KAKADU CALLING: Wildlife guide finds feet after loss of ear
KAKADU is calling one Warwick wildlife lover, but her new-found direction is much more about the journey than the destination.
With her boots and binoculars in tow, Emma Walton is about to set foot in one of Australia's most unique wilderness areas to work as a private field guide, but getting there has been a whirlwind experience.
For many years, Ms Walton quite literally struggled to find her feet when suffering extreme vertigo from Meniere's disease, which caused the degradation of her inner ear.
"It's not like a fear of heights,” she said. "It's like your anchor to the world is set adrift and you can't work out which way is up or down.
"Everything is spinning to such a degree you lose your ability to know where you are or what is attached.”
After six rounds of surgery to "destroy” her inner right ear, Ms Walton can say with great relief that she is symptom-free and equipped with a whole new perspective on the world.
"It's made me into the person I am today,” she said. "I realised once I put that behind me I could do anything I wanted and there were no barriers.”
Walls and doors certainly won't keep Ms Walton contained, but working as a field guide will allow her to slow down the pace in life.
"It's really not the destinations it's the journey you go on with your guests. You are showing them how complex the world around them is and the meaning behind every minute detail,” she said.
"I enjoy showing people why that leaf is that shape or what animal made that track.”
Much like the mindfulness techniques many are turning to, Ms Walton will be teaching her guests to slow down and observe their surrounds.
The job allows her to apply the knowledge she gained from her degree in wildlife science at UQ Gatton.
"It's not like a tour guide having a spiel that you repeat over and over again,” she said.
"You are relying on all your own knowledge that you have acquired and your observation of the details around you.”
Walking just a couple of kilometres can take seveal hours when you stop to take in the world around you, she said.
Having just returned from a week of training with bush trackers, wildlife experts and Indigenous elders, Ms Walton is taking a small break before she starts her new gig in April.