Kate Campbell

antmandela Yoga


Moving Forward After Tragedy: Life and Business Inspiration with Aussie Kate Campbell

Kate is a resilient and inspiring yoga instructor, motivational speaker, and author who also appeared as a contestant on Channel Ten’s reality television series Survivor: Australia. After completing her Chartered Accountancy Exam, she worked as a financial analyst for over five years in the banking industry before pursuing her yoga passion full time.

In 2013 she published her memoir: My Story – A Path to Hope, after a horrific boating accident left her with debilitating mental and physical injuries. Kate now shares her story publicly around the world in order to help and inspire others by showing that with the right mindset, positive attitude, and sheer determination – anything is possible. I joined her for lunch at Magnific Rock, a resort perched on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean in Southern Nicaragua where Kate worked as the operations manager and lead yoga instructor. In the interview below, we discuss her journey, life philosophy, and career as an entrepreneurial-minded yoga instructor and speaker.

Also in this interview:

  • Leaving the corporate cubicle for life on the road as a yoga teacher
  • Yoga teacher training in Nicaragua
  • Life and work in Central America
  • How Kate overcame life-threatening injuries and used the experience to launch her career
  • Inspiration for entrepreneurs
  • Favorite book recommendations

Aussie accountant to yoga instructor in Central America

AM: Hi Kate! What brought you here to Nicaragua initially?

KC: I left Australia—and the corporate world—to study yoga and receive my teacher training certification in Northern Nica. I’d worked for five years behind a desk in an office setting, and was making good money, but had a very strong desire to do more to help others. I gave that question a lot of thought and decided I really wanted to make my impact through yoga and teaching. So, I quit the corporate world to become a yoga instructor! After my RYT training wrapped up in June of 2016, I traveled around the country to places like Ometepe, Leon, Popoyo, and San Juan Del Sur. It was during this time that I really fell in love with the country and people of Nicaragua.

I decided to peruse the website YogaTrails looking for any opportunities to begin teaching. Even though I was still green, I knew it was important to get in the classroom as soon as possible. That’s when I found the position here at Magnific Rock. They were looking for a hotel operations instructor with an instructor background. I never had the intention of going back to Australia, so I interviewed for the position—and in the process stumbled across one of the only hotels here that is owned by Australians! Six months later, here I am: teaching yoga, helping run yoga retreats, and assisting with the management of a hotel.

AM: What does a typical day look like for you? Or, if you don’t have a typical day, what are some of the things you find yourself doing most frequently?

KC: There is never a typical day here, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it. I oversee a number of work teams (maintenance, janitorial, guest services, etc.) and do my best to encourage my co-workers and team leaders to give their best efforts. I also provide a lot of training on how to deliver the “wow factor”—above and beyond service to our guests. And I really enjoy teaching the staff about yoga; most Nicaraguans don’t really practice yoga or know much about it, so it is helpful for them to be able to take some of the classes I lead so they have a better understanding of what the hotel guests are experiencing.

AM: When groups come in from other countries, are you the point person coordinating all of the logistics?

KC: Yes. Generally, it’s quite a long process from start to finish. I answer many questions over the phone and email before the group(s) arrive and then take point once the leader and students arrive on-site. The first day is always the hardest; people are often stressed from their travels and we do our best to make sure everyone is happy and gets settled in quickly. It is my goal to make sure our guest instructors and students are fully supported and that all of the events, meals, and activities run smoothly so the teachers can focus on their students and enjoy the tropical retreat setting. For many, it is their first time visiting Central America, and I personally love seeing their faces light up as they adjust to this magical place and explore the amazing environment!

AM: I’m curious how you would describe your teaching style. Would you mind sharing?

KC: I studied hatha yoga and chose to focus on hatha first because I viewed it as the building block for many of the other branches of yoga. Hatha is like the birthplace of modern yoga so I thought it would be better for me build on the hatha foundation and expand my practice from these roots. We get mostly beginner students here, so although I do usually incorporate a modified, energetic vinyasa flow into most of my classes, I pay close attention to what my students are able to do and what they most need to work on and then “workshop” different positions throughout the class—paying close attention to alignment. One of the ways I do this is by halting mid-flow sometimes and talking through the position the students are holding. This is especially helpful for beginners because they like to have things broken down into the basic movements or foundational building blocks of each pose.

