A few friends will remember that I had planned a trip around America and Canada for a charity. I was going to go to Canada first, find some work, save up, and then travel around, maybe even visiting other countries. All doing this to raise awareness and funds for a charity.
I was deadly serious about it too, I had bought my Working Holiday Visa to Canada, got police certificates for it, set up a page, I even got a few people invested, including a few celebrities – at least they shared my posts.
But, due to personal reasons, I had to cancel it all. And I felt defeated that I failed and let people down.
I was also met with a lot of negative criticism from friends and family. “Why don’t you do something smaller?” “Do you even have a plan?” I had lots of people think that I was just after money from them when I asked for support, but in reality I just wanted them to help share the word, to show that they were rooting for me and wanted me to succeed.
I lost friends over it. And I felt like I had proved them right; I failed.
I never stopped thinking about it, what I missed out on, the friends I lost, it still eats away at me. But I also never stopped believing that one day, I would do it! I’ve always been one with big ideas, and yes, a lot of times they don’t work out, but I also believe that people can do big and amazing things if they work and persist. And I want to be one of those that didn’t give up, and made a different!
So, I am planning it all again!
This time I plan to go to America on a food, bike and car tour, raising awareness and funds for charities that support world hunger, mental health and/or child abuse.
Most people know I love my cars, having tinkered with most of the cars I have owned, from basic maintenence such as services or timing belt changes, to going mad and stripping it for track. I also love my bikes, having wanted to get my bike licence for years but keep putting it off due to the costs. I love the naked, deep sounding Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs (the Triumph Bobber Black is on my Christmas list!)…and of course, who doesn’t like food?
As for the charities, mental health is extremely important to me, as I have had, and to some small extent, still suffer with mental health issues myself. I had selective mutism when I was a child (to read more about this, I wrote a post about it here), which caused no end of probelms growing up, even to this day it causes a few issues. I then developed depression and anxiety because of it.
And of course, stopping world hunger and child abuse are both important to me too.
For this trip, I plan to set up a YouTube channel to document it, setting little challenges for myself along the way, so that people can watch my progress. I plan to visit sites of interest, places like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, watch a Monster Truck show, try out an electric motorbike, eat at the best food joints, whether that’s street food, restaurants, maybe even try wild hunting, I plan to find the best roads to travel down – yes, Route 66 may very well be on the list, maybe even meet a few interesting people – I have a few in mind, if I can pull it off.
It’s going to be big, requiring a lot of planning and it’s going to cost a lot, I know that. It might not work out the way I plan, but either way, I plan on going one way or another. I have to.
I also may not be going alone. As I have been discussing the idea with a friend of mine who is also very interested in going. He’s a massive foodie and car nut himself, and loves America!
Planning might take a while, as there is a lot to sort, and I have just signed a 12 month contract with work (that’s a story for another day!), so I have plenty of time to plan, make contacts and save. I also have yet to get my bike licence! I also plan on getting a few sponsors, such as travel companies, bike/car companies, even clothing companies, if I can.
Either way, I am extremely excited to start off this new adventure, to visit more of America, experience new things, meet new people, and most importantly… make a difference!
I don’t get many questions about why the name “The Girl Who Whispered”, but I have had a few comments that have been made in poor taste, so I want to just explain where the name comes from, why I use it and why some of these jokes are in bad taste.
Short answer: I had selective mutism as a child.
Selective mutism is defined as “a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure and relaxed.” – Referenced from https://selectivemutismcenter.org/whatisselectivemutism/
I had no idea there was even a defined term for this until only a few years ago!
When I was a young child, I was bullied. I had red hair and freckles and I was quite reserved and quiet. There are a lot of other complex situations that made me the way I am, and I don’t personally have all the answers, nor do I feel completely comfortable explaining them.
But I will explain that I think it started after a particular issue in Primary School. I remember it quite well, considering I was probably only about 5 at the time. I remember being in a classroom with a load of other children, we were all playing, having a down time or something. There was a particular child, a boy, who decided to rearrange the tables and chairs, but he was deliberately trying to trap me in them, deliberately singling me out. It was at this time that the teacher called us all over, but this boy kept moving the tables and chairs so I couldn’t get out. I think I was the one who got told off for not listening to the teacher, but she failed to notice I wasn’t ignoring her, I was being trapped by this bully.
Somewhere in my little brain I decided enough was enough, after all the years of adults not listening to me, I went into remission.
I stopped talking.
I refused to talk to the teacher. My friends.
Even my parents.
I went home that day and my mum didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking to her. My dad got home from work and he didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking.
I had developed selective mutism.
My parents tried in a few ways to help me, one of which was to send me to a different Secondary School than the other kids. Most of the kids, after completing Primary School, went to one Secondary School. I went to a completely different one. It didn’t work though.
And by then, because the issue hadn’t be addressed properly, it evolved. As a pre-teen and eventually a teen in Secondary School, I had difficulty trying to express myself because of my selective mutism and in the end I found a new way to communicate; by whispering.
I had become The Girl Who Whispered.
Of course, this had it’s own issues. A lot of times people would assume I just had a bad throat and lost my voice – not that I corrected them. I had more children bullying me because I was now different. I had teachers trying to fix me. I had my parents and friends trick me into talking. I had issues with communicating still. Issues with grades. Social issues. And I developed a few bad habits from the social issues (avoidance for example).
My selective mutism didn’t really go away until I became a young adult, when I was about 17 years old when I left school and went to college. All the kids in the class were new, no one knew who I was (until I met one kid who was at my old Primary School, which I remember vividly, but I just hoped he didn’t remember me!)
But I finally had a voice. And some really bad social skills!
Meeting up with old friends, or bumping into those I went to school with was extremely awkward, but I eventually “grew out” of my selective mutism and started talking to them all properly.
