Walking Away

 

I am figuratively and literally walking away from charity walking and The Happy Walk. I have nothing left, no kombi, no money, nothing because I sold everything for them, to keep walking so i could keep raising funds and awareness. I walk away starting from scratch. The fundraiser finished 2 weeks ago and they haven’t even said thank you.

If you have been following my walk to learn more about fundraising for your own walk, run or ride I suggest you choose a charity which can mutually support you through social media, their internal network of members and supporters, news media and on the ground. Strong and regular mutual support from your charity for long fundraising expeditions is essential otherwise it feels like you have sacrificed everything for a thankless cause.

Know what to expect from your charity. Let them know what you need before you choose them. If they can’t regularly and voluntarily check-in on your wellbeing, show some gratitude, support you through social media (more than twice in 4 years), at the very least, then be prepared to feel some ugly conflicting emotions from their lack of support.

I admit, it will take me a little while to get this bitter taste out of my mouth. I often regret wasting $70,000 of my personal funds on this 4yr fundraiser. I forget that thousands of lives have been changed directly through my walk, media interviews, roadside conversations, a yarn over the fence with farmers, small community schools, sitting in cafes chatting with groups of women, pub fundraisers. People have phoned and written to let me know I saved their lives just by listening to them. Raising only $20,300 was pretty devastating, I expected much more support for suicide prevention, but that number represents the costs of more than 800 crisis calls being answered by trained phone counsellors, potentially 800 more lives finding a reason to keep living. I just wish the charity i chose had shown me a little more support.

Lack of support from charities is a common issue for long distance and long duration fundraising. Many walkers change charities because of this. Several times I thought about it, did some research and wrote to other small grass-roots non-profits. I even considered changing the cause. Walking solo unassisted around Australia is one of the hardest things you can do but unless you have tried you can’t understand how important support from your charity is. They can’t grasp how much you need them.

This is something i will never do again.

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Robyn Davidson

In 1984, when I was 12 years old, I read Tracks by Robyn Davidson about her 2,700km solo camel trek from Alice Springs to the west coast of Australia. A trek of this size, across a vast desert, undertaken by a woman alone had never been heard of before in Australia. Now Robyn’s journey stands as testament to the limitless potential we all have if we believe in ourselves.

I am a prolific adventure reader but this book resonated deep in my heart. I was still a kid but half way through the book I knew I would do something like that too. No book has impacted my life more than Tracks.

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There were many valuable lessons in her adventure but what hooked me in more than anything else was the freedom found in solitude when fully immersed in Wilderness without another human within hundreds of kilometres.

It isn’t a romantic ideal because Robyn made it clear that this kind of freedom doesn’t come easy, it comes with blisters, burns, confrontations, fatigue and letting go of everything. Our dreams are only limited by our willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve them.

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“In different places, survival requires different things, based on the environment. Capacity for survival may be the ability to be changed by environment.” 

 

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This was my first Tracks lesson as a young adventurer, the greatest things in life require hard work, perseverance and sacrificing comfort.

From this vantage point, after nearly 22,000kms of solo walking through Nature and Wilderness, I think this was also the most important lesson. At the time I did not recognised it as a lesson, I subconsciously absorbed everything Robyn wrote and carried it with me throughout my years of adventure. Through her story I instinctively knew life was not going to be easy and the biggest goals and rewards of any adventurer also bring the most hardship and risk.

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The next important lesson I carried with me was the importance of solitude in Nature. I was already a quiet, shy kid and preferred being alone in the bush or in the company of other animals. My own reclusive tendencies have been clinically diagnosed as social anxiety and autism. Solitude in Nature was my solace, sanctuary, safety as a teenager and still is now.

The way Robyn wrote about the feelings of being alone in the desert hit such an harmonious chord I knew I had met a kindred spirit in the pages of her story. Even a 12yo girl knows when she has met one of her tribe. I often thought about Robyn walking across the desert as I walked around Australia alone and understood some of what she felt out there traversing untracked outback wilderness. It always feels good.

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Dream big dreams and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from following them. In the well of wisdom, that is Tracks, is this spring of knowledge.

I have much to thank Robyn for, especially this. I can’t remember many of my life plans before reading this book but I have always had a reputation of setting myself seemingly impossible and danger fraught goals. Even if I have not hit every target and completed every crazy adventure I set out on I have achieved far more in my life than most people even dream of. Not least walking nearly 16,000kms alone around Australia inspired by Robyn Davidson, one of the world’s greatest Adventure Women.

Thank you Robyn for not letting anyone or anything stop you. Thank you for being a strong, intuitive role model.

