What’s so good about the Melbourne Tourism Industry Leadership Program?

Life changing. That’s the best way to summarise my Melbourne Tourism Industry Leadership Program (MTILP) experience.

By the end of 2014 I had been working in my dream job for quite a few years but I was torn. As much as I loved my job, a lengthy and somewhat torturous restructure process was taking its toll (perhaps a little more than I had realised) and at the same time I felt like my career had started to become stagnant.

I was frustrated, fatigued, emotionally drained, unclear about my long term career direction and starting to wonder what my next dream job might look like. I knew something needed to change and I was ready to explore and embrace new ideas and opportunities.

On 9 December 2014 I found out I’d been accepted into MTILP for 2015. It could not have happened at a better time. It sounded like a great opportunity and was something to look forward to for the year ahead. Little did I know just how impacting MTILP would be.

Initially I didn’t know much about MTILP other than it was not ‘leadership 101’ and it would give me an opportunity to learn, grow and explore who I am as a leader and how I could potentially further my career longer term.

Curious to learn more about what I was getting myself into, I spoke to a couple people who had previously completed MTILP. They all spoke very highly of MTILP and said I was in for an incredible year but articulating what to expect seemed to be somewhat of a challenge. I soon discovered none of the previous ‘MTILPers’ could describe what MTILP actually was in a clear and succinct way. My anticipation was growing but despite my best efforts to find out more about it, my expectations were still quite vague.

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The before shot – MTILP class of 2015. That’s me on the far left.

Finally the first day arrived. We started a 2 day residential workshop at the Bowls Club in Flagstaff Gardens. Anxious but full of anticipation, 20 new MTILPers including myself embarked on an epic journey of discovery.

I started day one hopeful that by the end of MTILP I was going to get answers to some very serious questions in my mind. What is my next dream job? How do I thrive as an introvert in an extroverted tourism industry? How can I be a positive influence on my organisation? How can I be a better leader? What do I actually want from my career?

It didn’t take long to work out I was really going to enjoy MTILP. One of the first things I remember our facilitator and trainer Mel Neil saying was not to expect pointless group activities masquerading as content. Fantastic. Great start. I can’t stand time wasting workshop activities. From there things kicked into gear very quickly and I soon discovered that MTILP is meaty… very meaty. In fact it’s so meaty that it’s quite a lot to take in.

After the first day I had so much information percolating in my head that I was still awake at about 3am that night trying to process it all. Thankfully MTILP is spread out over a year. There’s no way I could have taken it in all at once.

The content presented is well tested and researched science based leadership principles and tools. It is deep, insightful and sometimes quite confronting on a personal level. MTILP is definitely not ‘leadership 101’ and it is not a series of untested leadership theories, opinions or trends.

One of the great highlights of MTILP is the series of inspirational high caliber guest speakers who share their own personal leadership insights and stories. We heard from people such as former Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon and ARIA award winning singer/songwriter Clare Bowditch as well as key tourism industry figures and leaders. Presenting to such an intimate group allows each speaker to bring something different and leave you with unique personal perspective and stories that you wouldn’t usually hear.

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One of my post MTILP workshop moments of reflection.

It’s been more than a year since I graduated from the program and I’m still amazed at how many times I reference and use what I have learnt. I got so much more out of MTILP than I ever anticipated.

I can honestly say that MTILP has changed me.

I now have a new tool box full of practical and effective leadership tools that have helped me become more effective in my job and also my family life.

I’ve found a new confidence like I have never had before. I have a clear understanding of who I am, my values, how my values influence the way I respond to situations, what energises or de-energises me and even how to handle conflict more effectively.

I have increased my influence and ability to lead in my current role within my organisation and more broadly in the wider tourism industry.

I now have answers to the questions I had on that first day. The answers weren’t even necessarily part of the content but the MTILP experience includes the light bulbs that illuminated the answers. I have a clear idea of the direction I want to take my career which has enabled me to make decisions to progress my long term career and has influenced how I approach my current role.

I have a much deeper understanding of the tourism industry through exposure to my fellow MTILPers and the many challenging discussions we shared plus doors have opened to a number of new tourism networking opportunities.

I gained an instant network of tourism colleagues who shared my MTILP experience and one of the biggest things I didn’t expect was they’ve also become close friends.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. (MTILP pun intended)

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One of our MTILP workshops was at Eureka Skydeck.

I understand now why MTILPers find it difficult to articulate what MTILP actually is. I now share their struggle. It’s like trying to explain what an apple tastes like to someone who has never eaten an apple before.

I’m going to give it a shot though… here goes…

MTILP is a tourism flavoured journey of self discovery that empowers you with a bag of leadership tools and inspirational experiences designed to help you be your best self and to influence a stronger, more effective organisation and tourism industry.    

…and that’s not even close to doing it justice.