I became a yoga instructor because I want to help people learn (or re-learn) how to move in their bodies. The older we get, the more out of tune we become. I find yoga to be such a good way to reconnect, especially after injury. And I also think it is incredibly important to incorporate more play into our lives.

tradgedy and recovery: Kate’s journey of healing and inspiration

AM: Speaking of injury, could you talk some about your life-threatening accident and recovery? You’ve shared this publicly, and I’d love to learn more about that story. How much of a role did that trauma play in your journey to date and how did that part of your story tie into the entrepreneurial work you do now with your life coaching and speaking businesses?

KC: I was in an extremely bad boating accident when I was 19 years old which forced me to re-learn my body from the ground up. How to move my hands and feet, how to walk…I guess you could say everything was new again. In all honesty, I had to come through a very dark place—I needed to re-learn who I was physically, mentally, spiritually. Overcoming these obstacles was what made me want to help others who had also been through trauma. After my recovery, I decided to publish a book about my experience and that is when I began speaking to groups of people.

AM: Are you comfortable sharing more of the detail surrounding your accident?

KC: Of course. I’m an open book about that sort of stuff. I was out with some friends on their boat and the driver crashed straight on into a pylon. In Australia, pylons are large wooden poles that are anchored into the ground and stick directly up in the water. I went headfirst through the windscreen and landed back into the boat, unconscious.

My first memory is from 10 days later when I woke up from a coma in the hospital bed in Perth. The doctors later told me that I had a one in a million chance of coming out of the coma. After waking, I underwent 10 and a half hours of emergency surgery. I had a broken ankle, fractured pelvis, collapsed left lung, shattered larynx, severed epiglottis, torn esophagus, fractured vertebrae, broken mandible, and lost seven and a half teeth.

AM: Wow, unbelievable. I’m not quite sure how to respond to that…

KC: Yeah, I guess you could say I am a very lucky girl in an unlucky kind of way.

AM: What was most helpful for you in overcoming some of those difficulties? I assume it was a very long recovery. How did you handle it?

KC: It was a five-year process from beginning to end physically, and emotionally it was an even longer journey. I truly believe the thing that saved my life was positivity. I believed in the power of positivity to get myself better, for my muscles to regenerate. I know that might sound cliché, but I honestly believe that if you have the right mindset you can change anything.

AM: How did you specifically get to that right mindset to have that kind of positivity? Were there any actions you took or things you did that were particularly helpful?

I believed in the power of positivity to get myself better, for my muscles to regenerate. I know that might sound cliché, but I honestly believe that if you have the right mindset you can change anything.

KC: That’s a good question. I wanted to give up many, many times. When I was in the hospital, I had to eat through a feeding tube for the first five months, and it was an incredibly hard realization to come to when, at age 19, you are told that you will probably never be able to talk or swallow correctly again. I reached a point where I really wished I hadn’t chosen to live. But instead of giving up, I chose to fight. I told myself I would set goals; really small goals.

For example, the average human swallows 1.5 liters of saliva a day. I was spitting 1.5L of saliva a day (since I couldn’t swallow). I had a bag that measured the amount of saliva and I refused to empty it until the end of each day so I could measure how much had accumulated. I set super small goals to reduce the saliva amount a little bit each day and did my absolute best to stay positive. This helped me feel a sense of accomplishment when I reached even the tiniest of goals.

I also worked with my speech therapist to exercise muscles I didn’t know even existed, and, very slowly over the course of months, was able to incrementally reduce the amount of saliva I was spitting to zero. From this experience I learned the power of setting small but achievable goals—something I believe is key in all areas of life.

AM: You wrote a book about your experience, was there anything unexpected that came out of writing about your journey and/or connecting with others as you shared your story?

