real life

'After I lost my toddler to cancer, I was completely bereft. Age 52, I reclaimed my life.'

Last night, Gina Chick triumphed on SBS' Alone Australia. But winning the show is the second biggest thing that has happened in her life. Back in April, she wrote for Mamamia about the biggest. 

Last year I spent some time in the Tasmanian wilderness, completely solo, in the middle of harshest freezing winter for a self-shot doco TV show on SBS called Alone Australia. The goal was to survive for as long as possible using only a handful of tools, my wits, and skill set, solving the challenges of finding shelter, water, fire, and food.


Alone Australia is the second biggest thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

The biggest thing was something much harder.

I was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, and told I had to terminate the pregnancy or I would die.

I brought my daughter Blaise into the world against all odds. Then, three years later, she flew away, after her own cancer diagnosis. I’ve been scaling an endless wall of grief ever since 

Blaise has been gone almost 10 years, and now there’s this. Alone. Winter survival, nobody within cooee. No handy mobile, no boat waiting to scoop me up and take me home. No food, other than what I could catch or gather. No shelter unless I made it myself. Just the trees and the lake and the odd platypus for company.

Gina with her daughter, Blaise. Image: Supplied.


Portions of my ego, pride and identity burned to embers, and from the ashes of that furnace rose bone deep humility, entwined with a sense of wonder and homecoming.

Alone Australia is the latest in a lifetime of stepping stones into wild existence. I haven’t worn shoes in over a decade. I live off grid in a tin shack, and my bed’s on the deck under a mozzie net. I spend four months of the year sleeping on the ground next to a fire, helping adults and kids learn to be at home in wild nature.

Image: Supplied.


Along the way I’ve faced many home truths and learned about humans’ relationship with nature. How can we use nature connection to heal ourselves?

Magic happens when we really tune into wild nature. When we remember who we are under our human stories. The wisdom coiled in our DNA from eons of hunter-gatherer ancestors rises first in whispers, then in triumphant shouts, then in ravishing heart song. We remember we were born wild.

Wild things sleep when they’re tired, eat when they’re hungry, take shelter when there’s a storm. They aren’t governed by external authority, instead; they live by instinct, purely in the moment. They’re connected to everything around them, receptive to the ongoing flow of information in the environment, responding constantly to changing conditions, needs and resources. This is essential for survival. Inattention is a great way to become some toothy predator’s morning snack.


Our modernity has disconnected us from nature for so long, we have no real idea of the depth of what’s been forgotten, although we feel its existential lack like a tongue probing a lost tooth. Agricultural-capitalist culture has sacrificed harmony with nature at the altar of productivity for millennia. We modern humans drift through our lives as hungry ghosts, in a haze of addictions and distractions, numbing ourselves in order to block out the lonely howl of the dingo in our bellies, the one scratching at the door begging to be set free.

The good news is that nature connection is our birthright. We can’t truly lose it because we’re grown from nature. We’re part of it, whether we consciously acknowledge this or not. Every single one of us is built from atoms gathered from this planet, our home. We can never be separate from nature because we’re grown from its sticky agar.

The embryo that became you, or me, was at times fish and lizard and bird. These stages of evolution nestle inside us, coded into a double helix of stunning intelligence. We are wild at our core.

Nature connection isn’t learned, it’s remembered. That connection isn’t lost, just buried, and can be unearthed with a little stretch and some barefoot, sun kissed, weather-blown outside time.

It’s already happening, have you noticed? National parks teem with travellers and campers. We hike and surf and sail and climb, cast lines to snag fish, make picnics on beaches and in parks. Scale mountains, dive into oceans. Over and over we rest against the bosom of Mama Gaia, to recharge our batteries before squishing ourselves back into the tiny artificial slices of time regulating our work week, to earn the money to pay for those walls to keep the outside out and the inside in.


And in the outside hours, perhaps there is a moment when you stop, properly, to lose yourself in that haunting sunset. Kick off your shoes, dig your toes in the dirt. Lean against the rough skin of an ancient tree and feel your mind sink into old roots, finding peace in their silence. Perhaps you notice your stories becoming irrelevant because they aren’t real. The incessant hamsters running circles in your mind start to slow. Anything that isn’t nature burns away. Life simplifies into what you need, and what’s possible to meet that need. All the should’s evaporate. What’s left is what’s truly important, and necessary. You remember who you are under your human stories. You remember that you’re no more important than a fish, or bird, or ant, and there’s relief in that. A homecoming. To be part of something so much greater than self. Something magnificent.

Ultimately, in the mirror of wild nature, if we have the courage to look, we see ourselves. We face our strengths and challenges, our pride and prejudice. 

When we spend time outside in receptivity, in deep listening, with an attitude of humility and yearning for connection, we understand we are part of wild nature, rather than apart from it. We hear the song of the wild in our blood, feel the pull of those threads of connection that span an entire planet, and remember that we can never be alone.

Image: Supplied.


And then we take that newfound peace and healing back into our lives, to our families, friends and workmates, smelling of fire smoke and mountain stories, sea breezes and good earth. Perhaps we even inspire another person to kick off their shoes, remember who they really are, and come home.

You can watch Alone on SBS on Demand. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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