MTILP really is incredible. I can not recommend MTILP enough and I would strongly encourage anyone involved in the tourism industry in Victoria, Australia to seriously consider applying. It’s absolutely worth the sacrifice and commitment required and it truly is a life changing experience.

Details for MTILP are on Destination Melbourne’s website here: Melbourne Tourism Industry Leadership Program

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10 things you need to know before your first overnight hike

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It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’ve done a few day hikes before and I’ve camped in my favourite national park quite a few times over the years but until recently I’d never done an overnight hike. When a good mate of mine suggested we do a long hike in my favourite national park I knew it was finally my chance to make it happen.

We started planning a hike at Wilson’s Promontory National Park in Victoria, Australia that covered about 40km of walking tracks over three days with two nights camping. I was really excited about the hike but the closer it got the more anxious I started to become as the reality of what I’d committed myself to started sinking in.

Thoughts and questions started playing on my mind. Am I going to make it? Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Are we going to have enough food? How am I going to carry all that gear and hike up and down mountains? Will my hiking buddy be sick of me after 3 days? What on earth are we going to talk about for that long? Have I got the right gear? What happens if we get injured? Will the weather be ok? What could go wrong? I had so many questions about what was at that time an unknown experience for me.

We did the hike and I survived. I was sore and stiff for about a week afterwards but it was one of the best things I have ever done. There was absolutely no regrets and we are going to plan another big hike soon. There’s something incredible about getting connected to nature and the digital detox was a bonus.

If you’re thinking about doing an overnight hike here’s a few tips based on my first overnight hiking experience:

1) Don’t go alone. It’s much safer going with someone else and in the hopefully unlikely event that you hurt yourself, get lost or something unplanned happens you will be able to help each other or get help. It’s great to have someone else there for moral support. There were moments where I really felt like I was done. My hiking buddy encouraged me to keep going and sometimes I was encouraged simply because he was there. I’d put one foot in front of the other and a couple steps later I had momentum again and forgot about quitting. I’d also highly recommend hiking with someone you get along with really well. It makes a huge difference to your overall hike experience and for me it became a really powerful bonding experience because we got along so well.

2) Plan your trip in detail. The better you plan and prepare for your hike the more enjoyable your experience will be. Think carefully about your basic needs like food, water and shelter.  Think about what could go wrong, where you are going, how long it will take to get there, what facilities will be at the overnight camp sites and how long it will take you to walk each section of the hike. Use detailed maps, seek out local information and look for advice from people who have already experienced the same hike. It really helps to know the park well and do a hike that is popular and likely to have other hikers on it. Share your plans with someone at home including where you are planning to hike and make sure you check out the local weather and conditions before you leave.

3) Buy or borrow a really good quality hiking backpack. I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow a really good 80 litre hiking backpack from a mate of mine. I was worried about carrying so much gear during the hike but having a well designed hiking backpack made carrying our gear quite practical and much easier than I expected. We were carrying about 10kg of gear each and although you could definitely feel it was there, after a while you got used to it. The biggest issue I had was getting the backpack on and off. There’s a trick to it. You need to lean forward, put the pack on, do up the waist straps while you are still leaning forward and then stand up. If possible, find a backpack that accommodates a hydration bladder for your water.

4) Buy a hikers hydration bladder. I was almost going to use water bottles to store water but I’m so glad I didn’t. The hydration bladders have a pipe with a tap mechanism and a squeezable cap that allows you to drink while your hiking without having to open you back pack each time you need a drink. If your backpack accommodates a hydration bladder it will also mean your water is significantly easier to carry. Make sure you check whether there are local water source options at your campsites for refills. If there is a water source you may need to treat water either by boiling or with a chemical treatment. If there is no was source you will need to carry all your water in. I carried about 3 litres of water for drinking which covered me for about 6-8 hours of hiking in mild temperatures. We also used additional water for cooking and cleaning dishes.

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5) Pack as light as possible. Look for ways to lighten what you take with you. The total weight of your gear starts adding up very quickly once you start packing and you’ll thank yourself later if you do all you can to minimise the weight of your gear. Little things like removing excess packaging from food or cutting your toothbrush in half make a big cumulative difference which will make carrying your backpack just that little bit easier. Where you need to buy equipment for your hike look for the good quality lightweight options. You will also discover that you don’t need everything they sell in hiking/outdoor stores. Only pack the essentials and avoid the temptation to pack spare clothes.

6) Use good quality sleeping gear. Sleep is important for the exhausted camper. Make sure you have a good quality sleeping matt, sleeping bag and hiking pillow to ensure you have a great nights sleep. Your sleeping bag should have an appropriate temperature rating and a good sturdy lightweight hiking tent will also help you sleep well and keep you dry if it rains.

