In Spring 2022 I undertook a charity trek across the Jordanian desert into the ancient city of Petra to raise funds for the Salisbury hospital charity, 'The Stars Appeal'. We covered more than 106km over 6 days, climbing over 2700m, descending 2500m and in average daily temperatures of 38 - 40 °C. At night we camped in 2 man tents with no running water and the wild toilet was preferable to the one Portaloo. It was an adventure of a lifetime, physically brutal, but totally amazing.
Why choose a charity trek?
So why choose a charity trek? Well, a charity trek from start to finish is a learning adventure! I learnt so much from the whole experience, from fundraising and how to train, through to dealing with the highs and lows of the physical adventure.
So what did I learn most..
There's no 'right' reason to take on a charity trek
Almost everyone on our trek had a different reason for taking on the challenge. For some it was to give back to the hospital who had helped them through Cancer or other illnesses. Some worked at the hospital and knew the benefits the charity funds could bring. A few were doing it to honor a lost loved one. And for some of us, it was more about the personal challenge, and an opportunity to mark the beginning of a new chapter, like becoming an empty nest Mum!
Don't let the fundraising put you off
I had to raise a certain amount of money (as well as self funding the trip) to join the trek. Honestly, I nearly let the fundraising element put me off. I didn't like the idea of asking for donations or sponsorship. Equally I didn't want to spend hours on end making, baking or organising events. But then I considered one thing - would I really let the fundraising total put me off this big adventure ? NO.
So get creative - ask previous trekkers or the charity for ideas, search online, think about your skill set and how you could turn that to fundraising. Can you ask for donations in lieu of payment for some extra work / jobs / produce or handmade goods? Could you ask for donations instead of birthday or Christmas presents.
Set your mind to the task in hand and just push on...
A charity trek really does change you
From personal experience the trek made me braver, and stronger both mentally and physically.
Each night on our trek 'Letters from Home' were read out. These were powerful stories written by people who had benefited from the charity's work. Those letters help put life in perspective - instead of thinking about the blisters or heat-rash you focussed on how blessed you are to be physically able to take on a challenge and to be on this adventure right now!
How to become part of a team - even if you didn't think you were a group person
I was a self admitted non-group person - I generally prefer one on one conversations to big girls groups out and a small dinner at home with friends rather than a big party. So the 'Group' thing was a bit of an issue for me - whilst for others the sociability was a huge plus. But something about trekking, eating, laughing and crying together bonds you as a group on a level I have never experienced before - but hope to again. By the end of the trek, I was loving the 'family party' vibe and loved spending time as a big group, all together. We went as 38 individuals and we truly came back a family.
The highs are high and the lows are low
This is a reality - You feel like a helium balloon - one minute so full of life, adventure and adrenalin and the next popped and dropping to the floor. BUT the highs and lows make you feel so alive. Then there's the realisation in knowing you are never alone in what you feel - if you feel on a low, someone else does too. In those low moments just remember that you can be the pressure cooker lid that keeps group morale low or you can pop that lid with a joke, a deflective story or by simply pulling out the giant packet of sweets. Before you know it, the team of balloons are flying high again.
It's not the destination but the journey
At the end of the trek we spent a day at a Dead Sea Hotel and it was wonderful to sit in the shallows of a swimming pool together reminiscing. We took turns reflecting on our personal high day and low day moments. Last to speak was our doctor who said it was seeing us all crossing the Petra finish line that was his high day - and then it dawned on me...not one of us actual trekkers had said either the finish line or visiting Petra was our high day! It really was about the journey.
A break from regular life does you good
Initially I felt guilty going on this trek - selfish even - until my daughters asked how going on a 'Charity Trek' could possibly be selfish? But for me I wasn't able to play my normal wife / mum / work / daughter role. For once I couldn't be the usual family organiser and coordinator. Guess what? The family not only survived but in fact thrived! My husband had to be Mum and Dad - and both he and our girls loved those extra conversations, planning opportunities and quality time moments. There was even some food in the fridge when I got home! (although the laundry basket was pretty full).
A trek is an opportunity to find the real YOU in you.
A break from technology does you even more good
No surprise here - it turns out that of the 100's or 1000's of texts, whats app chat group notifications or emails - almost none of our trek group felt they'd missed anything important!
Having no technology is liberating and it allows you to be fully present. A charity trek is an amazing opportunity to really live in the moment and the adventure of it all.
You don't need as much 'kit' as you think
You can read the packing list, scan websites and discover all that Go Outdoors or REI stores have to offer - but I guarantee you will not need everything you take. So think carefully about what you buy and pack. When you have to pack and repack every day - a simple, organised bag or rucksack is going to be your best friend.
A wild toilet experience isn't as bad as you think
On day two the portaloo got tipped upside down (before being emptied) while moving to the next camp. After this, the portaloo was named 'The Orange Cupboard of Doom.' But after that first wild poo experience you realise it isn't that bad. In fact you will find the most amazing views from toilet locations. Just be prepared that the mantra - 'Leave nothing behind' is a real thing - so go armed with dog poo bags or nappy sacks, toilet paper and toilet wet wipes.
Trek lag is a real thing
It turns out that coming back to reality after such a huge adventure is really hard and quite honestly a bit dull. You don't expect trek lag, but almost all of our group experienced it.
However here are some cures..
- If you haven't already - create a group chat and continue the banter and stories.
- Find a way to share group photos - enjoy searching out those prize moments.
- Organise an event to show family / friends/ sponsors and donors your epic adventure stories and photos - it's a great way to say thank you for their support and a lovely way to keep the trek living on.
- Plan something for the night you get home - my tent buddy and I organised a fish and chip and bubbly night for our two families the night we got home. It was fantastic to jointly share our trip with loved ones and the stories seemed funnier when told as a duo.
- Plan your next adventure !
So why choose a charity trek?
I hope by now you are in no doubt... a charity trek is an opportunity for you to have an adventure of a lifetime AND to make a positive difference to others all at the same time. So dig out, or go and buy those walking boots!
And in case that's not enough of a reason - you might just find that a trek adventure is a perfect place to invent a new favourite alcoholic beverage! - Why not give my Freshly squeezed Orange Gin and Tonic a go? Here's the link - freshly squeezed orange
To find out more about The Stars Appeal - click here https://starsappeal.org/