A Better Excuse To Escape The Concrete Jungle

It’s that time of year: resolutions all made with the best of intentions but broken with the first hint of temptation. So what better way to instil that additional element of motivation than to initiate a lifestyle change that benefits others as well as yourself. But, what?! 100km In 30 days?! That’s never achievable!

Or is it?

Growing up far away, in the tranquil Devonshire countryside in the South West of England, all you learn of Hong Kong is about....

....Skyscrapers; the endless buildings that tower above.

....People; millions of people, everywhere, packed in to the endless buildings that tower above.

....Humidity; weather that makes you sweat when you breath and that makes being outside around the millions of people, a very uncomfortable experience.

So in short, the understanding that you gain is that Hong Kong is a concrete jungle; one that will own you and dominate you without offering the respite, rejuvenation and escape that nature offers....

...On arriving here three years ago I was delighted to discover that this assumption was entirely wrong.

Incredibly, of the 1108 square kilometres that make up ‘Hong Kong’ around three quarters of the land here is in fact ‘countryside’. The urban sprawl is not as overwhelming as first imagined and the excellent public transport keeps you wonderfully connected to some truly fascinating natural environments. Many of these places offering breathtaking panoramic views that leave you feeling like you’re a world away from the bustling metropolis you feared you’d never escape.

Sir Murray MacLehose did many great things in his reign as the Governor of Hong Kong in the 1970s; one thing that he established is left for us all to enjoy to this very day: The MacLehose Hiking Trail. And enjoy we should, as the 100km hiking trail stretches from the beautiful beaches of Sai Kung, to the majestic mountains in the New Territories and beyond to the resplendent reservoirs of this trails’ conclusion in Tuen Mun. Divided into sections, this trail (like others) can be enjoyed here and there in bitesize chunks, without needing to be an Ultra Marathon runner to get involved.

IMG-20180112-WA0030.jpg

Some of my favourite hikes are along the MacLehose Trail or at least branching off it. There’s always something totally empowering about hiking to the top of Lion Rock, a mountain that sits so proudly, overlooking Kowloon and beyond to Hong Kong Island. This mountain, which is synonymous with the hard working spirit of Hong Kongers, allows you to sit above the city and gain some perspective. Walking to the top of Lion Rock is not only good for the body, but it’s good for the soul; something that is too often neglected with all the hard work that this city demands of you.

                                                                                      Lion Rock, Hong Kong

                                                                                     Lion Rock, Hong Kong

Sharp Peak, in the far eastern reaches of Sai Kung, is one of the most physically challenging hikes that Hong Kong has to offer with the endless, steep, rocky inclines. The warning signs let you know that this isn’t a route for the faint hearted; however what makes you really weak on this hike, is the unbelievable 360 degree view that you experience when you reach the summit. Mind blown. As a further reward at the end of this trail you get to enjoy the glittering golden sands of Ham Tin Wan; for the real adventurer you can hire a tent and stay the night so that you can enjoy another trek in the morning. The lack of mobile reception out here allows you to really embrace and enjoy that feeling of escaping the City.
 

                                                                                  Sharp Peak, Hong Kong

                                                                                 Sharp Peak, Hong Kong

                                                                               Ham Tin Wan, Hong Kong

                                                                              Ham Tin Wan, Hong Kong

Not forgetting the beauty offered on Lantau Island, you can catch the MTR to Tung Chung and enjoy a fairly level 15 km hike all the way to the old fishing town of Tai O. Taking in along the way: small farming villages, mangrove swamps and shaded woodlands before hugging a coastal trail on the approach to a place that is as far removed from modern Hong Kong life as you are likely to encounter. I always make sure to enjoy some of the local delights that are available knowing that i’ve earned it.
 

                                                                                          Tai O, Lantau Island

                                                                                         Tai O, Lantau Island

So 100km in a month? You could just walk the whole of The MacLehose Trail in a couple of days and get it out of the way, but for most of us (myself included) that’s not easily achievable. There are lots of ways a fitness coach could calculate it and break it down for how best to reach this target, but that kind is ‘restriction’ won’t make this the enjoyable process and lifestyle change that I hope for this to be. So my plan is simple; once a week I’ll wonder off into the depths of one of Hong Kong’s nature reserves and enjoy a hike; breathing the fresh air that the trees and plants provide. This should make up for around half of the target and help to restore a little of my sanity in this city.  So for the remaining 50km, and with the weather cool enough for it to be possible, I’ll walk home from work once a week (Causeway Bay to Sham Shui Po). This will add nearly an extra 10km to my total each week whilst also allowing me to enjoy riding the cross star ferry, which never seems to get dull and always gives you the chance to remember what a beautiful city this is at it’s heart.

To make up the remaining kilometres, I’ll take the opportunity of an evening to enjoy an urban hike; there are some truly spectacular vantage points around. Whilst it’s easy not to make the effort to walk somewhere and spend a few moments to bask in the effervescent lights of the city, it’s always worth it. My favourite place for enjoying sunset is Garden Hill in Sham Shui Po, and it is equally magnificent there after dark as the chaos of everyone’s commute home can be enjoyed from above.

