“A camera teaches you how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange
Some of you might know that, when we travel, we generally have our cameras at the ready. One reason we love photography is because it forces us to slow down and ‘see’ the places we are, rather than just ‘looking’ at them. It changes our perspective. And, of course, that’s one of the reasons we love travelling – because it shifts our perspective on who we are and how we live. Cambodia is one place we went last year which did just that.
Although Cambodia might not sound as exciting as some other trips we’ve done, nonetheless, it is up there as one of our top five ‘must visit’ destinations. And it isn’t because of the temples and ancient history (spectacular though those are). Rather, it’s because Cambodia is a place where the recent past exists uneasily alongside the present and where, if you make the effort, you can step off the tourist path and begin to see a different reality. While you are confronted with poverty and hardship, the results of war and genocide, you also experience the generosity, dignity and strength of a people who are keen to see their country prosper.
This isn’t always a comfortable experience - the gap between our wealth, opportunities and lives, is too glaring to allow that. But you cannot walk away unchanged. Being outside your comfort zone, emotionally and physically, and allowing yourself to connect with the people in the places you visit, allows you to grow yourself. We can see our common humanity, which allows us all to strive to emulate the good we see in others, and to shift our perspective on what we see.
So, next time we go to Cambodia, we’ll be taking our camera, and remembering to frame our experiences and views through a slightly different lens.
“I’m too busy” has become the catchphrase of our modern age. Everyone is endlessly pushing, hustling and grinding and busy is now worn like a badge of honour. Whatever the dream, goal, task, “I’m too busy” is now the go-to reason for inaction. But is it really a reason or just an excuse?
We all have the same 24 hours in every day. The key is in how we choose to use it. Somewhere along the line of adulthood we seem to stop doing what we want to do in favour of what we ‘have to’ do. Gambling on the illusion that our future is somehow guaranteed, we wait, we defer, we trade now for later. Unfortunately though, later rarely comes and that thing we want to do, no matter how long we wait, never happens.
Although time is limited, it is extremely elastic and will stretch to accommodate whatever you choose to put into it. Have you noticed that every time you encounter an unexpected hurdle, a flat battery, computer malfunction, no internet access, that you somehow manage to find the time to deal with it. In these situations, the opportunity cost (what you give up) is perceived as high so instantly they move up the priority list. Why is it then we do not value our own desires and dreams just as highly?
Life is not a dress rehearsal. There are no do-over’s or second chances. So instead of just piling more ‘have to’ tasks on your never ending to-do list, take control and make you a priority. If you are overextended, this is a position you’ve choosen to be in. Everything currently occupying your time you have at some point said yes to. Step back and reassess what is important. Are you designing a life you want to live or is your life designing you?
Once you get clear on your priorities, it is amazing how much time you will find to do the things that make you feel alive. We are exchanging life for everything we do. You want to make sure you are exchanging it for things that truly matter.
Time or perceived lack of it, is not the issue. Time is simply an excuse, an avoidance technique to keep you from taking charge and changing your reality. Stop thinking about what you don’t want and start thinking about what you do. One of life’s major purposes is fulfillment so don’t be content to just let it pass you by. That book you want to write, mountain you want to climb, weight you want to lose, job you want to change, adventure you want to have…. it’s not a matter of “is there time?” but rather “is there time not to?”
The past has passed and the future is yet to arrive so embrace the only time we ever have.. right now!
The tragedy of life is not that we only have a short time on the earth. The tragedy is wasting it.
At Point Assist we believe every person should have at least one life changing adventure/in filling life with adventures not stuff. Travel is so much more than bus tours, shopping malls and sun lounges by the 5 star pool. Travel is experience and adventure. It is learning and growth. It is opening your mind and exploring the unknown. When you book a package holiday you sign on to other people’s agenda. You travel when, where and how someone else decides. You invest your money, take time off work, organise someone to look after your pets, all just to give up the very thing you are seeking….freedom! If you can’t stop to take a photo when you see something amazing, you’re on the wrong trip.