A lot of my newer friends didn’t even know about my previous issues. It’s only until recently in the last few years that I started talking about it and opening up.
Also, my selective mutism not only gave me issues with social skills, but I also developed depression and anxiety. Most of my life has been difficult. Even now I get bad days. But the bad days are easier to deal with now, because I kept fighting. I learn to recognise when days got bad. Found healthier coping mechanisms. And grew emotionally.
The ironic thing is, when I was a child, if I got passionate about something you couldn’t shut me up about it (even as an adult). But when I had selective mutism, I lacked that basic need, to have a voice, to speak up for myself.
It still haunts me now, my past, what happened to me as a child. And I’m slowly getting over it, learning social skills, communicating properly, and finding ways to get over my weaknesses (social situations for example).
This is one of the reasons why I write. It’s a silent voice. Because when I was a child, not only did I love reading (as a form of escapism from the real-world I hated so much), but writing was my way of communicating easily. When computers became popular, I used to sit for hours on Instant Messenger, MySpace and Chat rooms, it was a way of being normal for a change – no one knew I didn’t talk properly. I would also write stories, build my own little universe to escape to.
I, one day, would also love to do something where I’m not sat behind a computer screen with written words. I actually love to sing and I have a huge interest in acting.
I remember the first time I actually got to “stand up” and sing to an audience, and although it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, as I just stood on a tour bus in Brooklyn. But, my goodness, I will never forget that. And I’m so glad my friend got that picture (see below).
This is me singing on the tour bus. For more photos of me, scroll to the bottom of the post! 🙂
Acting is another thing I wouldn’t mind to do – although I’m realistic, I can’t see it really happening, everyone wants to be an actor! – because not only are you speaking out, saying your lines, but you’re also pretending to be someone else… something I wished a lot when I was a child. I wished so often to be anyone else but Penny. (Update: Since writing this blog post, however, I am planning a tour of America, for charity… and I will be filming it!)
Now, though, I embrace it. I embrace who I am and what I went through as a child. It made me who I am today. Okay, I still have a few quirks and flaws, but I hate to imagine who I would be now without it.
I may never have travelled to Australia. I may never have abseiled Forth Rail Bridge. I may never have walked across Sailsbury Plain. I may never have got my Bachelor’s Degree or my Master’s Degree. I may never have met all the interesting people over the years. I may never have flown a plane. I may never have fired that brown bess musket.
And, of course, I may never have become a writer and an author and I may never use my writing to help others.
I am Penny Hooper.
And I am The Girl Who Whispered.
I use this designation to hopefully inspire people.
Keep fighting, guys! ❤
P.s. If you think you know someone who has selective mutism, please try encourage them to get professional help. Do not try to “shock” them into talking. Do not simply assume it “will go” that “it’s a phase”. If it’s lasting more than a few weeks or months, then it could develop into something more serious. Unless you are a professional who understands selective mutism, do not attempt to fix it! I wished my parents or teachers did more, they didn’t, and it got worse and had a negative impact on my life.
P.P.s The song I sang on the tour bus was “Innocent Eyes” by Delta Goodrem.
Here are a few other photos of me over the years:
As always, if you liked this post, please do give it a like, and feel free to comment. I’m always happy to hear from people, old and new! 🙂
A while ago I mentioned I was going to do a virtual challenge, run through ‘Race at your pace’… well, it’s now July and I am still signing myself up to the challenges!
I have only been doing the walking challenges so far, but I hope to work my way up to the running and swimming. Maybe in the future I will do cycling too… when I have the money to get a pushbike. But so far I am happy with walking, as it encourages myself to get out and not be lazy staying in doors all day.
They’re relatively easy too, the website is pretty straight forward, you can submit your evidence through the website, you get email reminders but not too many (a half-way point and a submit your evidence email) and you can submit different types of evidence. Send in a screenshot of your fitbit app or other health app on your phone, or you can just simply keep tabs in a document and send that in. I had an old Windows Phone for a while where apps just didn’t work on it, so I would keep track using my (cheap) fitbit, taking photos of it after each night and then add it to my excel spreadsheet. Luckily now I have an old Samsung which is a little friendlier with apps and connected an app to my (cheap) fitbit.
There is a Swimming pool not far from me, and I’m starting to wonder if I should do a swimming challenge one… maybe I’ll do a running one first. Just to get out of the walking medals.
But I’d definately recommend the company. There are others too, which I am curious about, especially ‘The conqueror’, but right now I’m happy with Race at your pace.
(the last one sounds interesting, as you can run/walk a certain distance that matches a length of a particular area, such as Hadrian’s Wall, Aples to Ocean, English Channel, etc. and the medals match these).
P.s. Check out my website, it’s had a small update, and more updates will soon follow! Some big changes are going to happen soon!
A while ago I signed myself up for a charity walk with The HALO Trust, which involved a 34km walk along the Salisbury Plain Training area. The challenge (Safe Steps) was to help raise money (and awareness) to reduce landmines around the world.
On the 25th, myself and my partner completed it! (Pictures below)
…And were we regretting signing up for it at the end of the day! Sore from the waist down, blisters on our feets, sunburn because we both forgot suncream and weren’t expecting the sun to be that strong! And in much need of a cup of tea (or something stronger!)
But now that I have recovered (almost, still a bit of sunburn!), I am glad I completed it! It’s an amazing charity and we managed to raise ~£310 (also expecting another £30 soon!) in total.
I am a little disappointed we didn’t manage to raise the £500 total, but the £310-£340 is still a good chunk, and along with all the other walkers (505 in total), I am confident they managed to raise a decent amount on Saturday!
Now, here are some photos from the day! (Photos are my own, if you wish to use them, please get in touch!)