Part One: Exclusive Interview with Sea to Summit Collaborator, Deanna Gerlach
Sea to Summit is thrilled to introduce you to our very first family of collaborators.
Deanna Gerlach, Tom Gerlach and their three children are the wonderful individuals behind the account @noodlesforbrekky where the family document their adventures, travels, and outdoor experiences.
Sea to Summit is fortunate enough to have collaborated with the Gerlach’s on a creative project in New Zealand to launch the all new IKOS Tent with Tension Ridge.
The Gerlach family hiked roughly 3000km along the Te Araroa trail, leaving their city life and spending six months on an outdoor family adventure with our tent in hand.
We thought it was the perfect opportunity for the Global Marketing Team to chat with lifestyle and adventure photographer as well as avid hiker, Deanna.
From the positive impact travelling in nature can have on a family to tough lessons learned along the way, advice for anyone else looking to embark on a similar trip and so much more, this exclusive interview was an absolute pleasure.
And, without further ado, here is our chat with Dee: Part One. We hope you enjoy!
Q: What role did your childhood have on influencing your love of the outdoors and passion for adventure?
A: My folks had a can-do kind of attitude and didn’t let lacking income or long hours working get in the way of making time for the outdoors and trying new things. Many low-budget adventures were had with my three brothers, often joined by our cousins.
I observed that Mum and Dad naturally would love nothing more than to stay in bed reading but they made the effort to get up and out there - whether that was making things around the house, in the shed or the paddocks or taking us out on missions.
We spent hours in the water, on the water, exploring coastlines, camping in sand dunes with no tent, building huts, hang gliding. Dad bought rundown second hand hang glider parts and fixed them up. He made us a land yacht, even made a small motorbike for us to learn to ride on from an old lawn mower motor.
Tom’s childhood also held great freedom with the national park just behind his house to explore. He naturally has a lot of get up and go and is very social, his family were always playing sports and spending time outside with other families. We make a great team.
Q: What ignited and inspired you to travel almost 3000 km across New Zealand with your family?
A: A bunch of things led Tom and I to be brave enough to leap into this epic six month adventure. It began with one massive itch for adventure and travel. That itch left unscratched as we made our way building our careers, growing a family and then weekends spent on the sidelines of kid’s sport games. And sure, we loved that life, we especially adored our community, but it still felt like something wasn’t right.
When my folks died in a car accident just as they were about to retire, it rocked us all incredibly. We were really close to them, they were fit and healthy, only 63 and so damned excited for the years ahead of them.
Situations like this can take you down pretty low, but it’s interesting to go through that and learn what it’s like to feel lost and depressed. In the process of clawing your way back up to gasp for air you seem to discover life with fresh eyes. Or maybe it just heightens your intolerance! Ha, I sure became intolerant to things I no longer felt aligned with.
Tom and I had always talked about adventures with the kids, maybe a trip around Oz like my parents did with my three brothers and I back in the 80's in an old panel van and caravan, or we could move to another country for a while, learn a new language. I spent hours researching and trying to find a way to make it work to no avail.
Then came covid lockdowns. Tom wasn’t commuting to Melbourne anymore, all the after school and weekend activities were canned, most of my Photography work was canned. We found ourselves playing board games with the kids, spending hours exercising in our local national park, we cut costs wherever we could and worked on simplifying our lives.
It felt so good. The relief was immense. Finally, we could breathe - I’m sure you felt it too. Such a bizarre way to create space to ponder where we’re at and what we want the next few years to look like.
More than anything we wanted more of this simple life with hours spare to connect and explore. Pre-covid we’d already started talking about moving back to New Zealand to connect with my family over there - especially Mum and Dad were gone, and my very special Grandma was getting to her final years.
I’d read about Te Araroa Trail, it sounded so hard, I had no idea if we could do it but the fear and excitement for it were so compelling, we couldn’t let go of the idea. So, we researched the heck out of it and soon realised we only had a few months to start the hike or else we’d have to wait a whole year.
That helped us quickly make the call to quit our jobs, sell all our stuff, book hotel quarantine and visas and accumulate all the new gear we’d need… We’d never been on an overnight hike as a family before.
Q: How has your career as a photographer shaped the way you experience, perceive, and interact with the natural world?
A: A lot of photographers are introverts, being behind the lens is a nice way to be a part of something while not having to necessarily engage too much. I’m probably half-half, introvert, and extrovert.
I get energy from people but also need time by myself. The camera became a way for me to be in the world, participating in a gentle way where I’d observe light and unfolding interactions, click the shutter, smile and chat then escape back behind the lens when I needed space.
I love imperfection and the in between moments, movement, and emotion. I’d so love the world to learn that imperfection is bloody beautiful, and perfection is so boring and fake.
Mess up your hair and be proud of your scars and tears, the rips in your clothes, the scabs on your knees. You learn this from being part of a thru-hike community and it’s the most beautiful lesson.
Q: In ways do you think travelling and outdoor adventures are unique when experienced as a family? Do you see your trip having a positive impact on your family and in particular your children?
A: I mentioned the slowing down and simplification that covid lockdowns brought. There was chaos in it too of course. We largely failed at home schooling and were very much challenged by being together all the time when we were used to having our own space and worlds.
The magic of outdoor adventures as a family is that you learn to be at ease and enjoy each other. Tolerance. You really get to know each other, ha, a little too well! The trail in particular was gold for connection.
You walk for the most part of each day and with the rhythm of your steps and little eye contact, conversation flows easily. Everyone’s highs and lows are different but shared and tempered. You find space for yourself when you need it and ebb back towards the gang when you’re ready to connect or are keen to convoy again.
A: As a family, how did your dynamic change post-trip? Did it bring you closer with shared experiences, memories, and a shared passion to continue exploring the outdoors?
A: It’s nearly two years since we finished, and we’ve had a wild ride since then. Huge lows with the incessant stimulation of normal life; jobs, school, homework, housework, and activities.
The teenage search for identity is a huge challenge without life disrupted and moving to a new community, so some of that experience has been exacerbated for sure.
For us all the hunt for new connections and belonging takes time. We’re still settling in and finding our way. Overwhelmingly though, we all still feel nurtured by time together outside, moments spent sharing a meal and a card game.
We come back to that sense of how it felt on the trail, and it brings up stories and a fondness that we hope will never leave.
We hope you enjoyed part one, read part two of the interview.
If you would like to learn more about Sea to Summit’s collaboration with the Gerlach family, you can watch the full-length launch video below: