• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

Australia, Chapter 8 - A Little Dirt Never Hurt (it might just save your ass!)

Updated: Jan 31

I’m so thirsty.

I lick my lips but I can’t make any saliva in my mouth.

My lips are cracked and dry.

I’m standing in a desert in the Outback, shielding my eyes from the blazing Australian sun.

My brain is foggy, I reek of sweat and my legs are shaking. It must have been from running but I can’t remember.

“How did —” I’m cut short by the sight of my own legs. They’re a mess, cuts and scrapes and bloody. I don’t recognize myself.

The world has gone gray and I can’t hear anything as we continue to walk following the dried-up river bed hoping it will lead us back to camp.

They must be worried. We have been missing since yesterday afternoon. I’m sure they are out searching for us…I hope. How long can you survive without food or water?

Suddenly something startles me.

John is on the ground on all fours digging at the ground like a dog burying a bone.

What the hell is he doing?

I want to say something but I’m too exhausted to even speak words.

He keeps digging…with wild energy and panting. His eyes don’t look up, they only stare at the ground that his brown fingers keep pushing the dirt away from making a hole.

Oh no, he’s snapped. The dehydration and heat of the sun have made him mad.

Then the dirt he’s digging starts to change color. It’s getting darker and darker then turns into mud.

MUD! My weak brain starts to work. Mud is made from water!

“I can’t breathe,” I gasp realizing what he’s trying to do.

The deeper he goes the watery the mud becomes until it’s dirty water.

Then suddenly John stops.

He’s looking at the dirty muddy water and he falls face-first into the brown mixture sucking the water through his teeth.


He then looks up at me and with a huge smile, looking like Heath Ledger in the movie The Patriot exposing his black dirty teeth.

I nervously laugh.

He looks at me, “Your next”

I look at the hole with the brown muddy sludge and contemplate. Are we in this much danger that we will risk catching some god-awful disease that might kill me in a couple of days if we don’t make it back to camp or worse too far from a hospital? The thought of dying out here is beyond my capacity. I will die if I don't hydrate.

It’s been more than twenty-four hours since any of us have had any water or something to eat. We are all looking very weak and sickly. Maybe this is that occasion, that moment in time, you need to do the unthinkable just to stay alive. Was I that person? Can I do this? Do I have what it takes to stay alive? They call this survival psychology or the "will to live." Why is it some people have it and others don't? Why do some people just give up and die?

“Come on, Barbara…drink”

I kneeled over the muddy hole... staring down.

“Just clench your teeth together and suck” John demands out of desperation.

I slowly lower my head, looking one more time at John to be sure I’m doing the right thing.

His face and gestures encouraging me to do it.

He must know what he’s doing. He’s Australian for Christ's sake.

Be calm, but all I could hear was my heart beating.

I squeezed my eyes shut, face plant, and give it a hissing suck.

The dirt fills my mouth and I can hear the crunch of pebbles hitting my teeth…

Then the moist soil touches my lips.


I feel reborn. I can hear again, the wind, the birds, the trees swaying. I can see again…colors.

“Thank you” my heart fills with gratitude.

I stand back up.

I smile at John, just as he smiled at me, with my dirt-covered teeth.

We all start laughing.

Next, it was Marty and then Peter’s turn.

We sit and rest under a tree but we know we can’t stay long; we need to keep moving if we hope to get back to camp before dark. I don’t want to think about spending another night out here.

Easing myself back up, I start to walk down the river wash and one at a time the guys start to follow me.

We must have hope.

We must make it back…


This is a true story that chronicles my rebellious journey when I was 24 years old backpacking around the world looking for solace after the end of an abusive marriage (ok to escape). An intensely graphic and heartfelt memoir of self-discovery is about how getting lost can be where you belong, how traveling to new cultures and meeting new people helps you heal (they don't judge), find your voice and remember who you really are and want to be. It is certain to inspire anyone who has ever woken up in a life they don’t want to be in. Many life lessons and some bad decisions (sorry Mom) along the way. Buckle in! It's going to be a bumpy ride.

xoxo, Barbara

Barbara Murphy-Shannon, Psy.M. is a Mindset Breakthrough Business Coach for Entrepreneurs and Leaders. Reach out at Barbara@barbaramurphyshannon.com