At the start of the year, Discover Adventure ran its' first ever competition with an almighty prize up for grabs: along with a whole stash of DA goodies and a £100 Cotswolds voucher, we gave away a space on our Great Wall of China trek.
It was a tough decision as we had been sent such a huge number of nominations from families and friends putting forward truly incredible and inspiring people to win. When the time came, Laura Guy was the lucky winner.
Laura explained she had never done any trekking of this kind before, full with nerves, excitement and disbelief, she was overwhelmingly happy to have been given the opportunity to complete a challenge that she admitted would never have thought of doing otherwise. We love bringing in another adventurer to our ranks!
Fast forward to now, we are one week to go until the Great Wall of China trek commences and Laura embarks on her first ever adventure of this magnitude. She has been busy training and preparing for her challenge and has been delighting us with updates along the way.
We decided to have a little catch up with Laura before she heads off to check in on how she is feeling and get the lowdown before she takes to the Great Wall.
Hello Laura! So great to catch you before you go. Since finding out you had been selected as our competition winner in January, how has this trip changed things for you?
"Last year, I lost my way due to the actions of one human being - I let what they did to me really get inside me. However, once I realised it was pointless, the only way has been up. Along with everything else, winning this trip has helped me on my way to restoring my faith in humanity - from my sister entering me into the competition, to receiving the phone call to say that I'd won. It's given me something to focus on and work towards. And seeing the fundraising total rise really makes you feel like you can make a difference. The support from my family, partner, friends and even customers at work has been incredible, and to be given an opportunity like this by Discover Adventure is just something that happens once in a lifetime!"
We're so chuffed this trip has had such a positive impact on your life, even before you set foot on the Great Wall! We've really enjoyed seeing your amazing pictures from treks you've taken over the recent months. Did you do much trekking before this year or have you ramped up your trekking prowess this year while training for China?
"My partner, Lee, is really into the great outdoors, so we had already been going on short walks around Swanage and the local area, but he's found some great longer walks to help with my training. I can't take credit for the photos though, Lee takes them all as I'm rubbish with my phone.
It really helps when there is two of you as it's more fun than training on your own and Lee really pushes me. We've taken some chilly walks along the Jurassic Coast, and recently some harder & longer walks in the sunshine from Swanage over to Corfe Castle. OVER the huge hills, not the easy path around! I must admit these ones are really enjoyable, most probably due to the little village bakery that we stop at for lunch."
Cake stops are definitely compulsory when it comes to training! We hope you've got your snacks at the ready to keep you fuelled!
"I'm going for things that I like rather than high energy things as I've never really taken them before, so to use them out there I think would be silly. So I've got some cereal bars and mini chocolate bars. I'll have to pack them in my Discover Adventure holdall though, as if they're in my hand luggage, there's a very strong chance that they'll be gone by the time we arrive in Beijing."
It sounds like you're ready to go! We definitely agree to pack snacks that you enjoy and not ones you feel like you should have, as you want food that you will really fancy when you've been racking up the miles.
It's great to hear you've been making the most of your local area and enjoying the training. That's half the battle, if you enjoy the training that you do then you are more likely to persevere.
"Exactly. Heading to the beautiful New Forest with my family for a dog walk is another way to get an extra walk in. And rather than sitting at work at lunchtimes, I go out every lunch time - customers always come in & say they've seen me pounding the streets of Downton. Mixing up the walks is a great way to keep it interesting."
How are you feeling now that the challenge is just around the corner? Do you have any niggling concerns?
"I'm trying not to worry about anything before the trip, as long as I've prepared for it then worrying won't help! Obviously there'll still be some nerves as it's a huge trip and I'm still a little anxious about not really knowing anyone, but most of us are all in the same boat so I'm sure it'll be fine."
We reckon you'll smash it, and nerves are totally normal and to be expected. Challenges like these can be an emotional roller-coaster but having the DA team and your fellow trekkers to bounce off really helps.
You've chosen to fundraise for a charity and have been doing really well, tell us about the charity that will be keeping you motivated to keep going when the going gets tough?
"I've chosen two charities to fundraise for, both small charities that I know will appreciate the money and funds will go such a long way. Anyone who knows me knows that animals take up a large part of my heart - the people who run these charities work tirelessly to help animals who've been very poorly treated by humans who I can only assume have no heart or conscience."
An incredible way to add an extra dose of positivity to your competition win, making every step count!
What do you think you'll struggle with during the trek?
"I'll admit I'm not the most well-travelled person, the five star all-inclusive annual holiday to Turkey is what I've been recently used to, so I think the culture and the facilities will be the biggest hurdle. But I'm just going to embrace it. Everything that I encounter on this trip will be different, but all part of the experience. An open mind and a sense of humour is packed & ready to go!"
Brilliant! And what most excites you about your upcoming adventure?
"It's got to be pushing myself to complete something that's so far out of my comfort zone, it's unreal. The physical aspect, the distance from home, the time to reflect while we're up there, the cultural differences, the mental aspect and to stand on top of the Great Wall of China after overcoming everything that we're all up against will be simply amazing."
You're going to make memories of a lifetime! Have you been given any advice or words of wisdom ahead of your trip that you’d like to share?
"Getting some decent walking boots and socks early on has given me a head-start, someone advised me to get them as soon as I could and get them broken in. My sister and I were on a day trip to London to go and see Pink, but she made time for a Cotswold Outdoor shopping stop. Here, I got some handy advice on boots, tried some on and walked over the training bridge that they have in store, which really helped.
The piece of advice that really struck a chord with me was to 'embrace it' and that's what will stick with me the most. Oh, and invest in a SheeWee!"
All invaluable stuff to remember. Thanks so much for catching up with us, Laura. We can't wait to hear all about your adventure with us on your return. And in the mean time, good luck - you're in for a treat!
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Or if you fancy taking on the trek in China for yourself, check out our challenge page below.