Thursday, March 06, 2008

Turning a Dream Into Reality

(Note:Here is an real life inspiring story of a daring woman, a disability and a dream). MediaMensch will be featuring authors from now on both on our blog and on our new radio show at

Jeanne May's Inspiring Story and Journey To Outer Mongolia

When did you decide to live your dream of visiting Outer Mongolia?
Wednesday, November 10, 1993 -- at dinner with a friend and a woman I had only met once before. Early in the evening, Sally (we were at her place and I had only met her once before) was talking about her recent trip to Tibet... one thing led to another and at some stage I mentioned something about Mongolia and Sally immediately said " Why not go there??" my immediate response was: no way... I thought she was kidding and would leave it at that -- but Sally is into dream analysis and has been for many years. She kept saying “why don't you?” After a couple more drinks, my protests faded and the three of us that night decided to go to Mongolia. And at that point... I knew my life would never be the same again.

What was the most empowering aspect of having a life long dream become a reality?
It broke through my limiting beliefs about what I was capable of doing. It also broke through many other people's limiting beliefs about me – many of my family and friends and doctors were very vocally opposed to me going -- I even got told I was irresponsible, and I should not be contemplating it given my physical challenges and enormous breathing problems.
The most empowering thing about it is that I know anything you really want to do badly enough... you can do it, no matter what your circumstances are.
If I can turn my dream into a reality... anyone can

What delightful surprises occurred, and what unforeseen obstacles presented special insights that you might not have otherwise encountered?
Many delightful surprises -- our guides and the people who looked after us (drivers, interpreters, tour guides) in China and Mongolia -- took us into their hearts as we did them. We built up incredibly strong and trusting relationships very quickly with them.My 40th birthday celebrations (by the Mongolians) -- that was so exquisitely beautiful. Touching the Great Wall of China -- it was one thing I never anticipated I would actually do. Managing really well without speaking the language.
We were our own group -- we were not part of a tour group because we needed to have as many things wheelchair accessible as possible -- our needs (my needs) were very different to what tour guides/travel agents were used to! Part of the delightful surprises were that we were taken to places regular tourists didn't go to and experienced things that were not on the tourist itinerary.

Obstacles -- it seemed every country we went to there were many obstacles. But that's what
travelling is all about!

Many obstacles I had to resolve long before I went e.g. getting a suitable wheelchair for travelling, getting portable breathing equipment, getting an alternative to electricity. Also obstacles related to people's negative reaction to me going.

While away... some of the obstacles included:
our visa to Mongolia was not available in Beijing -- we thought this was all organised before we left -- but it was a major hiccup which put the rest of the trip in jeopardy.My breathing equipment spat the dummy bigtime in Inner Mongolia which again threatened the rest of the journey.
Not being able to travel the Mongolian border by vehicle... coupled with my breathing equipment problem, meant that we had to catch the train which meant our schedule pickup at the other end had to be changed at very short notice -- fairly dubious few hours I can tell you!
In Outer Mongolia our tickets to leave the country were not in our name.

Wheelchair access was difficult all throughout.
Electricity going off at our Hotel in Outer Mongolia for an unknown length of time -- we were on the 8th floor! My bell I had bought was confiscated at the airport as we were leaving Mongolia -- caused a major drama! But all obstacles were faced and dealt with... and it was all part of the journey. It made us stronger.

Is there any advice you give someone who’s stuck listening to the inner voice saying…dream on…you can’t do it?
Make a stronger inner voice speak "I can do it!"... quiet all the negative talk -- listen to it and see if it is guiding you to plan more carefully, to do things more deliberately, and thoroughly. But the overriding advice is to use the negativity as a learning experience not as something that says I can't do this!

All of the negativity I gave myself and heard from others just made me stronger.

For the sake of readers, could you give a brief synopsis of Outer Mongolia—specifically describing ways that demonstrate fulfilling a life long dream and how fulfilling that is?
In essence, this book is about a journey to Outer Mongolia. It tells of a fantasy which became a reality. For many years, Outer Mongolia had been a place I would retreat to in my mind when I wanted to get away from the hassles and demands of daily life. It represented a real spiritual haven for me.

My fantasy was going to Mongolia but my reality is that I was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which left me dependent on a wheelchair, with limited strength and significant breathing problems. Travelling such a long distance from Australia to a relatively closed country like Outer Mongolia should not have been considered an achievable goal given my health and mobility challenges, but the beckoning of Mongolia was far too strong.

OUTER MONGOLIA...No longer a fantasy has an important message for everyone: that if you truly believe in doing something, and if it is meant to be, then anything is possible, whether you are disabled or not.

Contrary to what seemed to be the logical and sensible thing to do... on July 15, 1995, Ro, Sally, Pat, Fred and I embarked on a fantastic journey... to Outer Mongolia. Together we flew eight times, travelled on the Trans Mongolian Railway, drove through and over the Gobi Desert in a bus, slept in tents on the steppes of Mongolia, touched the Great Wall of China, slept in a yurt, and saw a yak. We visited countries, saw places, met people, and experienced things we never thought possible.

What is your next big dream?
I have two big dreams:
1) provide information, inspiration, guidance and support to others to turn their dream into reality.

2) Mongolia did so much for me and I want to give back to them. The best way I can do this is to donate every dollar I receive from the sale of my book to the Developing Countries Aid Fund (DCAF) Asia -- Mongolia, which is administered by the Red Cross.
So my big dream is to sell 10,000 copies of my book -- for the people of Mongolia.

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