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“And it was only then that I realized what I had let myself in for, and only then I realized how bloody thick I had been not to have predicted it. It would seem that the combination of elements–woman, desert, camels, aloneness–hit some soft spot in this era’s passionless, heartless, aching psyche. It fired the imaginations of people who seem themselves as alienated, powerless, unable to do anything about a world gone mad. And wouldn’t it be my luck to pick just this combination. The reaction was totally unexpected and it was very, very weird. I was now public property. I was now a kind of symbol. I was now an object of ridicule for small-minded sexists, and I was a crazy, irresponsible adventurer (though not as crazy as I would have been had I failed). But worse than all that, I was now a mythical being who had done something courageous and outside the possibilities that ordinary people could hope for. And that was the antithesis of what I wanted to share. That anyone could do anything. If I could bumble my way across a desert, then anyone could do anything. And that was true especially for women, who have used cowardice for so long to protect themselves that it has become a habit.” 

 

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All images are embedded from Rick Smolan’s National Geographic collection in Getty Images taken during Robyn’s trek across Australia. Please click each image for the original and more beautiful photos.

2018 Focus on Inspiring Intrepid Women

This year I will write a series about inspiring women in the outdoor adventure scene, how some of them have shaped the direction of my own adventures and the enduring legacy of their experience, knowledge, strength and courage.

 

Over the next few months I will introduce you to the intrepid women who have specifically had an influence on my own life from high school to the support and friendship I received from the adventure sisterhood while I walked solo unaccompanied around Australia.

 

Later in the year I will introduce you to women currently undertaking incredible expeditions and valuable initiatives empowering women to explore, discover and deepen our relationship with Earth and our own spirit.

 

There will be other posts about many different topics and my own little adventures throughout the year. There will be the continuation of the final 900kms of my 16,000km+ solo walk around Australia when the ankle is strong enough to return to trekking unsupported in the mountains.

 

A book is on the way which will be a wild, informative and fun collection of short stories about my own adventures around the Earth in some of her most wonderful places including the walk around Australia.

 

An new epic adventure begins this year. I will be preparing and training to ride around Australia for the big bike book tour of 2019. I have started paying off a Surly Disc Trucker which will be fitted out for a year of unsupported touring. A few small tours to get back into the swing of it testing out any new gear. Refresher bike maintenance course so I reduce the chance of being stranded in the outback. Refresher wilderness 1st aid and bush tucker courses will help too. You can be sure I will tell you all about them as they happen. Sponsors are welcome and will greatly benefit from their support.

 

One more project I want to start this year is all about sharing adventures through participation, joining people on their expeditions, people joining me on mine, planning adventures with friends and family because adventure is as excellent with good company as it is alone.

 

Before I head back to QLD in March to resume the walk around Australia I’ll make some rough maps of the remaining 900kms to Newcastle where I finish. I have previously trekked more than 1,000kms of the NSW coastline, along the sections I have already walked I invite people to come walk with me.

 

If anyone is interested in meeting up in Canberra in a couple of weeks let me know 🙂

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Orroral Homestead near Canberra in Namadgi National Park

ABC Radio Summer Afternoons Interview

Thank you to everyone who tuned into ABC Summer Afternoons radio programme today.

Unfortunately, there was not enough time for my interview with Kia Handley due to a large number of New Year calls from adventurous listeners.

It has been rescheduled for the same programme, 1-4pm, tomorrow.

If you can’t listen in again Kia has kindly sent me a link to our full interview.

Enjoy some Australian adventure inspiration!

Hello 2018

Firstly, I recognise only parts of the globe start a new year on today’s spin around the poles. When you travel through the greater part of the world which celebrates on a different day, season, month you get to enjoy it more than once a year! And, admit it, Luna New Year fireworks are better 🙂 There are in fact at least 6 completely different New Years around the world.

 

So, how was your Gregorian year?

 

I had a few highlights. Going back to the alps for some solitary retreat in true wilderness off-trail was necessary to find some peace and clarity as well as some fun camping in the snow. Free tickets to the Happiness & Its Causes conference fueled my drive as i resumed The Happy Walk. This year, as I walked from Gladstone to Numinbah Valley, I left the old barrow behind and carried a backpack for about 1,200kms along 4WD trails, beaches and bushwalks. This gave me the opportunity to stay away from roads and take lots of detours and side trips, explore national parks and some incredible multi-day end-to-end walks including K’Gari Fraser Island Great Walk, Cooloola Great Walk, Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk and (half of) the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. The biggest highlight not in Nature was speaking at the Women’s Adventure Expo in Sydney. Before and after my presentation I was able to meet lots of incredible women also pursuing lives of adventure and personal challenge.

