My Strive Experience: Stage 2

28th January 2019

By Susie Ma

As I moved into Stage 2 of my Strive challenge, I was already feeling the life-changing effects of this experience take hold. Stage 2 might have been one of the most beautiful, although I remember thinking this at almost every stage of the journey. If you haven’t read about Stage 1 of the challenge, you can do so on my blog, and if you’ve been following my journey so far then we’re about to undertake a 5-day hike on the island of Corsica.

After cycling for so long, I was looking forward to using some different muscles for a change, but that wasn’t to happen just yet because the Core Team were surprised with a bonus day of cycling around Corsica - 13 hours, 150km and a 4,200m incline to be exact, not to mention the 5am start! The cycle was on a breathtaking trail, however I found it incredibly tough on my body and mind, as the physical exertion of the journey was already beginning to take its toll. I relied on a LOT of coffee breaks and energy bars to make it through to the end, where I began to feel quite emotional, with the last few hundred meters being particularly difficult.

Greeting the Stage 2 participants that evening who arrived ready to take on their challenge was a welcome boost of energy, as they brought with them the enthusiasm I needed to feel a renewed sense of motivation. I settled in to rest that night, assuming that I would sleep like a baby after such an intense day. I’ve found that the body is hard to predict, as adrenaline and nerves for the next stage of the challenge kept me tossing and turning throughout the night. Before now I had been averaging 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, but that evening I slept only 3 or 4.

The next day however, I rallied and prepared for the challenge ahead: 2,000m hiking the GR20, which is said to be the hardest but most beautiful hike in Europe.

The stunning views comprise of dramatic mountain ranges, pine and beech forests, serene lakes, snow-covered peaks and even views of the coastline at points. Straight away I realised that its reputation for being one of the most technically difficult hikes on the continent was absolutely accurate, and I was immediately thankful that all the cycling had somewhat prepared my legs for the task ahead. Each day we had a packed lunch, and I ate bread the entire time - but somehow still managed to lose 5 kilos by the end of the week.

Hiking with the team was lots of fun, and a great chance for us to get to know each other more. I found myself walking with the slower groups most of the time, as the 20kg backpack I was carrying slowed me down considerably… possibly because of all the Tropic products I had in there! We camped in mountain huts on the trail, and each day we chatted and sang songs. Along the way Richard Branson even bet one of the participants to climb a hill naked for £10,000 towards Big Change! After an exhausting journey, on the last day we ate dinner beside the most beautiful lake and reflected on the experience so far, with everyone elated from being surrounded by so many influential people and incredible environmental wonders. I ended Stage 2 with awful bruises from my backpack, but feeling strong, grateful and excited for the next stage of the challenge.

Before we could begin though, the Core Team had to say goodbye to the Stage 2 participants and make our way to Monaco… and what better way to do that than on a luxury yacht. I slept for most of the 17 hour sailing journey, and was relieved to have a rest day when we arrived in Monaco. The team also stayed that night in the Monte Carlo Fairmont, which everyone was extremely excited about after the rural camping in Corsica.

Meeting so many hugely influential people has been one of the highlights of this trip for me, and seeing what is possible in today’s world. I’ve learned so much from the people I encountered, not just about their businesses, but also about their life stories, inspirations, and motivations in doing what they do. I believe we should always be inquisitive about people, because many times even if someone appears to be hugely successful on the outside, it’s always interesting to find out that they come from very humble beginnings, and are using their position to give back to their community and protect the world around them. It has been a real privilege to be able to share such a unique experience with successful business owners and charity representatives alike, and learn a lot from them in the process.

Love, Susie xx

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