Outdoor adventurer Monique Bortoli is powering towards her goal of completing 10 challenges in 10 months to raise $10,000 for the Yacaaba Centre and support people impacted by family violence.
Now half-way through her quest, Monique has paddled 55 kilometres on a SUP, run 25 kilometres to the top of Mt Kosciuszko, tackled two team events including the Geoquest 24-hour adventure race in Yamba, and completed 79 laps of her local mountain in Port Stephens, Mt Tomaree; one lap for every woman lost to family violence in 2018.
Monique has already raised over $8,000 and she’s not slowing down. Inspired by her determination, we asked Monique to spill the beans on what drives her and what the campaign has been like so far.
Let’s start with why…
It all came about very organically. I just knew it was time for me to help those who have helped me. I knew I could do something out there and epic, but anyone can do that once. I needed to do something that would create awareness, raise money and give back.
The Yacaaba Centre is where I first turned for support. They opened their doors, helped me find services and helped me put things in perspective. There was no judgement, there was no blame, there was just hope. The campaign is my way of saying thank you. It’s about encouraging our community to get involved, to speak out, say no to family violence and say enough is enough.
It’s quite a big goal you have set yourself. Has anything taken you by surprise?
I think the biggest shock has been the support I have received from far and wide, the messages of support, the messages and stories of survival, and the incredible people I have met. The community has really gotten behind me. Every single person I encounter has a story to tell and I feel so privileged that they feel they can share those with me. It keeps me motivated knowing that what I have planned is making a difference.
Have you had to make any tough choices to do what you do?
I don’t find them tough. I know what the goal is and I put things into perspective that way. I may miss the social side of things when it comes to going out, but I get to see some incredible places. I get to run wild and make a difference. The toughest decision I find is making sure I’m up and ready to go each and every day.
I’m lucky that I can fit most things around my little boy Heathy. He comes to training with me, gets involved and helps with the campaign. Once I finish my last challenge we are going to head away for a weekend, probably to the Blue Mountains, that’s his favourite place for some downtime. He’s been amazing right throughout. He knows why Mum is doing what she is doing and very proud of that, but we need a little holiday to explore and play and have some time out doing some kid adventures. He is a huge part of everything I do and my fave little support crew.
Have there been any “aha!” moments along the way?
Wow, I’ve had a few. The campaign has really helped me to heal from my own story. I didn’t think someone like me had a voice to make change. I’m just doing my thing, running wild right? No, I’m creating change and making a difference. By speaking out and using our stories and our voices, we CAN make changes. If I can help one person from this, that is enough. I finally believe in myself. And, I’ve also realised how powerful as a community we can be.
What’s your secret to staying motivated?
I keep motivated knowing there is something magic in every day. I learn something new and I’m one step closer to all my goals. I love the start of every new day and every new blessing we have.
I drag my friends along to events, make every moment fun and ensure there’s always a story to tell. Every adventure I do has a moment in time that I can never forget; a story I can tell for a lifetime. Those moments last forever. The sunrise on the side of a mountain, the waves crashing one at a time. The moon guiding your trek. The mud splattered grin from riding your mountain bike. Every moment brings a smile to my face.
As an inspiration to many of us, is there anyone you look up to?
I’ve been incredibly blessed when it comes to role models. My biggest role model will always be my mum, she’s the one that believed in me when I couldn’t. I shall never forget that. My friends are also my role models. They don’t allow me to forget that anything is possible and we all have each other’s backs. They are my rocks and the best people I could ever be surrounded by. They never give up on me, they pick me back up and push me forward every single time.
You founded Elemental Adventures, a fun and free-spirited brand that sounds a lot like you. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It began as a way of motivating people to get active and outside. My passion has, and always will be, showing people, especially women, that parenthood, your past and your responsibilities don’t have to hinder your passion in life, whether it be adventure, running, anything you love. If you want something, make it happen.
I feel by sharing my story and my life, I may inspire one person to get out, get healthy and get active. You CAN be in charge of your own life. We get so overwhelmed by responsibility and what we are taught is important, we forget what we love and who we are. We feel we have to live up to expectations from so many sources: family, friends, social media. We forget we have a responsibility to ourselves.
How important is nature to you?
For me, it all began as my way of healing, I knew I needed to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and put things into perspective. So I started walking, hiking, heading to the beach and getting outside.
This journey of healing eventually brought me to trail running and ultramarathons, and now my favourite pastime: adventure racing. It also brought about my 10 challenges campaign. It gave me the confidence to finally give back and support those who supported me. It gave me back my voice to talk about my story, it has helped me to share my story and in return helped others. Now you can’t keep me inside; nature is my playground and I love sharing that with everyone I meet.
I have a few more 24-hour adventure races to complete, including WIldside and Hells Bells and a couple of ultramarathons. My last challenge is an exciting one and not something I’ve done before. I am used to non-stop go go go but I’ve been invited to do a multi-sport stage race in the Clarence Valley with Adventurethon. A weekend of running, riding and kayaking and a mystery discipline, plus a night under the stars camping. How cool is that! The challenges are not all set in stone. I keep an eye on my body and make sure it’s happy and healthy. I take each challenge as it comes and we change things as we need. Adventure is my long term goal, it doesn’t finish when the last challenge is done. This is my life and in 2020 I would love to be able to step up and complete the A1 Adventure Race series in Australia and take on the legendary event of Godzone one day.
Any last words?
Seriously, open the door, walk outside and just explore. Look at the stars, see what’s around you and make memories you will never forget. Grab your friends and go play like you used to as a child.
Dream big, run wild, and live an adventurous life.
To donate, visit: au.gofundme.com/10-challenges-10-months-10000
Domestic violence (family violence) happens when someone uses violence to maintain control over someone they are close to. This can involve actions or words that hurt, scare or bully others. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be experiencing domestic violence visit healthdirect.gov.au/signs-of-domestic-violence for helpful information on what to do. For immediate support contact the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732.
Story by: Monique Bortoli
(first published in issue #15 Travel Play Live magazine)