Have you ever had a moment where you feel like you’re watching yourself experiencing something, rather than experiencing it yourself?
On a very hot day in Cairns in January, I watched myself crawl into a tiny tin plane, ascend for 15 minutes at 12,000 feet and, in a heart-stopping moment, saw the plane door flung open.
Two things hit me at once. First, the noise. It sounded like the moment the wing flies off the plane in an action movie – scary and wrong. Second, the swirling vortex angrily raging at the door, trying to suck me out. And the fact that the next step was to fling myself out of it. That out of body experience ended very suddenly when I eased my legs out the door and found myself freefalling over the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.
When I applied for the Live Free Fund, I didn’t expect to be chosen, and the holiday of a lifetime to Australia felt more like a ‘wouldn’t it be nice?’ moment – a bit like when you fantasise about winning the lottery.
So, when I was told I was among the winning applicants in the fund’s inaugural year, it was wonderful but also surreal – ok, so this is really going to happen! I was a close friend of Zara’s, and knew she’d be wild with excitement and sharing all her recommendations with me.
Zara did a sky dive in New Zealand, and I’ll never forget all of us crowding round her desk to view her video on her return. I watched, hands clutched to my face and my heart in my mouth, whilst Z giggled and loved how shocked I was that she actually did it.
Her zest for life always floored me, and thoughts of her were with me as I plummeted to earth. I felt nauseous and nearly passed out on the way down but, as soon as I got onto solid ground I thought, “There you go Z, it’s done!”.
Zara loved Australia, and her go-getting, no holds barred, live-life-to-the-full attitude was what spurred me on to enter and do something so out of my comfort zone. I haven’t left the country since summer 2019, so the idea of embarking on a three-week holiday, travelling to four different cities and going on eight planes (nine, if you count the one I jumped out of!), was daunting to say the least.
My partner and I travelled from Melbourne to Sydney, the Gold Coast to Cairns, making memories for life as we did. We experienced a sunrise hot air balloon over the hinterland, we waved at so many tropical fish and spotted a leopard shark in the Great Barrier Reef. We saw in the new year watching the fireworks on a boat in Sydney Harbour, and stood in awe of towering trees in the world’s oldest rainforest. We swam on Bondi Beach, fed a kangaroo, and best of all for me, visited the spot where Zara’s ashes were spread at Manley Beach.
Zara’s last request was that we live for her, and having experienced this wonderful trip – Z, I’m pleased to tell you, I’m giving it a damn good try.
I’m really pleased to have raised £860 so far for the wonderful hospice that cared so well for Zara and her family in her final days. The link is still live if you’d like to donate. Severn Hospice is really quite small, so every penny makes a difference for them.
Thank you to WPR for providing the Live Free Fund as a way for me and my colleagues to live like Z. She’d love to know that her legacy sees people doing mad things in her honour, living like her – and living for her.
About WPR’s Live Free Fund
The Live Free Fund was established in 2021 in memory of a much loved colleague Zara Free.
Inspired by Zara’s passion for living life to the full, the Live Free Fund exists to make life-enriching experiences possible for members of the WPR team, creating opportunities for them to to broaden their horizons and grow as individuals.
Whether gaining a new skill or qualification, or making a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the world, the Live Free Fund encourages people to embrace things outside their comfort zones, keeping Zara’s spirit of curiosity and adventure alive at WPR.