How one Aussie woman rediscovered her sense of adventure and found a new identity beyond 'mother' and 'wife'.
In her forties, Di Westaway was suffering a bit of a midlife crisis. She was taking care of two kids, while trying to deal with a problematic marriage and what she considered to be the overall "dull-ness" of life.
"I just knew I needed something to escape," she explained to Lifestyle. "[I needed to] clear my head and do something for me."
As corny as it sounds, this was when fate stepped in. For Di, "fate" wasn't a lottery jackpot or an Eat, Pray, Love experience. It was a physically gruelling trek to the highest point in the Southern Hemisphere.
"[My best friend and I] went off and had a go at climbing this mountain," she says of her trip to Mount Aconcagua in Argentina.
"We didn't succeed but we had an extraordinary adventure, and that was just the beginning of me going 'wow, there is life after a husband and children.'"
Thus was the start of Di's new career as the founder of a humble walking group with the goal of finding and helping other women struggling under the weight of family life.
“[Motherhood is] quite overwhelming, and you’re so confused by looking after the baby and nurturing the children and looking after your relationships and connecting with your friends and running the house," Di explained of the mothers who often join her walking teams.
"There’s just so much going on that what tends to happen is we [women] put ourselves last."
Di appeared to tap into something significant, because what started as an ad in her kids' school newsletter, quickly evolved into an organised network of walking women banded together under Di's organisation, Wild Women On Top.
Wild Women On Top hosts multiple walks each year, both in Australia and overseas, at beginner and expert levels. The women who join the organisation are referred to as 'Goddesses' or members of the 'Tribe' - terms which highlight the underlying meaning of Di's work.
However, Wild Women On Top isn't only about helping women find fun, strength and identity outside of their home and family lives. The organisation's good work extends worldwide through donations to the Fred Hollows Foundation.
"Around 60 per cent of the world's blind are women, so blindness is a real feminist issue," Di said of her choice of charity. "And the main reason women are blind in developing nations is simply a matter of poverty."
To date, Wild Women On Top has raised over $15 million and restored sight to over 600,000 people.
Fifteen years since Di's midlife crisis, she has three children - two sons, 25 and 15, and a daughter, 23 - and an unwavering will to help all mothers cope with work, parenting and all matters of stress.
In a single phrase - and this is particularly fitting for a woman who spends a lot of time in high altitudes - Di says it all comes down to putting on your own oxygen mask first.
"You have to be happy and healthy inside yourself, and if you’re not, you’re not going to be the best mum you can be. And it all starts with you going: 'ok, my happiness and my health is as important as my children's."
[All images courtesy of Di Westaway/Wild Women On Top]