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My Great Wall of China experience

Wednesday, 05 December 2018 Lindsey

Lindsey blogs about how she walked 110,000 steps of this legendary walk to conquer her fears and raise money for Mind.

In October 2018 I walked over 110,000 steps in five days to raise money for Mind. Here is my story.

As I was growing up I struggled with anxiety and needed help to channel my thoughts and feelings into positive behaviours. I have learnt to do this through three things — mindfulness / counselling, surrounding myself with positive friends and family, and travel.

"I decided I would sign up to do this trek, on my own, to challenge myself both physical and mentally."

In 2014 my then partner took his own life and this left me in a place where I was very unhappy. However, in recent years, I have challenged the negative and tried to live life to the full, knowing that he wouldn’t want me to be unhappy. One of my all-time bucket list things to do was to visit The Great Wall of China, so I decided I would sign up to do this trek, on my own, to challenge myself both physical and mentally. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life, I met so many incredible people and I managed to raise over a thousand pounds for Mind.

When I signed up for the trek I was both exited and anxious. My friends and family were supportive in my decision to go it alone because they knew how important it was for me to challenge myself and how much I like to travel.

The process from signing up to going was a long one. There was so much to plan – training, food, buying my equipment, organising my visa. It was both stressful and exciting.

The trek took me to different sections of the wall, some that was restored, and other parts that were unrestored and very hard to climb, with no clear path. At times there were sheer drops either side which was terrifying but exhilarating at the same time. The surrounding of the wall itself is very mountainous, so on several days we had to trek through the jungle to get to the wall itself. This was a challenge.

At night I stayed in several family run Chinese lodges which was an incredible experience, nothing like the luxuries we have in the UK. Everything was very basic and, in some places, even hot water for showers was limited. In the rooms, there was lots of bugs so each night I would sleep covered from head to toe. The lady I was sharing a room with had a mosquito net and we laughed at how we felt like we were on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. It was lovely being part of a new team, with people who were all raising money for a cause close to their hearts.

"It was lovely being part of a new team, with people who were all raising money for a cause close to their hearts."

The wall itself is, 13,170 miles to be exact, and takes over 180 days nonstop to walk the whole thing. It’s also a myth that you can see it from space. Of course, in five days I got nowhere near seeing the whole of it.

I enjoyed learning a new culture and now I can now write my name in Chinese. I also loved being out in the fresh air each day and after climbing to the top, being able to see the incredible views

Another high point was when I helped a lady on the trek overcome her fear of heights. At one point she was quite upset and so I stayed with her and we walked together. Even I was feeling slightly shaken by the drops, but we powered though together and made it to the other side. We both felt a great sense of achievement that evening.

At the end I felt a sense of achievement. On the final day the group started off in the middle of nowhere, and by the end of the day we had trekked to our final point in Beijing. It was a complete contrast, at the end point there was lots of tourists and people selling things, there was even a Subway sandwich shop. The end point symbolised for me that I can achieve things that I set out to do and I can enjoy and overcome things along the way. There was also a tiny bit of sadness that it was over so soon.

"I did have my low points, but mindfulness techniques and having the help of others got me through my spiralling thoughts."

I did have my low points, but mindfulness techniques and having the help of others got me through them. Being able to manage the ‘what if’s’ is so important to me. For example when I arrived in China the airport was extremely overwhelming as it was so busy, and everything was in Chinese. I was so far out of my comfort zone, I started to think that I had made a massive mistake and that I should go home. A lovely lady who was also doing the trek talked to me about her experiences and why she was doing the trek, she was amazing and really made me realise that there was nothing to fear, that we were here to conquer our fears and for me this was the start.

There was also another lady, who I ended up sharing a room with, who also came over and gave me a hug, this meant a lot that a stranger would be looking out for me. I was worried that everyone would think I was strange for getting upset before we had even begun, but every single person was welcoming and helped me to push through when I needed a boost.

I was helped by several people in the group, the youngest person in the group, just 16, was extremely grown up and often waited for me to get to the bottom of steps to make sure I was okay, ready to set off again.

Overall I am so glad I was able to find the strength and courage to venture out and see a beautiful part of the world, along with raising money for a fantastic charity.

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