While many men are sporting their hairiest moustaches for Movember in support of men’s health and mental illness, one of our Escape Travel consultants has a unique mission of his own in mind.
In just a couple of days, mid-Movember, Tom Hughson sets off on the journey of a lifetime. With excess luggage in the form of golf clubs, a video camera and a whole lot of courage, he’s off to prove to the world – and to himself – that “golf is hard, but talking is harder”. A passionate travel consultant and team leader at our Karrinyup store in Western Australia, Tom is no stranger to adversity. But as he has discovered, talking is key to overcoming mental illness, and he plans to take this message around the world and back again.
In a unique journey that combines the three biggest influences in his life – golf, travel and mental illness – Tom will be travelling alone with just his video camera for company as he films his globe-trotting adventures on the greens and in various cities around the world. But far from simply having a fabulous time on the road and hitting hole-in-ones, Tom plans to spread the word and open up conversations about mental illness, with, in his own words: “whoever I can get to talk to me!”. In capturing interviews with everybody from golf pros to random strangers on the street, Tom is on a mission to get people talking everywhere he goes.
Why is he doing this exactly? “To show people you can get out and do things and you don’t need to let adversity hold you back,” he chimes. “The whole thing about this trip is to put it out there that talking about mental illness is not as taboo as everything thinks it is... to show people that you can go through this and you can come out the other side and still go and live your dreams and achieve something incredible.” It was talking that helped Tom overcome his own encounter with bipolar and depression. “Talking to someone makes these things a lot more achievable,” he says. “You don’t need to be alone.” He goes on to point out that mental illness has no stereotype; it spans cities, countries and cultures.
Of the impending journey, Tom says it’s a “unique travel route”. Luckily he’s used to crafting tricky travel bookings for our customers. “There’s been a few logistics in putting it together, but I really wanted to show the diversity in all of these amazing destinations.” Flying out of Perth, Tom will stop in Bali, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, before continuing on to Abu Dhabi, Cape Town and Johannesburg. “I’m playing golf at least once in every place I’m going to, but I’ll also be filming the cities and countries I’m going to for those special cultural elements,” he says. With a whopping six countries in three weeks, it’s sure to be interesting.
Asked what the highlights are, Tom says he’s looking forward to exploring the modern desert wonders of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. But he also can’t wait to witness the historical aspects of Asia, from ancient temples and treasured palaces to bustling colourful marketplaces. “I’ll also be doing a few off the wall activities – I’m trying to do something unique in every country,” he adds. “For example, when I go to Cape Town I’m jumping in a cage to swim with great white sharks.” This, he says, is a life-long dream. He has other ideas in mind too, but he’s keeping that top secret for now (though he did drop a little hint about indoor skydiving). “Hopefully my adventures will reach a wide range of people and show there’s something out there in the world for everyone.”
When it comes to the golf aspect of his journey, Tom says “the locations of all the golf courses are pretty unique”. “The one in Abu Dhabi is absolutely amazing! You can just imagine the layout over there – it’s a whole lot of sand, green grass and water features everywhere. But all of the courses have something unique about them.” He’ll even be lugging his golf clubs all the way up to the highest – and longest – golf hole in the world, at Legends Golf Resort near Johannesburg in South Africa. He’ll be getting a little help with that though: “You actually go up by helicopter and hit back down,” he says. “You’re literally on top of a mountain, 400 metres in the air.” The views alone sound astounding.
Tom’s true aim though goes much higher than that. “The absolute ultimate if I’m shooting for the stars, would be to turn all this footage I’m going to create into an awareness program or a short video that I can take to schools, youth groups and sports groups when I get back,” he says. “Mental illness is not a weakness – it’s an actual illness. I’m targeting men and young men in general, to show that you can go out and live your dreams if you face this head on and talk about it.” He goes on to talk about all that he has left to do in the lead-up to his departure and adds: “After all, golf is hard... talking is harder.”
To find out more about Tom's journey, head to his facebook page and website for more info, pics and videos. If you're interested in donating, check out his Everyday Hero page. Tom’s journey is fully self-funded, with a few donated activities along the way, and all money raised will go directly to Beyond Blue.