Q&A with our Cambodia Trekkers

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In April, 24 trekkers set off on the adventure of a lifetime across Cambodia, all in support of Springboard. We sat down with our very own Chief Operations Officer, Kelly Johnstone, and Operations Director, Bryan Grierson, to talk about their time on the trek…

Q: So, welcome back! How does it feel to back home?

Bryan: I 100% have the Cambodia Blues! It was an absolutely incredible experience – I loved every moment of it. One of the biggest challenges I’ve taken on yet, but it was definitely worthwhile. I’ve semi recovered from the experience!

Kelly: It’s definitely a lot cooler in Scotland! We were in 43/44 degree heat every day, but I am told when I was out there it felt more like 50. It probably took me a couple of weeks to recover from the jetlag.

Q: A huge congratulations to you both on completing your 100km journey! How did it compare to last year’s trek?

Bryan: For me, you know, I thought it was a completely different challenge. This is my second trek, so the dynamics are a little bit different when you do it the second time around, and it definitely felt hotter than last year!

Kelly: I think that they were both very difficult for very different reasons. They were both hot. But for me, the difference was definitely the community projects, it was a much closer connected trip to our charity this year, so with the things that we talk about later, like the Eco bungalow and the hotel school – I felt like that was really close to what we do as an organisation.

Q: Why did you decide to take on another Springboard trek?

Bryan: Of course, raising the crucial funds for the charity, to support the work we do. I also think that there’s a lot of excitement about the trek with the industry, and I think that people and businesses look forward to getting the opportunity to apply and be a part of that experience. Obviously, we’re raising money to keep up the good work that we do and it’s very significant. A massive thank you to everybody that fundraised.

Kelly: This is my 4th one and I’m really grateful for every experience. I’ve done Peru, Nepal, Nicaragua and now Cambodia.

I guess the reason why we took it on is when we came back from Nicaragua, we were really still blown away with the impact we can have over there. We started the wheels going for another trek, mainly to raise funds for Springboard. It’s really challenging to organise, getting all the trekkers together to start the fundraising at what is difficult times.

But the end result is £94,000 for Springboard – hopefully reaching the £100,000 mark soon.

The legacy that we leave in these countries is amazing, but I think I’ll officially hand the baton over to someone soon!

Q: What were some of the preparations you took before embarking on your journey?

Bryan: Mindset is just as important as physical fitness. You can only train so much here in the UK, because you can’t obviously train for 45/46 degree heat. Some people said the only way you could physically train for that was maybe going to do 50 squats in a sauna!

But definitely, getting out, walking as much as possible, training in the gym, obviously looking after your nutrition, and all that sort of stuff. Just making sure you’ve got a healthy body and mind.

Kelly: Physically I’m generally a fit person, I exercise 5-6 times a week with a mixture of strength and Pilates. But someone did tell me on the second trek, the best way to prepare for a trek is to walk, because that’s what you’re doing – walking lots. So, I was racking up about 80/100km every weekend walking, just getting the legs going.

But for me, I was also overcoming some personal health challenges that I’d had for about 18 months. So, it was a real mental challenge that I could go out and do it again with having some challenges going on in the background, but I did it, and as Bryan said, “It’s up here (points to head), as much as it’s in your legs.”

Q: Is there a proud moment that sticks out to you from this year’s trek?

Bryan: It was a proud moment, but it was also a very challenging moment as well. The difference between the two tracks – Nicaragua was very hilly the whole track, whereas Cambodia was all relatively flat.

We had a three-kilometre uphill trek in the afternoon, which blew my mind. To be honest, there was parts of it where you had to think “I am going to get up this” because there were a few moments where I thought I couldn’t continue, but you just have to keep going.

And then obviously another highlight for me was probably finishing the trek off at Angkor Wat and seeing the sunset, and then going back the next morning to see the sunrise as well – such an amazing experience.

Kelly: There were lots of highlights for me. I think camping at a Buddhist temple was a really good experience. The views. The way the Monks were with you. The blessing that we got one night from the monk. And then combining that with the sunrises and the sunsets – you’ve never seen anything like this before in your life.

I’d also have to say the whole connection that the community project had with the hotel school, it aligned really with what Springboard does. The bungalow that we’re helping build is going to be part of that community’s sustainable income and the school that’s in that community is going to send pupils to the hotel school in Siem Reap that help disadvantaged people. So, there’s a full circle there going on. We’re going to try and continue to work with them from a distance and that aligns very much with what Springboard does.

I also have to mention, the food and the hospitality that they served at the hotel school was, I mean Michelin star. It was awesome.

Q: And finally, what did you think about Cambodia?

Bryan: It just completely blew my mind. The people are so friendly, so nice, so welcoming. The food – I didn’t have a bad meal the whole time I was there. We ran a local sports day at the community projects with 40 other kids, all taking part in different activities, and everyone was just so friendly. Very upset to leave on the day we flew back but overall, a great experience, and I would 100% go back.

Kelly: Everything that Bryan said. The people are very humble and friendly. Not just the people that we stayed with, but the guides. The guides were so kind, and they had a wicked sense of humour!

The thing that just rises above for me was the food. It was so fresh. Everything was brilliant. All the people with specific dietary requirement were catered for as well. I also just noticed how clean everywhere was.

I would definitely go back to Cambodia and explore it for personal leisure, rather than a 100km trek!

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Published: 12th June 2024

Last edited: 11th June 2024