Being outside your comfort zone is where you truly meet adventure. The true depth, vibrance and culture of a destination rarely presents itself on the well-worn tourist path. It is when you go where the locals go and do what the locals do you discover the true heart of your destination. Experiencing a meal with a family in a village, visiting a local industry, travelling to a remote area untouched by tourists…these are the moments you remember long after you finished your last cocktail at the resort bar. They are the things that change you, that challenge your perceptions and beliefs about life and just generally give you the reminder that life is so much more than the narrow constructs within which we live day to day. So next time you travel, take control of your adventure and make it authentic. Experience the things that interest you not those that someone else deems worthy. When it comes to travel, a little risk offers the greatest reward. When all is said and done life is nothing more than a series of moments and if you miss the moments you miss life.
What moments would you love to experience? From the mountains of Tasmania to the jungles of Cambodia and the deserts of Mongolia, at Point Assist we specialise in unique adventure travel and tailoring your trip just for you! Whatever you can dream, you can do. Contact us to find out how!
In the lead up to your overseas travel its easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and focus only on all the awesome things you are planning on seeing and doing. But a few well spent minutes of preparation can save hours of headaches and expense during or after your trip.
So before your next overseas adventure, follow our preparation checklist for hassle free travel:
It’s easy to consider the planning phase overkill and cut corners but getting caught out unexpectedly is a situation no one wants to find themselves in. The better prepared you are the safer and more enjoyable your travel will be…. the best trips are the ones where all your preparation seemed unnecessary.
Reading our last two posts, hopefully you’re thinking a little more about where you operate. Or maybe you’re thinking ‘It’s easy for him to say…..’ Well, yes. It does sounds easy, doesn’t it? But you know that things are never that straightforward. We all have fears and weaknesses. It’s not about being devoid of them, but rather, about showing up in spite of them. It’s a choice we make.
And it is always easier to talk about something than to take action. But people who know me also know that I believe that actions speak louder than words. I don’t like just hearing about places; I want to see them for myself. I don’t want to know how many reps you’ve done, how far you’ve run, how many books you’ve read or mountains you’ve climbed in the past, I want to know what’s next. And I don’t want to tell you about what I’ve done – time spent talking is time better spent living life. And, for me, that means operating in the red zone and challenging myself every day.
The good news is that this isn’t limited to me. You too can learn to ignore those little voices, develop your operator within, and use discomfort and fear as motivation to succeed. This is where we come in.
Thanks to our background and training, we are uniquely placed to assist you in reaching your goals. These may be physical; to build muscle, run a marathon, complete 10 push-ups. Or they may be mental; to become a better leader or manager, to become more self-disciplined or confident. Either way, the process is the same.
Start small but make a definite move into your red zone. Do something you have never done or take an activity you already love further. It is natural to have hesitation when stepping into unchartered waters. What you need to know is you are not unique. Everyone does. The key is not letting those doubts and fears control the process or the outcome.
Look at your tribe. The cohort you train with, work with or play with. Are their behaviours, attitudes and habits helping you or holding you back? Do they inspire you to grow? If their skill and proficiency exceeds yours, then good. It will force you to step up. They say you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so your tribe matters. Surround yourself with people that can teach and push you beyond your limits.
Lastly and critically, is taking action. Everyone talks, but not everyone does. The experience is in the doing, not the knowing. So whatever it is, just start. Begin taking steps towards your goals, no matter how small. One step leads to another and another and with each step you learn. Your experience and confidence expand, and with it, the boundaries of your red and green zones change. You have grown. You have strengthened the operator within, the only person with which you ever truly compete.
Stay tuned for the launch of our upcoming program, Point Tactics. These one and two-day training events focus on harnessing and strengthening both mind and body. Open to everyone, regardless of fitness level, age or goals, you will explore your true potential as we equip you with the key skills and techniques we know lead to success. To move beyond the confines of comfort and go confidently after what you want in life.
Whatever avenue I choose, I want to be the very best. And the very best may not be “I’m Number One”. The very best may be “Did I leave everything inside me out there?” . . . The best is . . . I’m running against myself in everything I do.”
If you’re reading this, you probably know a little about my background as an Special Forces soldier. Many people assume that most of what I’ve achieved is beyond their capacity. But over time, I’ve learned three things. First, most people have an imperfect understanding of what they are capable of, which is always much more than they think. Second, mindset matters, perhaps much more than actual capability. The ability to ‘back yourself’ and not be deterred by obstacles or failure, for failure is only a matter of perception. And third, we are all travelling our own journey. So comparisons with other people don’t make sense. In our last blog, we talked about the importance of thinking about where we operate in our daily lives. Are you firmly in the green zone? Or is the red zone your playground?
