Gail Muller is an adventurer, educator and author. Growing up in Cornwall, she was sporty and outdoorsy, but at 14 was told she’d need to use a wheelchair by the age of 40 due to muscular-skeletal issues. She has an extraordinary story of her journey of experiencing chronic pain for 15 years, and dedicating much of that time to finding a solution, which she later did, for the most part.
At 41 she embarked on one of the toughest treks in the world - over 2200 miles in the USA - The Appalachian Trial. She wrote a book about it called Unlost which is an uplifting and moving account of her journey in the wild outdoors, dealing with extreme elements and facing her fears.
In this conversation Gail emphasises how she got into hiking later than most, and encourages others, particularly women, to occupy that role of adventurer too. We speak about her journey with chronic pain, having learned a great deal about it and put herself through a multitude of experiences including fasting in a Thai jungle for twelve days, Gail offers up some great advice for listeners who might be dealing with pain.
On being told by a doctor that he did not know what the problem was, we discuss the importance of being cautiously critically analytical of professional opinion, asking questions, and not taking a doctor’s advice to ‘give up hope.’
Inspired by Bill Bryson, and after losing a friend to suicide, Gail tells me about her decision to embark on this mammoth trip. She shares with me her greatest fears, including that which came from being raped as a teenager. Having unpicked some of these, Gail has ‘done the work’ which has enabled her to recognise that these fears reside in her head, and finds ways to learn how to manage them, which she graciously shares.
We talk about the saying ‘hike your own hike’ - a important metaphor to accept that we’re all on our own journeys, and she tells me how she made peace with doing things ‘her way.’
We speak about tactics for resilience, about surrender and what being so exposed to the harshest of nature’s elements, did for her.
*Trigger warning: during this episode there is mention of sexual assault and suicide
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