.
“She wouldn’t be satisfied with just a short walk, she’d have to walk day after day after day, and 20kms, or 30kms,” Mr Nossiter said.
“It was always long walks. She is such a strong girl.”
Roam, who said her “purpose in life is to walk long distances”, completed her first big walk between Melbourne and Newcastle in 2009.
In 2010, a 1,400km walk across south-west WA led to hospitalisation from depression, and she attempted to take her own life.
Driven by desire to experience solitude in nature
In 2011, a conversation with her therapist helped her realise she had been using “nature as therapy” since she was a child.
Inspired by Australian woman Robyn Davidson who wrote about “solitude in nature” in her book Tracks, and grandmother Oona Nossiter, who travelled around Australia in a Kombi, Roam set her course.
In 2014 she set out to be the first woman to walk around the whole of Australia solo and unassisted.
“I did a short 1250km lap around Tassie, then across the bottom of Australia,” Roam said.
“Up the west coast, across the top and then down the east coast.”
Roam told Australian Geographic about the “scorching heat of the Pilbara and the countless weather extremes such as cyclones and floods” that plagued her 4,100km slog up the west coast.
“Panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression kept slowing me down and the physical injuries were so painful I was beginning to lose consciousness trying to walk,” she said.
Roam found practising mindfulness during her treks delivered good mental health.
“It’s very calming,” she said.
“When you’re walking you’re practising mindfulness with all the things around you.
“You can choose whether to let your mind wander or be there in the moment, and the longer you walk the more you’re aware of everything that’s happening around you.
“The micro, the macro as well as the massive, big, vast landscapes that you’re passing through, but also the exercise, the bird calls, it’s just amazing.
“Everything is good for your mental and physical health as well as your soul. You get a buzz.”
Raising awareness of suicide prevention, mental health
Roam says she was a listening ear for many people was privileged to be the first person they approached. (ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)
Roam became an ambassador for Lifeline while on the road, raising awareness about suicide prevention and mental health.
“A lot of people spoke to me about where they were at and how they needed help and they were reaching out to me for that,” she said.
“So, I was a listening ear for many, many people around Australia, and it was a privilege to be the first person that they approached, and to be able to direct them to more help in the future.”
After visiting her grandmother Oona, now 98 in Newcastle, Roam celebrated her achievement with another walk, setting off for Sydney via the Great North Walk.
Four days ago she told social media followers he had arrived in Sydney, posting images and messages of thanks.
“Thank you for all your comments and congratulations!” she said.
“I’m about to go offline for a week and will be a bit more organised afterwards.”
Roam will spend the winter writing a book, has bought a bike, and plans to begin a ride around Australia next year.