V8s rev up Heidi’s confidence

A trip to see the Gold Coast 600 V8 supercars last year has accelerated Heidi, 45, into a world of travel and adventure.

It’s a life that seemed out of reach six years earlier, when Heidi experienced a major stroke during brain surgery to treat recurrent seizures. The stroke resulted in paralysis of her left arm and leg.

“For a while after the stroke, I felt like I had traded one disability for another,” Heidi says. For a long time she isolated herself for fear of being judged for her disability.

“I was in denial – it took two years to accept it, and to start linking into the services I would need,” she says.

Through the NDIS Heidi received the help she needed to learn to walk again, and once her mobility improved, she fought to regain her independence.

“The NDIS changed my life through giving me opportunities to access the community and unlearn isolation, which had taken me years to get used to,” she says.

“I came across a program called Beyond Borders. I always intended to travel but I was busy raising my kids. After the stroke I thought the opportunity was lost, but now I am travelling and making up for lost time.”

Being a Gold Coast resident, the V8s seemed like the ideal first trip, a way to take small steps, to get to know the team at Beyond Borders Travel and slowly build up her confidence.

“I felt like I was emotionally starting from scratch,” Heidi says. “I realised I couldn’t help how people perceived me, but I could control the way I react to the perception others have of me.”

That first V8s trip was in October 2019, and things moved quickly from there. Heidi since has crossed the Red Centre on The Ghan train from Adelaide to Darwin; hung out with Elvis impersonators at the Parkes Elvis Festival; and jet-boated, cruised, and trained her way around New Zealand’s South Island with Beyond Borders.

“Being able to access holidays has built on the basic social skills I had to learn again,” she says. “Being around different people, in different atmospheres, has made me more resilient.”

Crowds were a hurdle at first but with the help of Beyond Borders, Heidi now treats them as her own “exposure therapy”, allowing her to break through the fear. And that is not the only thing travel has helped.

“It has pushed me to try different things with a new confidence, things such as taking the stairs, showering in various hotels with different set-ups and going overseas for the first time since the stroke.”

Heidi loves the excitement and variety of travel.

“I don’t feel restricted anymore. For a long time after the stroke I felt like I had been put into a box, but now I feel like I have unlimited possibilities because there is always going to be something exciting for me to do. Best of all, I am choosing my own adventures now and I get to decide what I am capable of.”

Beyond Borders Travel specialises in supported small group adventures as well as tailored one on one holiday solutions for people of all abilities. All trips are customised to the client’s needs.

Published: 31/08/2020

Find out more about our Beyond Borders Travel accessible holiday program.