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Five Places to Add to Your Travel List

Wanderlust New Zealand at Great Lake Taupo - Elena Brower

Following on from our February newsletter as we look ahead and start thinking about the places we would love to travel to next or perhaps new challenges we would like to set ourselves here are a few of my favourites:

Skydiving – Lake Taupo, NZ

Yes, if you didn’t know already I am afraid of heights! Why? Because I am scared of the feeling of falling. This is a little a little ridiculous as I have never fallen from a big height so, you can imagine sky diving is not an activity that sits comfortably with me. However, in 2005 I was travelling around the world and I told myself I had to step out of my comfort zone and overcome my fear. I was stuck between two emotions, the intrigue of experiencing a feeling I couldn’t get by doing any other activity but also the sheer stomach churning nervousness that I didn’t know if I could go through with it. After all, jumping out of a plane at 15,000 ft does seem a little ridiculous!

Anyway I got myself on the plane, flew to 15,000ft and then, strapped to an instructor, made a big leap of faith tumbling out into the blue sky. Obviously, I screamed the whole time, especially the first minute of free-fall. I have never been so scared in all my life but to experience the feeling of free-fall was incredible. Then as I parachuted across the lake the view was unbelievable. When I touched down my heart was racing but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. True to rumours, jumping out over lake Taupo was just amazing.

If you fancy giving it a go, there is no better place than New Zealand.

Horse riding – Magnetic Island, Australia

A keen horse rider from the age of 8, I have ridden across the fields of Gloucestershire many a time. However I had not been lucky enough to ride in the sea until I visited Australia. Magnetic island is a small island off the east coast of Australia and it was here I experienced a beautiful hack along the white sands of the coastline. During the hack we stopped to remove the saddle and ride bareback in the sea which I was so excited for. It was an incredible experience. Riding a horse through water bareback made me feel so free and at one with nature. We had to be a little cautious about the jellyfish that were lurking around (which I was pretty anxious about) but we did wear protective leg gear to prevent any stings. It really was magical!

If are a keen horse rider and have never ridden a horse in the sea I would definitely recommend it!

Scuba diving – Kho Phi Phi, Thailand

Thailand has a reputation as one of the best places in the world to scuba dive, so when I visited in 2006 it would have been rude not to right? Although I was apprehensive about going so far under water and slightly on edge about the marine life I may bump into, I enrolled on a 3 day PADI course to learn how to dive. It is pretty daunting knowing you are responsible for your safety equipment and breathing apparatus. The question always running through my head was ‘but what if I do something wrong’, but I knew I wanted to experience the magical world under the sea. I pushed those thoughts aside and got on with it so I could see creatures I had never seen before.

Over 3 days I completed multiple dives around the island. I was lucky enough to see black tip reef sharks, turtles, barracudas and many many beautiful fish. I also managed to successfully sit on the sea bed and take all my breathing equipment on and off. One of the most nerve wracking moments in the water, but I did it! The dives definitely taught me if you are willing to give it a go you will reap the rewards.

If you are thinking about learning to dive or where your next dive trip would be, then make sure Thailand is on your list.

Marathon – London, UK

I wanted to include the marathon in this short list because it proves you don’t always have to travel far from home to complete a challenge and it is actually my proudest achievement. In my 30th year I decided I would like to complete a difficult physical challenge and raise money for charity, so I applied to do the London marathon. Unfortunately, that year I didn’t get in. Fast forward 2 years and my fiancé James and I both had a place! Previously I had only completed ½ marathons so I knew this was going to be a tough challenge both physically and mentally. I was right! Some training days I just didn’t feel like going out the door but with the encouragement of James and the support from the charity I did. I ran through rain, wind and snow to make sure I completed my long runs.

On the marathon day itself it was warm and sunny and my butterflies were going crazy in my tummy. Was I going to make it? Well I did and was it worth it? 100% Yes! There is no better atmosphere than running over tower bridge with thousands of people cheering you on. I think I was grinning ear to ear. I can honestly say completing the marathon (and yes I managed to it just under my 5 hr goal!) was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not just the challenge on the day but the months of disciplined training I had put into it and the money I had raised for charity.

For those of you contemplating a marathon London is incredible so go for it! And of course you can look forward to a post marathon break at a spa (well that’s what I did anyway)!

Climbing – Mt Kinabalu, Borneo

So the final challenge I am going to tell you about (for now) happened to take place in one of the most beautiful places I have visited, Borneo. Apart from the incredible wildlife (326 species of birds and 100 mammalian species) it hosts the 20th most prominent mountain in the world, Mt Kinablu, which stands at 4095m. We arrived pretty naive, signed up straight away for the challenge and climbed in a small group with a guide. The first part was a 7hr climb to a hut where we slept for a few hours and then woke at 2am to climb the rest of the mountain, in order to summit at sunrise. We were pretty oblivious at the time to the fact that altitude sickness was pretty common on this mountain. Luckily I didn’t suffer from it. The climb consisted of lots of steps that seemed never ending, a little bit of rope climbing and then scrambling over rocky terrain to the summit. We arrived on time to the most amazing view above the clouds. Unfortunately we couldn’t hang around as we could definitely feel the impact on our lungs from the lack of oxygen, so we hastily retreated and trekked the 7hrs back down. This was even harder than going up as most of the time it was raining and we were soaked through, but my legs (especially my quads) ached and ached. In fact they were sore for days after (lack of training on my part). I don’t think they had ever worked so hard. Luckily there were some hot springs nearby that we took advantage of for the following two days.

If you like climbing but are a novice, I would definitely recommend this mountain as its not technical. It is also surrounded by the most beautiful rainforest landscape.

So, where are my adventures taking me next? I would love to visit Scandinavia. It has been on my list for a long time and I would like to try some cross country skiing, which would be fun…

If you are thinking of entering, we are always here to support you if you are training for any challenges.

But, as I said before, we always like to look forwards with positivity, so tell us your plans or travel dreams once we are able to go again….

Yours in health

Bridget Higgs

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