This question was brought home to me when I stumbled across David Goggins in a YouTube Video. This is, without a doubt, a man who lives firmly in the red zone. Growing up disadvantaged and bullied, he learned at an early age to turn inwards for drive and strength. He remains the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to have completed Navy SEAL, U.S. Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Controller training. Since leaving the military, he has taken up ultra-marathon running and ultra-distance cycling. All of this is extraordinary in itself, but what sets Goggins apart, and caught my attention, is not Goggin’s obvious physical capacity but his specific attitude towards life.
Goggins has built his life around a recognition that the only person who truly matters is yourself. That, when you look in the mirror, the person looking back at you is the only one who can see inside and knows whether you’ve given it all. The only person you cannot lie to, and who can tell if you’ve taken the easy way out. And, what I know myself, is that the easy way out, the short-cut, the stopping when it hurts, are all choices which are ultimately unproductive. So Goggins has chosen, consistently, the “path of most resistance.” The more difficult option, the struggle, the challenging and the painful, choices which have enabled him to surpass, and then far exceed, the limitations others have attempted to set for him, and the limitations others have set for themselves.
This too is how I’ve approached my own life. When someone told me I couldn’t do something, I told myself I could. And then I did. But what sets me, and Goggins, and my former comrades apart, is one simple thing. We are willing to spend time with the operator within.
This operator within is the person you see in the mirror whose eyes you can’t quite meet when you’ve done something you’re ashamed of, when you’ve quit too easily, or given up too soon. It’s also the voice in your head which, when you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can and it starts hurting, tells you to turn inwards and keep on bearing down. And the more time you spend with that person, the more you realise that the physical pain isn’t really the problem. It’s the mind games you play with yourself. The excuses, the little voices of fear that say that you should stop, take the easy way out, do it tomorrow, or not take the risk because you might fail, get hurt, or rejected. So you can ignore the operator inside. So you can just walk away. And maybe you do. Or maybe, you shrug, bite down on the pain and the fear and just get on with it.
When you’ve learned to do that, and to take the pain and discomfort and use them as a motivation to spur you onwards, then you are operating in the red zone. It is only through challenge that you grow. And you are only challenged in the red zone.
We noted previously how easy it is to avoid the red zone in daily life but without risk there is no reward. Interested in challenging yourself, and equipping yourself for success? We have a few ideas for you. Stay tuned for our next blog.
One of the defining features of military life is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. At times it seems as if decisions are being made and orders given for the sole purpose of increasing discomfort and making things more unpleasant. The reality however, is that being constantly pushed beyond our comfort zones and having to deal with pain, fatigue, fear and loss of control was exactly what tempered our capacity to achieve beyond perceived limitations.
These lessons are not easily forgotten. In every situation we continued to seek opportunities to push ourselves, to challenge ourselves. Because it is through challenge that we grow. And if we begin to forget those lessons, to remind ourselves, we remember our heritage.
Serving in the military, you became very familiar with operating in two distinct zones. The ‘green zone’ is safe and secure. In this zone everything runs smoothly and there are no issues. A relaxed place where you practice and prepare for active duty.
But when you deploy, you do so in the red zone.
Operating in the red zone is different. You are alert, aware that this is where your opponents also operate. A place of consequence where your actions can get you hurt, or killed. The red zone is where you execute and challenge yourself. Where you put all of your practice and preparation to the test, and find out if you measure up.
Civilian life is, by any measure, vastly different. Most people here seem to live eternally in the green zone. It is a comfortable existence, working in a predictable, familiar environment. But how much does it challenge you? When was the last time you did something that truly scared you? That you took a risk and operated in the red zone?
The red zone doesn’t always mean being involved in trench clearing operations, defusing IED’s or breaking down doors. The red zone is the place you operate in when you are confronted by something which scares you, hurts you or attempts to incapacitate you emotionally, physically or socially. A good operator will have prepared for this through ongoing training and continued exposure to the red zone. To get comfortable with the pain in order to get used to it. So when you train, or practice, or prepare for life, you need to be working in a zone which on some level makes you uncomfortable. For it is only through challenge that you grow.
