Malc's 3000km Odyssey

One man's epic journey of connection and self-reflection
Found in: Stories
Malc's 3000km Odyssey

Malcolm Leask, aka “Malc”, started on the Te Araroa Trail in December 2022. 50 days later he completed the first massive odyssey – 1600km on foot from Cape Reinga to Wellington. Te Araroa is a trail from one end of Aotearoa New Zealand to the other. It's not your typical backpacking trail though. It's about connecting people, towns, and cities – which has been the perfect backdrop for Malc’s journey of raising funds for the Mental Health Foundation, while also taking time to reflect on his own mental health.

Malc’s employer, Online Distribution, is a corporate supporter of the Mental Health Foundation. The team is fully onboard with Malc’s journey. We had a chat with Malc while he was on the trail, to learn more about this incredible feat, and his plans to complete the full 3000km trail. 

Malc's 3000km Odyssey

Can you tell me a bit about your own mental health journey and what led you to embark on the Te Araroa trail? 

There are stressors in my life that weigh heavily on my mind, and part way through last year, it all became too much. They were seeping into my subconscious, and I didn’t like where it was leading me. I’ve always been a positive guy but that started to change. That’s when I knew I needed to do something about it. 

I’d known about the Te Araroa Trail for years – it’s always been a goal of mine. Suddenly though, it became something that needed to happen. I knew that I needed to take some time for myself to deal with everything that was going on in my head – away from the pressures of everyday life. Te Araroa was the solution. I knew it wouldn’t give me all the answers, but it would give me the opportunity to start searching for them, and that was enough. 

I know you set an intention to do a lot of self-reflection while you were doing the trail. What has this been like and what have you learnt? 

Everyone has a brain and therefore everyone has mental health. I think of my own brain as an old school office. Last year, there were lots of files and paperwork everywhere and it had become a bit of a mess. But Te Araroa has given me time to sort through it all. I’ve also realised that some things in my past have been misfiled – meaning that when they come up, I often get angry or upset. I’ve been reflecting on those experiences and refiling them so that when they do come up again, I react better. 

Mental Health Foundation

I have to ask about the 5kg ultralight backpack… how’s that been going? 

It has been interesting. Everything I’m carrying, minus consumables, is right on the 5kg mark. There are probably a couple of things I’d change but overall, I haven’t wished for anything extra on the way. I’m also still on my first pair of shoes which is a win! Most walkers would be onto their second by now. 

What does it mean to you to have a workplace that supports your wellbeing? 

It means the world to have Online Distribution support me on my journey. Not just giving me paid time off to complete it, but also fully understanding my need to do this. They’ve gone above and beyond. 

What do you think it’s going to be like returning to your everyday life after you’ve completed Te Araroa? 

I feel like I’m going to be in a much better space. I’m actually excited for 2023. Also, knowing that I’m only halfway through Te Araroa and that I still have the other half, the South Island, to complete, gives me something to look forward to. I’ve set myself some other goals to achieve this year too – big and small – and I’m excited to work at them afresh. 

Mental Health Foundation

Can you tell me about the people you’ve met and the kōrero you’ve had while on the trail? 

That’s been a big part of the journey, for sure. I’m not particularly a people person but this experience has pushed me out of my comfort zone, and for the better. 

There are three types of people you’ll meet on Te Araroa. The first are fellow walkers, a lot of them are walking for similar reasons and it’s really nice to share stories with each other. The second are the trail angels. These are people who live in and around the trail. They are the most kind-hearted, loving, and caring people – providing shelter, food, hot showers, electricity to charge your devices, and such. They make a huge difference. The third type you will meet is the general public. They’re genuinely interested in what you’re doing and make you feel like a bit of a rockstar. It’s been pretty cool for someone who is not typically a people person to have these conversations. It has made me proud to be a New Zealander. 

Mental Health Foundation

Help Malc reach his $5,000 goal by donating here.  

Mental Health Foundation