Sunday 22nd May 2022

Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #41 Johanna Castro. 43/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

So good to welcome Johanna (I know her as Jo!)  to share her story here this week. Jo, who is 62, is a regular blogger and writer who has been part of the international and Australian travel and writing scene for a long time. I am pretty sure Jo and I met (or at least saw each other in passing!) at Digital Parents Conference for Bloggers in Melbourne in 2012. So many people at that one and so many are no longer blogging but I have made many on-line and off-line friends thanks to occasions such as those – sadly none like them anymore- conferences and am always grateful for those connections made. Now it’s Jo who is sharing her story today.

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?


Courage is a funny thing.

  • As the ability to do something that frightens you, I think it presents itself in both big life changing ways and in small everyday incidents.
  • For some people it’s finding the courage to face life in the most warrior-like way when halted by heartbreaking or frightening setbacks.
  • For others it’s being able to summon up courage at points in their lives when if they didn’t they would surely spiral downwards and not recover from the problem.

And for some, courage has to be summonsed every day just to keep living.


Have I been courageous?  I would say no, not really.

Although in the overall scheme of things perhaps some people might disagree.

  • Was I courageous when I set off from England for the Continent aged 18 with a rucksack on my back and a guitar slung over my shoulder, waving the White Cliffs of Dover goodbye knowing not what to expect as I headed off to be a groom for a showjumping family in Belgium?

Was this in itself courageous?

  • Well, yes because I was young and shy and emotionally insecure and I was acting out of character and defying the status quo of what was expected of me.
  • But also, no not really, because many young people have set off on similar Dick Whittington quests to travel and see the world.
  • I was also deep down reaching for a new life to escape a situation that was beyond my control because domestic abuse tainted an otherwise idyllic childhood.
  • And this leap of faith into the unknown leaving privilege and fear behind, set the course for the rest of my life when moving countries became the status quo, through necessity rather than choice.



Some years later I met a geologist from South Africa when we were both backpacking in South East Asia.

When we married I half expected to always be adorned with pretty and priceless pieces of rock that he picked up during the course of his geological hammerings, and that we would be safely settled in England by the age of 40.

How wrong I was. The reality was that we would always be on the move. Project to project. Internationally. And geologists often go in at ground zero level when nothing, not even the houses to live in, have been built.

We’ve lived in the most remote situations.

  • A tiny caravan trawled to a spot high in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho next to a river which soon came down in flood. Here the mountain road was termed as ‘the road to hell and back’, the big wigs were helicoptered in, we drove.
  • I almost got away with swapping the outdoor Porta Loo they gave us for a palomino pony that a Basutho horseman brought by one day. At least until Dave and the village chief intervened.
  • On another occasion we went from the wide open spaces of South Africa, and a house with a large garden, to a flat the size of a postage stamp on the 22d floor of a high rise building in Hong Kong where I home schooled our children for a year because there were there was a two year waiting list for a place in schools on Lantau Island where we lived.
  • My wild African toddlers were not impressed with the tiny balcony or our tiny flat, but we learnt to love Hong Kong with a vengeance.

In the very early years of our marriage Dave was offered a job as a geologist in the foothills of the Himalayas and I was pregnant with our first child. Six months pregnant and we had an auction on the lawn. All our worldly possessions and furniture went up for sale – bar what we could fit in our suitcases.

Sam was just 5 weeks old when we set off to live at a remote project site between Kathmandu and Pokhara, reached along treacherous roads, where we were without a phone, 3 hours from the nearest Doctor, and where food supplies were scarce. We had to put water through a 5 point purification process in our tiny kitchen before it was drinkable, and our diet consisted mostly of dhal, bhat, tarkari (lentil, rice and vegetable curry.)

I ended up breastfeeding Sam for 21 months, Dave became very sick from combined dysentery and hepatitis, and I was desperately tired, worried and home sick most of the time – though baby Sam thankfully survived in a robust way!

So I guess I have been courageous, and although people might say I’m lucky (of course) I have also had to sacrifice geographical safety and family stability for a life of constant change. We’ve moved 21 times, 11 times internationally. A rolling stone gathers no moss, and I can definitely vouch for that.


How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Having the courage to leave your roots, your family and friends and continuously jump off a proverbial cliff into the unknown has changed me because in time I realised that I didn’t have to live constrained by the limitations of other people’s expectations, or the chains that society places on us.

I also learnt that leaping into the unknown with courage and energy will always throw up fantastic opportunities and exciting new horizons along with lovely new friendships.


Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Don’t be afraid to change direction.

There is no wrong direction.

Go boldly and you will find pots of gold that you never even expected.

You have to remember that your heart and your head can put up all sorts of obstructions if you dare to reach beyond your comfort zone, but sometimes you just can’t look at the possible problems that lie ahead, you just have to go for it – don’t question – just go with it.

“I can do this. I’ve got this. Let’s do it.”

It might be a fleeting thought, you might not even believe it when it first appears, but you have to hang onto it, expand it, and nurture it without putting up tons of obstacles.


Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Yes, definitely. And I hope so! But I guess it also depends on the sort of courage that’s required in the future.

When I had a melanoma on my back I fainted before the surgeon had even made his first cut, and blood tests of any sort always send my heart straight to my boots, and my head longing to reach down between my knees!


Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

You are stronger and more resourceful than you imagine.


Wow. What a traveller and story-teller from real life living you are Jo! I thought we had lived in some remote teaching spots in New South Wales but your experiences are winners “hands down”. What a ride you have had…and come up for air and can see the courage within too. As for procedures involving nasties like melanomas…you are entitled to deal with that in the way you did. Thank you so much for sharing an amazing story of LIFE lived by you.

Jo has a number of social media connections and they are all listed below for your investigation and following.


Social Media:

Blog/Website: and


Facebook Page (not personal account): and



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