When you are in the red zone, pushing your limits and going to exhaustion, you are learning that being uncomfortable is transient. But it tempers you, and makes you stronger and more resilient. So that the next time you can go a little bit further, then a little bit further again. The red zone remains a place of challenge, but it is a place where the challenge is something to be overcome, not an insurmountable obstacle.
In the next blog, we discuss what a life lived in the red zone looks like. In the meantime, take some time to reflect and ask yourself, when did you last operate in the red zone? And what’s holding you back?
If you haven’t had the privilege of visiting the Villers-Bretonneux Australian Memorial in the Hauts-de-France region of northern France, I can tell you, it’s impressive. On a recent visit, it caused me to reflect on the comparisons between my military service and that of the soldiers that it commemorates. While there have been many changes over the last 100 years, the one thing I feel that has not are the important factors required to win battles. I believe perhaps one of the most important of all is the courage and resilience of the soldiers fighting it. While reading about and exploring Villers-Bretonneux, you are presented with many instances of the Australians’ extraordinary courage.
One example is that of Walter Brown. Walter’s story is amazing, and the courage he displayed all through his life was, I think, astounding. Like me, Walter was Tasmanian. Born in 1885 he grew up not too far from where I did in New Norfolk. It’s easy to see him playing by the river as a child and, after finishing school, working in Hobart as a grocer. It was humbling to realise that, while treading the same battlefields he fought on, we had both grown up fighting the Derwent Valley’s winter cold as young men. More overwhelming was to learn of his courage under fire. You see, Walter was awarded a Victorian Cross, Australia’s highest award, for gallantry ‘in the presence of the enemy’ for his actions at Villers-Bretonneux. Documented in the London Gazette on the 17 August 1918, his citation read:
“War Office, 17th August, 1918. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Non-commissioned Officers and Man:
— No. 1689A Corporal Walter Ernest Brown, D.C.M., A.I.F. For most conspicuous bravery and determination when with an advanced party from his battalion which was going into the line in relief. The company to which he was attached carried out during the night a minor operation resulting in the capture of a small system of enemy trench. Early on the following morning an enemy strong post about seventy yards distant caused the occupants of the newly captured trench great inconvenience by persistent sniping. Hearing that it had been decided to rush this post, Corporal Brown, on his own initiative, crept out along the shallow trench and made a dash towards the post. An enemy machine gun opened fire from another trench and forced him to take cover. Later he again dashed forward and reached his objective. With a Mills grenade in his hand he stood at the door of a dug-out and called on the occupants to surrender. One of the enemy rushed out, a scuffle ensued, and Corporal Brown knocked him down with his fist. Loud cries of "Kamerad" were then heard, and from the dug-out an officer and eleven, other ranks appeared. This party Corporal Brown brought back as prisoners to our line, the enemy meanwhile from other positions bringing heavy machine-gun fire to bear on the party.”
The words ‘courageous’ and ‘inspirational’ are tossed around a lot these days. Sportsmen are called heroes and we get given ‘finisher medals’ for completing fun runs. Now, there’s no doubt that every day people struggle with challenges and issues – one person’s walk in the park is another’s Mount Everest. But really? True courage is seen when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and face the challenge with resolve. The men at Villers-Bretonneux and across the Western Front faced death and appalling conditions with courage and resilience which even today, continues to awe their descendants. Walter Brown’s story does not end in 1918. It is worth reading the rest. He, and his brothers in arms, are great examples for us in our daily lives. Not only do they remind us to never forget the sacrifices of past generations for our freedoms and comforts. They also provide the gold-standard of courage and self-sacrifice to live up to
Some of you might know that, when we travel, we generally have our cameras at the ready. One reason we love photography is because it forces us to slow down and ‘see’ the places we are, rather than just ‘looking’ at them. It changes our perspective. And, of course, that’s one of the reasons we love travelling – because it shifts our perspective on who we are and how we live. Cambodia is one place we went this year which did just that.
So, next time we go to Cambodia, we’ll be taking our camera, and remembering to frame our experiences and views through a slightly different lens.