7) Plan your food carefully. Plan out a menu of what you are going to eat for the whole trip. There are some key things to keep in mind when planning your food. Think about light weight food, what will keep without refrigeration, how will you open packaging (i.e. will you need a can opener?), how are you going to cook hot food, does the park you’re hiking in have restrictions on fires, will there be facilities to cook on at the camp sites, if you’re looking at packet meals do they need other ingredients like cream or milk and how much rubbish will you end up having to carry home after you’ve consumed the food. Keep your meal plan simple. There are lots of great ideas for hiking meals on the internet. We found the dehydrated hiking meals in outdoor/hiking stores were really good because they were light weight and only needed minimal boiling water. They cost a little more than some other options but it was worth paying a little extra for them and they actually tasted pretty good after a long day hiking.

8) Wear good hiking shoes. Your feet will bear the brunt of your hiking expedition so it’s important to make sure you wear proper hiking shoes that support your feet well, are tight (but not too tight) around your feet and have good grip. The difference between good shoes and bad shoes will be the difference between blisters and black toe nails. My shoes weren’t quite as tight fitting as they needed to be and so I ended up with blisters on the soles of my feet from sliding around in my shoes. I’ll definitely be getting hiking shoes before my next hike. If you buy a new pair of shoes make sure you wear them in before you go. Also make sure you trim your nails before your hike to reduce the chance they will rub against your shoe and turn black or fall off after your hike.  A good pair of hiking socks will also make a huge difference.

9) Wear shorts during the hike. Assuming you’re not hiking in the snow or somewhere really cold it is much more comfortable hiking in knee length shorts than long pants. We hiked in mild Autumn temperatures that peaked at approximately 23 degrees Celsius. I thought I’d be cold in shorts but I was actually too hot in light weight long pants. You can buy hiking pants which convert to shorts by unzipping the legs. They would be a practical option that helps keep your backpack weight down. Make sure you pack warm clothes for nights though as once you’re settling into camp for the night you will cool down quickly and temperatures will drop significantly overnight. Make sure you pack cameras or other devices away overnight as the battery on my camera didn’t handle the cold well.

10) Think about post hike recovery. We worked out we walked more than 50km over the 3 days. I was sore all over, I had blisters on my feet and I was pretty exhausted. I had a spa when I got home which was very soothing. Almost a week later I ended up going to a physio as I was having issues with a sore back that wasn’t recovering quick enough but it was ok and a quick massage and some stretches helped. I also used a heat balm to rub down my muscles for a few days. As much as I was sore for a few days it was a small price to pay for such an incredible experience and I still say it  was well worth it.

If you’ve never been on an overnight hike before and you’re considering it I would definitely recommend it. These tips will hopefully help you prepare and get the most out of your hike. If you plan and prepare your hike well you will have a fantastic and memorable time. You’ll be so glad you did it and if you’re anything like me you’ll be planning your next hike as soon as you finish your first one. Enjoy!

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My Secret Happy Place

There’s a particular spot on this great big blue and green planet of ours that holds a special place in my heart. When I’m there I can’t help but feel content. There’s something about it that is simply great for my soul. It’s truly my very own secret happy place.

When I’m there I’m filled with generous portions of joy, peace and serenity all at once. It’s the place I feel closest to God and it’s a place where I’ve experienced significant personal milestones and created life changing memories. When I’m there, something about it feels like home.

If I want to lift my spirits or get a glimpse of happiness I just need to picture it in my mind or look at a photo I’ve taken there. It’s not a place I can get to easily. In fact I could count the number of times I’ve been there on my hands and still have spare fingers to account for future visits.

It’s not very easy to get to my secret happy place. There’s a bit of a journey required. I don’t live near my secret happy place so the journey starts with a long drive. Once I arrive, there’s a rather challenging hike up a steep mountain. It’s hard work but it’s worth it.

Perhaps that’s one of the things that makes me appreciate it so much. There’s a real sense of anticipation on the climb and a feeling of achievement when you get there. Then there’s the view. Sigh… oh the view. It is simply spectacular. I could stare at it for hours. There’s ocean as far as the eye can see and some of the most picturesque coastline in the world. It’s God’s spectacular creation in all it’s splendour. 

A few years ago I had an opportunity to go to my secret happy place with a group of work colleagues. When we returned one of my colleagues said to me “You had a real spiritual experience up there didn’t you? There was almost 20 people there and somehow you were there all on your own.”

Another time when I was camping with friends at the bottom of the mountain, I could see my secret happy place from afar. I was so close but at the same time so far. I looked up at my secret happy place on top of the mountain and said to a very good friend of mine “One day I’m going to propose to my future wife up there.”

True to my word, a few years later I found myself down on bended knee in my secret happy place as I proposed to my soul mate. My secret happy place didn’t let me down. As we shared our romantic moment we were surrounded by intimate cloud cover before my secret happy place put on a spectacular show for the two of us. We’ve never seen nature put on such a spectacular performance like we did when the sunset burst through and illuminated the sky above the clouds.

There is no other place like my secret happy place. Nothing compares to sitting on the rocks on top of Mount Oberon at Wilson’s Promontory National Park in Victoria, Australia.

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