 

It was a cool surprise to end the year being nominated for the Liebster Award 2017 and asked to join the Actually Autistic Blog List , a list of blogs by autistic writers.

 

The Liebster Award involves a heap of rules which I won’t follow because I don’t like rules but I want to say thank you to My Dream Waldon for her nomination.

 

I’m hoping the New Year continues as it starts. Today, New Years Day, I will be on air with Kia Handley from ABC Radio (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) chatting about adventure during the Summer Afternoons radio programme. If you are interested in tuning into the show it starts at 1pm (Australia Sydney time) and live streams through NSW regional frequencies. Click this link for the Mid North Coast ABC station page and live stream link.

 

In a couple of weeks i will be having a chat with Jen Brown from Sparta Chicks Radio about walking 20,000kms alone and the intellectual, emotional and psychological breakthroughs and discoveries. As a podcast, this will be a deeper discussion than I have had with anyone else about adventure, motivation and strength. I’ll post again when I know the date it goes online.

 

I have about 900kms left to walk from where i fell, breaking and dislocating my ankle, on the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk to Newcastle. This will complete my 16,000km solo walk around Australia without support vehicles. About half of this i have walked previously and along those sections I will invite people to join me. You are welcome to be part of this.

 

I have plans for a long ride around Australia but before I head off I will write a book about my adventures on foot which contributed to over 20,000kms of walking solo in Australia and internationally. A Book Bike Tour might be the next big expedition. Expect to see the book on shelves before next xmas and if you said you’ll buy a copy I’ll ride to your door and make sure you did. Just kidding, I’ll only be interested in using your bathroom and laundry!

 

In 2018 there will be more podcast and radio interviews, some magazine stories, public speaking and adventure. I’ll update you throughout the year and let you know when and where to find exclusive extracts from the book as I write.

 

So that’s a wrap.

 

Happy New Year!

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Minimalism – More than having Less

In 1990 I left home with a guitar and pack on my back to work the harvest trail. In the last 27 years I tried “settling down” a few times without success. Even when i was married my ex and I worked and travelled extensively through SE Asia and the Pacific. I have been a traveller, gypsy, nomad, wayfarer, wanderer, vagabond, living on the road most of my adult life.

 

While walking around Australia, 8 days south of Darwin on the Stuart Highway, I met a guy walking from Stockholm to Sydney. Mats Andren, the-walk.se, calls himself a minimalist vagabond. I called myself an homeless wayfarer and was interested in this new name, minimalist.

 

“The minimalistic part is the paring down of possessions, un-needed “stuff” that just takes up space, both emotionally and physically. A large part of our modern working week is devoted to caring for our stuff. Paying for it, paying for the place to store it, paying for maintenance, doing the maintenance and looking/longing for new stuff to surround ourselves with.” Mats Andren, the-walk.se, Minimalism

 

It turned out that this new word was not a new concept for me and minimalism happened to be trending in modern society. I decided to research what others were sharing and how it was changing their lives. It is interesting to see how people all over the world arrive at the similar destinations. I had a lot of time to do this while walking around Australia.

 

Minimalism is about more than having less.

 

It is okay to aspire to less but when it starts complicating other parts of your life it is no longer minimalism. However, applying minimalism to other parts of your life can make it less complicated.

 

Mats and i did not talk at our first meeting about emotional minimalism but I explored it and the intellectual and spiritual levels of reducing the processes of the heart and mind to clear and uncomplicated thought and action.

 

Ask yourself how minimalism can be applied to to more than just stuff.

 

Being human, not Vulcan, we over-think and over-react. We fill our thoughts with what-ifs, buts, maybes, reflecting on the past, projecting into the future, even the present is filled with multiple interpretations and imagination.

 

If we take everything just as it is, before we add conditioned religious, cultural, educational, political layers, life is beautifully simple.

 

If mindfulness was our natural state we wouldn’t be wasting time thinking about other people’s thoughts and actions, comparing ourselves, wanting more than we need, looking for comfort in the wrong places.

 

Being in the moment, here and now, is one of the most valuable life skills you will ever learn. Your life is already full of all you need, see what is important, let go of everything else. Through mindfulness we can focus on what is, not on what was or could be. It is a great way to begin applying minimalism to our values.

 

It is not easy to minimise anything when you first begin. Be gentle, create lists or piles of material, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and psychological things you want to keep, you can discard and things you need to think about some more before making a decision. Keep revisiting your metaphorical and material “unsure” piles until they disappear.

