By: Rhonda Cahill
Like many adventurous scenarios, my story begins before I even knew what was happening.
As a mother of a 5, 3, and 2 month old, I remember sitting on my living room floor, staring at a pile of laundry that had grown to over half the height of the fireplace. Like a slow-motion scene from a movie, the noises of kids in the background slur with the standstill of time.
When I shuffle through the memories of where I was before racing, this scene is my flashback. It took me a couple years to piece together why this memory was so pivotal, but looking back, I was stuck. Like most people who are stuck, I didn't know it.
Five years ago, my husband, Scott, along with his friend, Clay Croft, began filming an adventure travel show, called Expedition Overland. They, along with a group of good buddies, would take a couple trucks into remote locations for 4-5 days to film an episode. As Expedition Overland grew, new sponsors came on board.
One of these sponsors requested that women be added to the show. Scott and Clay came to Rachelle (Clay's wife and my friend) and I with a decision: what better women to join them than their own wives?
I should have been honored and excited to be included, but in reality, I was terrified. I couldn't imagine myself doing anything like this. Moms didn't do things like THIS, did they? Don't they stay home, raise kids, and figure out who they are after the kids leave? I thought it'd be okay to be 'dead' inside for a few more years. I'd be fine.
Yet dead wasn't fine. Through a series of conversations, a dream about finding my real identity, and encouragement from my oldest son, the lie that dead was okay started to lose its strength.
Expedition Overland's trip took us through Alaska and the Northwest Territories. Four weeks of rain, mud, camping, mosquitoes, trucks, winches, mountains, oceans, whales, grizzly bears, and friends revealed a piece of myself, a tenacity, I never knew was there. I couldn't believe the depth of joy that erupted from stepping out of my routine. Freedom took on new meaning, but the real adventure was yet to come.
Four months after filming the Alaska expedition, Rachelle, my now business partner and racing teammate, told me she was considering competing in an off-road rally race in Morocco. Someone had told her husband about it and he encouraged her to try it. Since she is definitely the more adventurous between the two of us, I honestly wasn't surprised. It sounded so far out of reach and purpose for me, that it landed nowhere on my spectrum. In fact, I felt relieved I didn't have to do it.
That is, until she came home from her first Morocco race.
When her feet hit the US soil again, I almost didn't recognize her. Where there had once been a girl with a voice yet to be discovered, a girl who tended to be 'missed' in group settings, a girl who leaned toward being quiet, depressed, and shut down because of sexual abuse in her past, I now saw a strength shining out of her. Under the surface, I'd known it existed, but now I could see it.
A little over a year after Rachelle had her first race, I had a very intense, colorful dream where Rachelle and I competed in an endurance rally. In the dream, we had the ability to run on foot as fast as any car. We out-ran lions and bears that lurked in the forest. After many miles, we won the race. At the finish line, hundreds of people thanked us for running with them.
The day after that dream, Rachelle called me, telling me her navigator for her next race had quit and she was hoping I'd take the position. Since I absolutely believe in divine intervention, I felt the dream had prepared me.
After I'd committed to adding off-road rally racing to my resume, it took another year of raising sponsorship money, as well as taking navigational training and intense driving classes. Within the first month of this time, Rachelle and I knew that our platform would be to speak out against sexual abuse. Why? Well, I also know what it is like to survive sexual abuse. This thread actually wove our friendship into a deep level of trust. Our drive to tell our stories and get conversation started on this uncomfortable topic was so strong, nothing could stop us.
Like Rachelle, I came home from my first rally a changed woman. Where I had once felt oppressed, insignificant, and subject to others, I now felt like an over comer. I had a new found independence. My confidence was at an all time high. During the overseas travel, the navigation of remote deserts, and the push to the finish line, I discovered I was capable of tackling something of this magnitude. I found I could race through loads of laundry and the sands of foreign lands.
Rhonda Cahill, along with her husband Scott, and good friends, Clay and Rachelle Croft, run Expedition Overland. Catch the episodes on Youtube at xoverland.com Rhonda and Rachelle compete in the Rebelle Rally on October 15th-21st, 2016. Rhonda is a mother of three, a self-determined adventurer, and the lover of a great cup of coffee. Visit thexelles.com to connect with her.