What an Acheivement: How did she do it?
News Categories: aspirefuture
Laura Rollason, Community Fundraiser for St Mary’s Hospice and Development Committee Member
Laura is a community fundraiser for St Mary’s Hospice and this year decided to take on the challenge of trekking the Great Wall of China. If that wasn’t enough, she is already thinking about her next project for 2017. We asked her a few questions about what inspired her to do the challenge, the training involved, how much was raised, and what’s next for her fundraising challenge.
1. What inspired you to take on this challenge?
I think it was a quarter life crisis! Around New Year, I was doing what we all do – reflecting on the past year and wondering about the year ahead. It hit me that if I didn’t want another average year, if I wanted to live life to the full, then I had to actively make it happen. As I was single, and not into sunbathing type holidays like my friends, I was going to have to find another way to travel the world.
Working in charity, I had seen charity challenges promoted and thought they looked good fun and a great achievement. The planning is done for you, and the company support you throughout. You also get to meet new people doing the challenge for other charities.
After picking this as an ideal way to travel alone, my new colleague Kate said she would love to come too. At the time, we’d only known each other 2 months, so that itself felt brave. However, through our preparations and the trip itself, we got on brilliantly. In the end, I did end up having holiday with one of my best friends – with 50 new friends too!
2. How much planning and training was involved?
Not as much as you’d expect. For some parts, I deliberately didn’t read much in case it scared me out me off going!
Global Adventure Challenges planned the flights, hotels, coaches and routes. The hardest part was getting a visa, and shopping for equipment, as I’m not the slightest bit outdoorsy. We got given a kit list, but it still took hours of advice at Go Outdoors to work out everything I needed.
As part of our training we spent a weekend in August in the South Downs. I met lovely people and got great advice from our guides. We did around 50 miles over the two days, and I felt reassured that I coped well with the walk (despite it being the hottest weekend of the year, and me being ginger!).
I stuck to my general routine of gym workouts and a bit of yoga, but added in a few sessions on the stair machine and a few more hills. As it turns out, that was a very wise decision, as the Great Wall is pretty much a huge staircase!
3. How long did it take you to complete the trek?
We spent 5 days trekking the wall, with about 30 hours of trekking over those days. Our longest day was 8 hours, but because the terrain was so tough the pace would sound pretty slow. The wall runs over mountains, and is steep enough to show it. There are also thousands of stairs – on day four we had to climb one thousand stairs just to get on to the wall. Most of the stairs are old, uneven and crumbling, as well as being huge (at least to me, being 5ft 3).
4. Did you ever think about quitting?
Yes! I’m scared of heights, but when you picture the Great Wall you think of the images with a wall on either side, which I thought would be fine. On our second day of trekking, we were walking a part that hasn’t been restored at all, and so is in ruins. At times we were walking steep, narrow staircases and paths, on uneven bricks, on top of mountains, with nothing to hang on to. I remember looking down and realising we were higher up than the birds flying past.
We passed an ‘exit’ path back to the village a few hours in, where a lady with bad knees took the chance to leave us. I hovered and considered insisting that I too wanted to go back, but before I had chance somebody had grabbed my hand to pull me on, insisting I’d be proud of myself when we came off the wall. They were wrong – it took me a good few hours (and a drink or two) to recover and start to realise that yes, I was glad I’d carried on and achieved something I would never have thought possible. We walked more parts of the wall that were incredibly steep and ruined, but nothing could be as scary as day two. Knowing I’d managed that spurred me throughout the other scary parts.
5. What do you think is the most important thing you learnt/gained from the experience?
The whole trip was an incredible experience, and I’m going to have fantastic memories for life. I’ve made friends for life– including Kate.
One of the things that has stood out to me the most is how many people have said “wow, I’d love to do that!” And I always think, “well, you could, what’s stopping you?” It’s made me realise that most of the things that stop us doing exciting things are only obstacles because we see them that way. If you really want to do something, you can make it happen. It will be worth it!
It was so worth being brave, taking on a challenge, going away with new people. Taking a risk has given me the best experience of my life, so from now on I’m seizing every opportunity without overthinking it! I can make it work – worrying about the little things only holds you back from exciting experiences. This year I’ll have lots of great memories when it gets to the new year time of reflecting. And I’ll have a pretty high bar to beat in 2017!
6. How much money did you raise?
I raised £530, and Kate has raised over £1,000. Even better, while Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice have been promoting our trek, five more people have signed up to take part next year for the hospice.
7. Now you’re back, have you thought about what your next challenge might be in 2017?
Absolutely. I have just started volunteering with Crimestoppers West Midlands, as Social Media, Marketing and Communications Lead. I’m still getting to know the charity at the moment, but hopefully in 2017 I will start learning new skills and making a difference there! We’ve got some interesting campaigns coming up that are going to help a lot of people. I can’t wait to look at campaigns by such a well-known organisation and say “I worked on that.”
In June our group from China are having reunion, trekking 50km across the Brecon Beacons in Trekfest. I think that may be tougher than China, as its further than we walked in any single day there, and still pretty hilly. For this challenge I’ve decided any sponsorship I raise should go to Birmingham Dogs Home, and if you’d like to sponsor me my page is www.justgiving.com/Laura-trekfest.
I’d also like to do another international trek, and I think my heart is set on trekking the Inca Trail to see Machu Picchu in Peru. However, I’m still looking at options, and as China was a bit of a decision from nowhere, who knows what I’ll end up picking!