At the beginning of 2018, Sophie Lewis had issues with her self-worth and was searching for a way to turn her life around. After struggling in school, she had developed a fear of learning and a lack of confidence that, following several personal challenges, had only gotten worse with time.
So when the avid traveller discovered a career that allowed her to combine her passion for adventure with being a positive influence for young people, Sophie knew she’d found the perfect path for her.
“My favourite job I ever had was working at a summer camp in Canada, but I could only do that for a few months of the year, and I wanted to create a solid life for myself in Australia, as I realised I was using travel as a way to run away from my problems,” Sophie said.
“Then one day I was talking to someone who worked in outdoor recreation and I asked them how they got in to the industry – I had never even heard of it in Australia. They said that they had studied a Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation at TAFE Queensland’s Mooloolaba campus, and I rang that day to enrol.”
During the course of her studies, Sophie learned the knowledge and skills she needed to kick start her career, from facilitating groups and conducting a range of outdoor activities to reading the land and interpreting weather conditions.
“My favourite thing about the course was that it was so hands on. The teachers understood that we were all active, outdoorsy people, so we spent the same amount of time out in the field as we did in the classroom,” she said.
But the biggest lesson Sophie graduated with is that she is stronger than she thought.
“I use the knowledge I gained from TAFE Queensland in the field every day, but even if I didn’t go into the industry, I’ve learned skills that will help me for the rest of my life,” Sophie said.
“When I first started, I had been through a lot in the few years prior and was a very broken person, but this course saved my soul. Deciding to study was the single best decision I have ever made in my life,” she said.
“My teachers reminded me what it feels like to have passion for what you do and taught me the magic of learning and the growth that studying provides. I loved that I could look back to the start of the year and see that I was a completely different person; at the start I was timid, scared and had no faith in myself and at the end I was whole, strong and dedicated.”
In just under 12 months of study Sophie rediscovered her confidence, and now the 28-year-old helps Sunshine Coast teenagers realise their potential as an outdoor recreation activity guide, landing work in the industry before she even graduated.
“It’s amazing working outside and being able to share my passion with teenagers. I wouldn’t even call it ‘working’; I get to do my hobby and money magically appears in my bank account,” Sophie said.
“I never thought it was actually possible to just do what you love and it not feel like work, but it really is.”
Data published by the Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business anticipates that the national demand for outdoor adventure guides will grow by 26.5 per cent over the next five years. If you’re looking to ditch the desk for a more active career, see where TAFE can take you in outdoor recreation.