 

I think you will be surprised by what you don’t really need. I was. There were beliefs, hopes, conflict and bias I had never stopped to question until taking time to self-analyse. When I let go of that extra “stuff” from my heart and mind it felt amazing, replacing all the immaterial clutter with clarity and peace.

 

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Happiness In 20,000,000 Steps

Sometimes I look back but only to see how far I have come.

 

The Happy Walk was not just a walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention, health, happiness, hope and raising funds for Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis hotline.

 

The Happy Walk started as the primary therapy in my recovery from suicide attempts, 3 decades coping and not coping with undiagnosed depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

I unconsciously set out to find my happiness when I started walking alone around Australia.

 

Did I find it? Yes.

 

I think, because i did not set out seeking happiness, it was not so much found as it was recognised and enjoyed.

 

When I began walking around Australia I felt happier than I had in years. It was 2 years into therapy and had been more than 18 months since i had last tried taking my life. I’d had a few relapses but nothing that needed hospitalisation. I felt strong, alive, well.

 

Walking a lap around Tasmania was the first leg of the big walk and it felt great to be out there carrying backpack walking through the most beautiful state of Australia. I did some radio, TV, newspaper and community gazette interviews, feeling confident and still hyped throughout the first month.

 

Then “reality hit”. Actually, reality was just melancholy I didn’t shake after a depression relapse brought on by physical and emotional fatigue. It shadowing me for the next 2 months but at the time I had no idea. My interpretation back then of those feelings was of coming back down to Earth after the first weeks of excitement.

 

In Hobart the other major Tasmanian newspaper did a story which never made it to print. The absurdity of the interview is still raw in my memory. The reporter wanted depth but the photographer wanted fake happiness. I was instructed to stand in the middle of a swirling Salamanca market crowd. I get anxiety in crowds, my feet were covered in blisters and I was carrying an 18kg pack.

 

“Stand on your toes so you’re head is above the crowd and smile at the camera”

“Smile more”

“Bigger smile, make it believable”.

 

Back then I don’t think there were any photoshop tools or filters for erasing clouds of melancholia or poorly hidden pain. The photographer probably saw through his lens more depth in my eyes than I shared with the reporter. I can laugh at the irony now.

 

That first 1,250km Tasmania section of The Happy Walk has been very helpful in measuring the growth and fruits of my happiness and general wellbeing since.

 

Another moment I love looking back at is one early morning walking through the fragrant and vibrant forests of SW Western Australia. The air was cool, damp and still. Dawn light was starting to replace the indigo night. I could smell everything, the dirt, bark, I could identify the direction of different species of plants by their scents.

 

As my lungs filled with the sweet heady perfume of the forest it felt like I was no longer walking but levitating. The birds began to wake and sing. I laughed and cried and felt like my heart would burst. At that moment I knew pure happiness for the first time.

 

Happiness can be reignited, found, learned in all of our lives. No matter what circumstances snuffed it out or hid it from our hearts and minds it is always present.

Happiness has no limitations. How much we experience, its intensity entirely depends on us and our willingness.

Happiness is interpreted differently in each of us. Your happiness is your personal experience and can never be compared to another’s.

Happiness when shared is multiplied and we show each other new ways to feel joy, gratitude and love.

What does happiness mean to you?

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+20,000kms

I have some excellent news! I have passed my 20,000kms solo milestone.

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It is a little bit embarrassing because I had been calculating the distances I walked alone in Australia and didn’t add any international solo treks in Portugal, Morocco, Western Sahara, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, China and Japan (but not including group treks in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Bangladesh). It turns out I’m close to 22,000kms.

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This is a significant number for me. It has been on the horizon like a distant mountain which never seems to get any closer. Breaking my ankle was a real blow because I was so close.

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Realising my mistake this week was a great moment. Only a moment though. There was nobody around to help me celebrate, I haven’t even drunk to it yet. It may mean a lot to me but I understand it does not carry the same weight for anyone who hasn’t pursued long solo expeditions. A lot more goes into solo expeditions than planning and walking. This number represents the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and intellectual highs and lows of years of single-minded dedication.

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I have not completed everything I started. There have been some monumental failures but from these I learnt important lessons which have helped get through the tough sections of many more expeditions and treks. With every expedition, end to end and section hike I have learnt to adapt and take on advice from others who have been there before me. No matter how experienced you are or the distance you have under your feet there is always something or someone to learn from.

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I’m about to head off for 450kms of slow but challenging training treks in the Australian Alps over summer. Fingers crossed the ankle is ready. I will be posting on the Terra Roams facebook and Instagram pages when I get phone range with battery power to waste.

