By SOPHIE STONE.
Brando Yelavich, the New Zealander, better known as ‘Wildboy’ has achieved extraordinary things. The first person to walk the New Zealand coastline, Brando has now written a book, Wildboy detailing his experiences during his 600-day journey.
Despite all he has accomplished, Brando insists that he’s an “ordinary” person.
“Anyone can do it,” the twenty-one year old reveals. “I’m an ordinary person, it’s just the decisions I’ve made for myself are quite different and drastic. You just have to put your head in the right place and let the universe do the rest.”
Brando received a lot of support along his journey, achieving recognition among the New Zealand population, to the extent were he was invited by strangers to stay in their homes and was supplied with food and company from those he’d never met. This kind of reaction was unexpected by Brando, who grew up without witnessing this kind of hospitality. “I grew up in Auckland, not a great example of humanity. Now my faith in humanity is completely restored.”
He was also surprised by the support he gained during his goal to raise $10,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Trust, in the end raising more than $30,000. “I didn’t expect that, at all. My rule for self: I wouldn’t ask for money from anyone. I left the rest up to them, I didn’t want to pressure anyone. I don’t see myself as raising $30,000, I see them as having raised it.”
He also gained recognition on an international level, being written about in British newspaper The Daily Mail. “At the time, I didn’t know what it was,” Wildboy admits. “Then I saw a ridiculous amount of people following them. When I finished [the walk], life would never be the same. I didn’t think about that at the time, didn’t think about the recognition and people following me.”
So what inspired him to take on such a huge goal? Before the walk, Brando’s life had taken a downward spiral. After struggling in school due to ADHD and dyslexia, he dropped out, getting into drugs and ending up on the dole. He was rejected from the army for having dyslexia.
“What they don’t tell you at school is that … what [drugs] do to your body and mind is bad. If someone had told me I needed to change my life, I wouldn’t have listened.”
Brando found toom inspiration from American adventurer Christopher McCandless, who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992, and whose remains were discovered four months later. “He was kind of my inspiration to get up and do it. The whole idea was to do it for myself and change my life and open up opportunities for myself.”
Walking the coastline was not an easy task, however. Hunting for food, harsh terrain and facing long periods of isolation were all challenges Brando had to face.
“It was hard at first. Well, the first couple of days were fine, then it began to sink in that I would be gone for ages. I was meeting new people. I wouldn’t connect with them, it would be the same questions every night from total strangers, which was tough. I longed for a physical and emotional connection, which meant I got good at opening up quickly. When I was younger, I would’ve kept that hidden. It was therapeutic, like a counselling session that took 600 days.”
In moments of strife, there were always things that kept him going. “My mum told me, ‘if you want to come home, you have to walk’! In the beginning, my girlfriend Ella was a huge help. After we broke up, I had to find a reason in myself to continue, and then meeting my girlfriend Ngaio helped me continue. The people I was inspiring and helping kept me going.”
However it wasn’t all hardships and strife for the twenty-one year-old, and Brando describes his favourite moments during the experience. “At one stage I was in the bush, without any hunting equipment. I pushed through and came face-to-face with this huge deer. It didn’t run – it was so remote and wild, it was like it didn’t know to be scared of me. Also the beginning and end of every day, each sunrise and sunset; it was the small things that kept me going.”
What advice does Brando give for any aspiring wildboy (or wildgirl) wishing to tackle a similar feat?
“Just look positively at things instead of focusing on the negatives all the time. I had to learn that. Before the walk, I would have said a wildboy is a person who is strong, hard, crazy and stupid. Now, I would say you have to be open, emotional and in touch with yourself.”FOLLOW US...
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