KC: I wrote my story as a healing process, to close that chapter of my life. I didn’t expect to start speaking. And I had no idea that speaking would become one of my greatest passions. Motivating and inspiring others is the area of life where I now draw the most energy. I guess you could say it is ironic—I was told I would never speak again and now I’m quite keen on speaking as a future career. I love helping others; yoga is one way I can do this and speaking is another very powerful way that I can contribute as well.

Teaching background; book recommendations; advice
for entrepreneurs

AM: Thanks so much, Kate. Are there any books you have most shared with others or that have had the most profound impact on your life?

KC: Do you know the author Paulo Coelho? He’s one of my favorites. I read the Alchemist when I was at a low point in life and firmly believe that if I hadn’t followed his advice about pursuing my own personal legend, that I wouldn’t be here today.

AM: How about any teachers or mentors that have played a significant role in your life or had a positive impact?

KC: Well, in the teacher/student arena, my yoga teacher trainer, Kimberly Waug, who I trained with at Radiant Life Yoga Center in Northern Nicaragua has had a big impact. She broke down every specialty area, from anatomy to teaching methods, in a very accessible way. And she taught everything herself, which is something I really respect. Outside of that, I would say my parents are my greatest sources of inspiration and mentors. They have always been there for me, no matter what.

AM: What would you say has been one of the most worthwhile investments you have ever made? This could be an investment of time, money, energy, etc.

KC: Recently, overcoming my hesitations and taking the leap to come to Nicaragua (to pursue my teacher training) was a big investment that I’m so glad I ended up making. The best investments I have ever made have been in myself. Taking time and energy to uncover my gifts and to look deeper into how I can better help others has been especially important. I believe the best thing you can do in life is to find your gift and then give it away.

AM: In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

KC: Taking the leap and following my own “personal legend” as Coelho put it. Deciding not to just do what society tells me to do. Study for a university degree. Get a good job. Buy the house. Find a wife or husband. I’ve decided to follow the path less traveled and to pursue some more of the things that resonate most deeply with me. Honestly, I don’t know what the “right” path is necessarily, but I do believe everyone’s path is uniquely different, and that it takes a significant amount of time, energy, and effort to uncover and stay on the most fulfilling path for you personally.

AM: You decided to leave a stable, well-paid corporate job in banking/finance. How did you know when it was the right time for you to strike out on your own? What went into that decision?

KC: There never is a right time. It’s a matter of embracing the fear and then taking the leap. Because if you don’t, you’ll end up wondering “what if” for the rest of your life. I don’t mean for this to sound cliché, but, if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

AM: Knowing what you know now, if you were speaking to someone who was thinking about striking out on their own, what advice might you pass their way?

KC: Trust in what is right by you, for you. Not what society tells you, not what your parents tell you, not what your partner says, not what your friends do. And really trust, even though it’s scary as hell. Embrace the fear and don’t look back.

Embrace the fear and then take the leap. Because if you don’t, you’ll end up wondering “what if” for the rest of your life.

AM: This next question is on the lighter side. Do you have any unusual habits or absurd things that you love?

KC: I’m really attracted to color; whenever I see color in fabric or artwork, I’m very drawn to it. When I take a photo I need to touch it. I love, love, love color—it just lights up the world!

AM: What has been your favorite part of being in Central America so far? Why would you recommend this area as a great place for people to visit and vacation?

KC: Like you said earlier, it’s a magical place. You can’t really put your finger on it at first, but once you take the time to explore and meet the people here, you are pulled in and fall in love with the culture and beauty. I love the ocean and the resort where I’m working now is on a cliff overlooking some of the best surfing spots and beaches in the country. If you turn around and look out your window you can see the pelicans crashing into the shimmering ocean surf and you’re looking at the awe-inspiring, wildlife-filled jungle behind. Central America, especially Nicaragua and Costa Rica, should be everyone’s must-see list!

AM: Kate, Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with me. I really appreciate it. What is the best way for people to find out more about what you are doing and connect?

KC: Thank you for stopping in for a visit, I really enjoyed the chat. My Instagram page is probably the best place to get in touch with me at the moment.

AM: Best of luck with your upcoming projects and all of your future endeavors. I look forward to staying in touch!

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