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Conquering My Biggest Fear

Last weekend I faced my biggest fear – public speaking – and didn’t die!

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It was an absolute privilege to be one of the speakers at the She Went Wild Women’s Adventure Expo in Sydney on Sunday. To share the stage with some of the most inspirational and accomplished women in Australia was an honour.

 

It wasn’t without a few hiccups before and during the talk. I had written 3 different talks and none of them felt authentic. Less than a week before the event I scrapped them and started something new which felt perfect. I made a slideshow with necessary prompts to help me through each part of it, just in case I froze up with nerves. Then on the morning of my departure to Sydney I found out my ancient software wasn’t compatible with the audio visual system at the expo.

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If I have learnt anything while walking around Australia it is to improvise and roll with it. I had just enough time to switch from my little bag to the backpack and fill it with props for a “show and tell” presentation. I had a 7 hour train ride booked to Sydney during which I planned to to rewrite the talk (with props) and go over it a few times. The train was cancelled, NSW trainlink didn’t tell the 3 passengers waiting almost 2 and half hours when the replacement bus was due. I panicked, paced, drank a can of cola because I was getting a caffeine withdrawal headache because I had planned to buy a coffee on the train. I was beginning to burn while I waited in the sun in 33’C so I found some shade, took out a notebook, poised my pen to write but no words came. The crazy thought that this trip wasn’t meant to be even passed through my mind. I had no choice but to cancel catching up with friends that afternoon. Cancelling the whole trip was out of the question.

 

So let’s just forget Sa(turd)ay. Once I was finally in Sydney and arrived at my Airbnb everything regained its equilibrium. I let go of it all. On the way down in the bus i decided the best way to be as genuine as possible is to be spontaneous and chat with the listeners the same as I might chat with travellers I meet on the road and in rest areas. I slept surprisingly well.

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The expo was amazing! So many incredible people and businesses! I had a few fan-girl moments meeting adventure women I had been following on Instagram, the brilliant founder of She Went Wild Emma and the dynamic duo Kerryann and Amy from Travel Play Live. Lisa Blair who recently returned from becoming the first woman to sail solo around Antarctica spoke and Lauren Jones from The Jonesys shared her insights from walking 1,800kms through the outback with her baby daughter Morgan and husband Justin. Meeting Claire Dunn who wrote My Year Without Matches and teaches rewilding was a special moment which made me wonder if I know enough yet to take on a few of my future plans. Fuchsia Sims from Adventure Junky was so supportive and helped me relax a little bit before and after I spoke. My fellow mental health human powered epic adventurer Amy Wildfire from Push Biking for Mental Health came and we spent the afternoon together. But the big highlight for me was in the morning when my sister, Linda, came down from Dubbo to support me.

 

It was a big day and my talk was just a small part of it. Even for me it felt small in  comparison to everything and everyone who was sharing their part in women’s adventure.

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Honestly, I thought I had bombed big time. When I walked up on stage in my bushwalking uniform, well worn holey Barefoot Inc boots, Mont clothes and hat, Wilderness Threadworks pack, sleeping mat and Pacer Poles I was literally shaking from head to toe. I stumbled through it, talked myself into a corner a few times, a quiet part of my brain gently pointed out at one stage I was starting to mumbling, everything was emphasised with nervous laughter (mostly mine) and i didn’t talk about some of the important things I really wanted to mention. I walked away thinking my adventure speaking debut was going to be the first and last, nobody will want me to speak at their events again.

 

How I felt was very different to how others responded. The wonderful crowd who stayed to listen smiled and laughed with me, their empathy was so deep some cried as i shared my path to recovery. Immediately afterwards and throughout the afternoon people wanted to chat about something I said and share their own plans for new adventure,roaming further. To each of you who listened, Thank You! To each of you who stopped for a chat, Thank You! To everyone who took something away from my story I wish you peace and beauty as you seek Nature through adventure. To Emma creator of She Went Wild a huge THANK YOU for this opportunity to grow and share.

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Now i have new friends, feel even closer to my sister, found some products i want to try out, skills i want to learn, old pursuits i want to chase again and am booked in to share with another group of adventurous humans next year. I call that a Great Day!

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Women’s Adventure Expo

This time next week the She Went Wild Women’s Adventure Expo will be in full swing.

It’s is going to be an incredible event!

 
Do you have your ticket yet?

 
You can buy tickets and see the schedule of speakers, workshops and displays at

https://www.shewentwild.com/womens-adventure-expo-sydney/ 

 
I will be speaking at 11:30 about my walk around Australia and other stories.

 
I hope to see you there!