Friday 27 September 2013

This Is It!

After months of anticipation and of extensive training - this is it! As I write this entry, I am shortly due to set out for Tanzania where I will attempt the part two of my double challenge to help raise much-needed funds for the Daisy Chain charity, which is to hopefully reach the summit of Africa's highest peak and the world's highest free-standing mountain Kilimanjaro at 5895m!

At Daisy Chain's centre, Norton, Stockton-on-Tees
As readers may remember, the first part of my double challenge was to complete the 2012 Great North Run, which was a huge step outside my comfort zone, having never previously attempted a half-marathon. Though I have feel I have had some good experience and recent practice for what I can anticipate I will likely experience when attempting Kilimanjaro with my trek to Everest Base Camp and more recently, the Laugavegur trek in Iceland, where it will also be another huge step outside my comfort zone is that it will be my first time in Africa, so the cultural experience will be a huge step into the unknown for me.

Through both the physical activity and mindfulness practice, I have found that coming out of my comfort zone, whether it is assuming a physical position I am not used to when practising yoga, visiting a place that is new to me or undertaking an activity with people I am not familiar with, it helps to reinforce how I cope with aspects of Asperger's Syndrome, including confusion, stress and anxiety. Also getting to know different people and their outlook on life on a trek in a different, and often extreme environment, I have found has been really good for my continual development of social skills. What makes a group trek so conducive to development of social skills for a trekker with Asperger's Syndrome is that each day is a new start and a new and different challenge, so if you make a social mistake or say the wrong thing one day, fellow trekkers tend to 'move on' from it the next day.

Ultimately, what mountain treks and other related activities can teach us is how to take care of ourselves in extreme environments and situations. Testing human ingenuity in extreme environments from the north and south poles to the Moon has been known to aid innovation. For me, it has helped to reinforce coping skills of being able to adjust to different situations as well as constantly changing climates, both mentally and practically, including knowing what clothing to wear and necessary equipment to have. Such approaches have helped me with independent and coping skills in normal life, including making the best possible use of resources available, including situations where solutions to a problem of ways of coping can't be 'bought'.

Plaque depicting Robinson Crusoe, Hull
One of my favourite stories as a child, and one that partly inspired me to seek adventure, along with various NASA space missions, was Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. In later life, I learned that this story was used by Karl Marx in his work Das Kapital to illustrate economic theory, where money only has value and use where it can be exchanged for goods, which can't be done on the uninhabited island Crusoe finds himself shipwrecked on as there is no commercial activity, so the gold that he rescues from the shipwreck has virtually no value and instead the tools and materials that he saves from the wreck are more crucial to his survival e.g. use of sails and wood from the wreck to build a shelter. This concept is of great relevance to a mountain trek, where in many cases there is nowhere you can buy supplies from along the route, but certain items in your day sack that can't be purchased along the route will be of importance to coping with different conditions. In anticipation of how varied the conditions are likely to be along the Lemosho Glades route (the route I am taking), I have packed sun cream and hand warmers!

Stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works to see how part two of my double challenge for Daisy Chain unfolds and for another exciting announcement I have on return.

A huge thank you to all who have very kindly donated to my challenge, you have helped Daisy Chain raise over £1,000 which will make a huge difference to many families affected by autism. Donations can still be made via my sponsorship page at 

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