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Madeline Zotter pleads for an end to abusive online messages - http://travelporn.info | luxury travel sites

April 8, 2018 8:26 am
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FROM waterfalls to caves and beaches, Madeline Zotter posts images of incredible locations around Australia to her inspiring Instagram page.

The 22-year-old traveller from Waterfall Wandering has attracted more than 11,000 followers as she continues to explore — and share — the best holiday spots around the country.

And while at first glance it may seem that she is living the dream, Madeline has revealed a darker side to her idyllic travel posts after becoming the target of online abuse lately. Why? For naming so-called “secret” spots.

Now, she’s begging for people to think twice before posting awful comments to others online, writing on her Instagram page: “I’m just going to kindly ask if everyone with an unkind, negative or straight up nasty thought to please stop.

“This weekend alone I received four abusive, unkind or negative messages because I wrote the location of a place. I am human, your words hurt and I spent a good part of my Easter — and this morning — crying.”

“Waterfall Wandering has been an outlet for the past three years but now it is the main reason I have been sad recently. I understand that people don’t want an area becoming trashed, however to find any of these spots you just need to log onto a NSW NP (national park) website and look up the area (so they’re not really that secret).

“It has also come to my attention that if I ever stick up for myself by saying this it means I am a ‘brat who humiliates people’. It needs to stop #wordsareweapons.”

Madeline, who is originally from Wollongong, NSW, but moved to the country town of Narrabri six month ago, told news.com.au that she started her Instagram page for a very personal reason.

“When I was in high school I suffered pretty bad depression and anxiety due to bullying. I got to the point where I tried to end my own life,” she said.

“I was found unconscious on my bedroom floor by my older sister, who thankfully was a nurse. I was in an induced coma for a period of time and it was said to be a miracle I survived.

“For a long time after this I was very upset I didn’t successfully end my own life and didn’t believe life was going to get better. I tried so many things to create a better mindset for myself however, the one true place I felt grounded was in the outdoors.”

Hiking quickly became an outlet for Madeline, who now works as an early childhood educator, and a coping mechanism.

So she decided to share her inspiration with the world and encourage others to get outdoors more often too.

“In 2015 I decided to create an Instagram page as a place to share my regular hiking trips and the impact time spent outdoors had on my wellbeing. It initially was as a positive account, often receiving messages from followers saying thank you for inspiring them to get outdoors and exploring the area.”

However, lately she has started receiving some less than glowing messages on her page.

“Sadly in the last year spending time outdoors has turned into an exclusive club and almost a competition. In the past few months I have received almost 20 abusive messages from fellow hikers for revealing the names of locations.

“I have been called words such as a brat, told I am the reason for National Parks being trashed and was even told to go back and stick my head under the water a little bit longer. Purely because I listed the name of the place that others believe should be kept a secret.”

While Madeline says she understands why people want to keep certain locations under the radar of tourists, she said the places she named can be easily located online.

“While I understand these individuals point of view in terms of places becoming trashed and over populated but I found the directions to all these places on NSW National Parks websites and books,” she said.

“So they are not private property, they are places that have been developed for everyone to explore and I believe if I can easily find it on Google giving out the name isn’t a crime. I understand my page has 11,000 followers so among sharing locations I also share the importance of taking your rubbish home and eliminating single use plastics from your life.”

Madeline said she also writes warnings about hikes that require experience, gear and knowledge — so any dangers are clear.

She also organised a clean-up at a popular location in Belmore Falls, NSW, where over 15 strangers showed up to help carry out large amounts of rubbish.

“I have a genuine passion for the environment and believe everyone deserves an equal chance to explore it. Sure there are going to be some who won’t respect it and that is a shame for those who have a genuine interest in the environment.

“So overall I believe if it’s a National Park, it’s not a secret and those who wish to go deserve to experience it. Not just those in the ‘exclusive club’.

“I also would like to add that regardless of how bubbly and confident I appear on Instagram at the end of the day I have feelings just like everyone else. Words are weapons and having fully grown adults who I have never met say such harsh words disappoint me and I am still learning to not care.”

Madeline loves to travel the world and over the past four years has visited Thailand, Hawaii, Fiji, Japan, Arizona, India, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Samoa.

She says her travels give her something to look forward to — and there have been ups and downs along the way.

“During my travels I have created some of the most amazing memories and some not so amazing (courtesy of a parasite in India cutting my six week trip into four). However, my greatest travel experience by far was my five days in Borocay, the Philippines.

“I’m unsure if it was the crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, amazing mountains, insane sunsets, secluded waterfalls, cliff jumping or the incredibly kind locals but there was just something about the Island that made my heart feel so warm.”

So what’s her final message to the online bullies?

“I think as adults we all need to stop and reflect on what we’re about to send. Think to yourself, is this really necessary and how would I feel if someone sent me this. Remember how powerful your words are, so choose them wisely as you don’t want to be someone’s final straw”.

• If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If you have depression, please see Beyond Blue for a list of organisations that can help or call 1300 224 636.