Melbourne, Australia

There is something transcendent about your first time getting lost while backpacking in a foreign country.

Lost due to perplexing maps in a language that you’ve only just started to learn from an app while on the plane. Lost due to eager cab drivers who take you to their cousin’s restaurant, not the one you dog-eared in your trusty travel guide. Lost and marooned due to transportation strikes, missed connections or outdated timetables.

But to the seasoned traveler, the art of becoming lost is the best way to travel. In fact, some argue that this mode is the only way to open yourself up to new experiences, to truly immerse yourself in a new place. To these travelers, feeling displaced and out of your element is expected—and complete surrender should be the ultimate goal. Rebecca Solnit, seasoned traveller, feminist and thinker expands on this idea in her Field Guide to Getting Lost:  “To lose yourself: a voluptuous surrender, lost in your arms, lost to the world, utterly immersed in what is present so that its surroundings fade away.”


Our very own Mary Brannock, ambassador for Women’s eHealth, has embarked on a health advocacy initiative to “map” the international women’s health landscape. She has on her agenda to forge valuable connections with NGOs, nonprofits and educational & research institutions. Her solid background rooted in cultural anthropology and her active commitment to deeply listen, learn and fully understand the challenges that all women face when it comes to quality and access to healthcare are remarkable. Mary’s verve reflects Women’s eHealth’s core values, what we stand for. And she has the hearty spirit to travel solo—what better way to observe the current state of women’s healthcare, document the existing efforts and brainstorm with other like-minded individuals innovative solutions that will deliver results—where resources and quality care are most desperately needed?

Here’s the good news: Mary and her moss green 45-liter-capacity backpack have already gotten lost. On her first day off American soil.


Go get lost, Mary. We got you.


Some travelers get lost by just “walking too far,” which in Mary’s case did not put too much of a wrinkle in her plans.

She got curious and stumbled upon the Shrine of Remembrance on Saint Kilda Road in Melbourne, Australia, the first city on her international journey that began in Victoria, Australia and will end in Lima, Peru. Other pins on her itinerary include South East Asia, Europe and South America.

It’s apparent why she’s intrigued by the shrine. The massive grey stone monument is striking from a distance, situated on high ground. The pleasing smell of botanical gardens and wet dew beckon to her. Paved terraces encircle the structure, rimmed by lush gardens and a glassy reflecting pool. The girth of carved lions pulling the weight of chariots with upright armored warriors guard the perimeter. It’s downright majestic. According to the shrine’s website, it is “the National War Memorial of Victoria, a monument dedicated to all those who have served in the armed conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australia has participated.”

To Mary, this walk “off the beaten path” also gave her an opportunity to reflect on the generosity of the city, while getting her bearings. She reflects that “people were very kind and wanted to help me find her way back to the hostel. I had just walked too far.”

For our traveller, the city of Melbourne resonates with the words: Vibrant, Upbeat, Kind.


Back at her hostel, Mary experienced firsthand a warm, diverse and loving group of travellers from Germany, Mexico, Netherlands and New Zealand. She instantly felt included in their fold and was comfortable discussing the impetus for her “quest”—to have frank conversations about the state of women’s health: both on a personal level, and on a global scale. She polled a fellow hosteller about their thoughts. They agreed that this work is important and intriguing—but admitted to feelings of discomfort when talking about topics such as menstruation and breastfeeding.  Feelings of discomfort discussing the natural functions of women’s bodies. In a hostel in Australia? A place known for the most free-thinking people in the world?

This is just the beginning of the conversation.   


6am sharp. Met a German woman this morning having breakfast. Dressed in bright orange, she was gearing up for a long day of trade work. She’s a carpenter.

Mary’s conversation with this female german hosteller opened her eyes to a new way of living, being a “tradey,” a profession that, hands down embraces the fear of the unknown. Tradey’s take short-term odd jobs in various trades to enable them to fill their font of rich experiences in new countries, while still scraping together a living. Mary is inspired by this: a lifestyle that appears to be impossible, absolutely possible. Especially in the force of nature of her breakfast partner, who upfront said that being a tradey is typically male dominated, but she is relentless about survival and will go to any lengths to hustle for the next job, no matter her sex. She can always find work with her skills and go anywhere. Next month she’s going to Japan.

Gender bias is not going to stop her from traveling the world.


Solnit reminds us: “To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”

We are confident that experiencing new people and new modes of living will open our eyes at Women’s eHealth. Our ambassador is honest, open and willing to go there. We stand behind her journey—one that will be a rich, insightful well to draw from—as we create an aligned action network of programs and innovative healthtech solutions to address our key questions:

  • How to make available quality and accessible healthcare to women?
  • How to empower women from underserved countries & provide them with these desperately needed resources?

We are dedicated to contributing to the dynamic conversation serving the wider women’s health community and the ehealth landscape. United, we have the power to truly change the world by connecting with other advocates across the globe. We invite you to join us on our website, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Stay tuned for updates on this blog on Mary’s experiences, informed insight and hope for the future of women’s health.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda SipesBill DiNomeZach Cioffi and Mary Brannock with lead writer Beth Roddy.

One Response to “Get Lost: Surrender to the Unknown”

  1. Susan Brannock

    Bravo! I love your articles! It helps me feel close to my baby girl! Love, her mom, Mary calls me “Moo”.