He has worked in some of the world’s most hostile and unforgiving environments, but for Point Assist’s tour operator Mark Direen, there is no greater thrill than climbing mountains.
“When you finally get to the top, that feeling is pretty epic,” the 40-year-old from Hobart said.
“That sense of achievement at the end is worth every aching muscle – and if you are lucky enough to climb with a friend, then the experience is even better.”
While he no doubt loves the physicality of trekking, the self-confessed adventure seeker is not immune to the challenges of scaling that next mountain, crossing “one more river” or staying in an unknown town.
“I’ve climbed many mountains in Tasmania during winter and haven’t always made it to the top because of the conditions,” Mr Direen said.
“But I enjoy pushing the boundaries to see what’s possible and I guess, the boundaries just keep giving.”
Mr Direen’s passion for adventure and travelling has translated into a new career with the former Australian military sergeant and Special Forces patrol commander launching his adventure trekking business.
“I got more and more into trekking over the past five years, but it wasn’t until I ran a few small treks for clients here in Tassie that I realised, ‘wow, this is awesome stuff’ and that this could be my next career move,” he said.
During this time Mr Direen was working “on and off” in Kabul as a security officer for the Australian Embassy, a job he “lucked into” after discharging from the full-time military in 2009.
“I started out as a driver for diplomats in Kabul and was then appointed team leader,” he said.
“We’d scope out locations to make sure they were safe and add in security measures to facilitate meetings for diplomats,” he said.
Despite finding the job exciting, Mr Direen said he knew his “true calling” was in the adventure travel industry.
“It has always been a long-term goal of mine to run my own adventure trekking business,” he said.
“The idea behind Point Assist developed while I was still in Kabul, but the business model itself took about two years of fine-tuning once I got back to Tassie and gained all the necessary accreditations.”
Point Assist specialises in unique multi-day adventure tours to isolated locations and distant cities around the world.
It offers a variety of experiences, from bespoke adventures and small group tours to executive travel and teamwork, each of which is tailored to clients’ individual needs and goals.
It may be the remote outback of Australia or the cities and towns of Asia on the edge of mountainous rainforests and spectacular coastlines – “the more unique, the better,” Mr Direen said.
“I love the idea that each person who goes on a trek feels like they are the first person ever to visit that area.”
He is currently focusing on developing the Tasmanian component of the business and pitching it to mainland markets.
“Tasmania is very unique, and not just in the sense that our wilderness is pristine, but because it is so remote.”
“I often say to clients interested in exploring the state, let’s pick a mountain in Tasmania that no-one has ever climbed and let’s work together to build an expedition around that.”
“For those keen on an easy trip, while wanting to see something spectacular, I would suggest Mt Field or Freycinet.”
“Once you venture out beyond Wineglass Bay to climb Mt Graham, it is very rare that you will see another soul.”
Mr Direen said the mental and physical skills honed during his 20-year career in the military, security and safety sectors had contributed to his ability to survive in some of the toughest conditions.
“Everything I learnt in the military complements climbing a mountain in Tasmania, from the equipment you take, the planning, navigation and leadership skills you employ to living and surviving in the field,” he said.
“Fortunately, my planning has always been good enough that I haven’t been stuck in a prolonged survival situation.”
A natural-born leader, Mr Direen finds it deeply rewarding training and empowering clients to achieve their goals, whether it is around fitness, motivation, preparation or mindset.
“I’ve spent years in the military developing my leadership skills and years building and leading high-performing teams in complex and high-threat environments,” he said
“These are the skills that enable me to travel to locations that are missed by other adventure tour operators.”
Mr Direen, who has been licensed to operate “off-track” for 12 months, has recently incorporated helicopter travel into his treks.
“We love a helo pick-up after a rewarding multi-day hike into the Tasmanian remote wilderness. It’s a great way to top off the experience,” he said.
“One trek begins with a helicopter drop-off into the Florentine Valley before an attempt on the summit of Wylds Craig.”
He already has a number of adventures in the pipeline for 2017, including trips planned for Northern Cambodia, Mongolia and, of course, climbing mountains in Tasmania.
“There are so many things on my bucket list. I could really go anywhere given the opportunity and an enthusiastic client.”