I’ve arrived home from my charity trek of The Great Wall of China, and I can honestly say that it was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had in my life.
If you’ve already read about my pre-trip nerves, then you’ll be aware of my anxiety and how it was holding me back from ever doing a challenge like this. There were a number of things standing in my way, in life generally as well as for this challenge. The fear of fitting in. The fear of not being good enough to trek the Wall. The fear and uncertainty of being on my own in a country I’ve never been to before. The worry that something terrible might happen whilst I’m away. The worry that something terrible might happen to me. I’m sure these are real fears for anybody who has experienced anxiety at some point in their life – I know that I’m not alone. However it is safe to say that I’ve overcome a lot of fears, realised that I worry about things that I really have no need to, and have met people who have changed the way that I look at my life, now and forever.
The loveliest bunch you ever did see.
I was fortunate enough to be placed with a group of some of the most wonderful people, from all walks of life. We ranged from English, to Scottish, to Welsh, to Irish, even to Turkish and Canadian. Each person on this trip had their own story, and the things I learned from all of them are lessons that I will always cherish. The key concept I am taking away from this lovely bunch, is that you should always be grateful for what you have. For years I have worried and stressed about such minor hypothetical worries, and yet some of the people on this trip have battled, and some still are battling, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and some have lost people to heart attacks, cancer and depression, far too early on in their lives.
You could call the trip an ‘eye-opener’, but it was a lot more than that. Yes it made me more aware about the real issues that people are facing every day, but it also made me realise that it can happen to people when it’s least expected. Unfortunately, a young age does not correlate with good health. Just like old age doesn’t correlate with the ability to accomplish things that might seem near impossible. Life is exactly what you make it, only you have control as to how you choose to react to it.
Realistically speaking, I have been so fortunate in my life. I have my health. I have my family. I have my freedom to live in any which way that I want to, without worrying about the implications it could have on my physical health. My tiny worries are so insignificant compared to what I could be dealing with. The saying is true, life is too short. It flies by so quickly, and things will happen in an instant, whether you want them to or not. For many elements of our lives, we have no control over what we are going to experience, and many people on this trip made me realise that you have to do things while you can, and before it’s too late. Life can be full of opportunities, experiences and actuality, but only if you allow there to be.
There is more to life than your anxiety.
Due to these people, I have come home with a whole new outlook on life. These lovely people had issues to face that are bigger than what many of us have to deal with in our day to day lives. They were so positive, and so inspirational. I’ve returned back to normality, wanting to replicate those emotions of living my life to the absolute fullest, because in reality you never know what is around the corner. Yes, that’s cliche, but it really couldn’t be more accurate. I have a future ahead of me that is actually looking pretty bright, I have a family that love and support me unconditionally, and I have the whole world in my hands. In reality, there isn’t a huge amount of uncertainty in my life that can amount to the level of hypothetical worry that I experience at the moment. This trip tested my anxiety to the limits on a whole number of different occasions; whether it was standing up and introducing myself to a room of 20 people, sharing my personal space with a total stranger (who soon became a good friend), or taking the claustrophobic metro with a ridiculous fear of trains, but it had pushed my comfort zone to the absolute limit and beyond, and to a place that I never thought I would ever have the ability to let it get to. And really, this wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t surrounded by such a truly inspirational bunch of people. They may not have realised it, but collectively, they have changed my life forever.
Not all classrooms have four walls. Sometimes, the best lessons you learn are from the people and places that you surround yourself with.