                                                                              Garden Hill, Sham Shui Po

                                                                             Garden Hill, Sham Shui Po

Hong Kong is a city that demands hard work, but it has many hidden, beautiful and peaceful places just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. I now have the extra motivation to go seek out some more of these places; see you out there?
 

 

Blog written by Ryan Lock

Cover Photo by Musheer Ahmed

Blog photos all taken by Ryan Lock

Step Up 2018

bruno-nascimento-149663.jpg

Our challenge is to do 100km in 30 days and perhaps you’re asking yourself if you can you go the distance? The short answer is probably yes, you can. Unless you’re putting in for a big promotion before CNY, breastfeeding round the clock or organizing a wedding, you almost certainly can manage 100km in 30 days. It’s easier than you think.

Going out for a casual dinner in SoHo? Finish up with a gentle night hike through the mid-levels and end the night with the city lights at your feet. Doing the school run? Go a few extra MTR stops and take the kids along the Quarry Bay Tree Walk (they’ll sleep well that night!) There’s so much green space too vertical to build on in Hong Kong that chances are there’s even a manageable head-clearing walk right outside your office, perfect to cool off when you feel like saying something you shouldn’t. Or if you are organizing a wedding and your in-laws are taking an active interest, it’s just 0.41km an hour of pacing, 8 hours a day, so you could be well on the way to meeting the challenge already.

So, 100km in 30 days…let’s break it down:

that’s 24km a week or

3.33km a day or

5km x1 midweek + 19km at the weekend or

5km x2 midweek + 14km at the weekend or

8km x3 midweek + loafing all weekend.

You get the idea. There’s an endless combination of hikes and trails to suit every schedule. There is a list of resources to hikes in and around Hong Kong at the bottom of this blog that will be useful when planning your activities. To put the above in perspective, the average adult walking speed is about 5km per hour (source: Portland State University), and if you don’t feel like you could manage to find 1-2 hours a week to take yourself off to walk for charity and 3 hours at the weekend just for a month, it’s probably a good sign that you deserve that time out and that something needs to change.

Everyone knows that staying fit helps to keep us healthy, but not many people really appreciate how much hiking can really do for you. It’s so much more than just going for a walk, depending on your weight and the route, hiking has been shown to burn around 500 calories an hour (source: Livestrong.com), it’s been linked to lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, even osteoporosis and arthritis (source: AHS). There’s even reason to believe that hiking boosts your immune system through its impact on antioxidant levels (source: Kusano and Ferrari, 2008). Furthermore, what a lot of people don’t realise is how much it can do for your mind.

zachary-staines-181098.jpg

 

Exercise makes you smarter. At age 50 people who have exercised regularly scored higher in cognitive tests than those who had not (source: KCL). But it doesn’t just push up IQ points, several studies have shown that walking, and in some cases particularly walking through the great outdoors, can significantly boost creativity (sources: University of Stanford, University of Utah, University of Leiden).

It’s good for the soul too, physical activity just 3 times a week can cut your chance of depression by 20% (source: Mind). Caught up in the urgency of city living’s daily stress can be exhilarating but those highs can lead to lows and the frantic pace can leave you anxious and fighting for breath as you cram every moment with efficiency and productivity (or guilt yourself for not!)

It’s especially good for the soul to take time out if doing so will aid one of our charity partners: Ankor Hospital for Children, the HK-based Child Welfare Scheme, Free to Run – which empowers and educates women and girls in conflict-zones through sports – and RefuGeek, a non-profit organization which provides refugees and asylum seekers with the technology and IT skills they need to get jobs and start their own businesses.

Really, this particular challenge is about lifestyle. It’s about discovering that having a job, a family and a social life doesn’t stop you from having time for fitness and fresh air, reflection, or from doing good for the world, and rediscovering who you still really are. Being healthy doesn’t have to mean going nowhere fast on a treadmill, staring at stagnant traffic. Being with family doesn’t have to mean paying big bucks to attend children’s festivals or taking your parents out to the market. Romance doesn’t just happen in restaurants. And doing good doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.

hike.jpg

 

Lots of time gets wasted talking about prioritising as if you have to (or even can) choose between the things that matter like mind, body, soul, nature, the environment, money, career, children, friends, society, community; how can anyone live happily if these things aren’t balancing together? Having it all shouldn’t mean relentlessly rushing between competing needs because lots of it can all be rolled together. For instance, Lamma Island is about half an hour from the city and feels like another life. Imagine sharing a day with a group of friends - parents chatting at the back as the kids charge ahead, a barbeque lunch on the beach, muscles warm from the climb up the hill, eavesdropping on the kids populating the coastline with pirates and dragons, exchanging knowing glances, feeling the spray on your face on the ferry ride back home and at the end of the day sinking into bed knowing that today your kids helped other kids.  Or imagine this, walking for charity, but not as a big group on a set day in matching bibs, but just the two of you, looking out from the leaves across lapping blue water, reflecting unbroken blue skies, holding hands in the quiet peace of birdsong and wondering where the path you take together will lead you, discovering a little place outside with no candles on the tables but with the freshest seafood and feeling that it’s all your own and that these days together are entwining your souls. Or simply imagine this: being out of mobile phone reception. No emails from HR. No incoming facetime from your mother. No group messages pinging in your pocket. Just you.

Our challenge could be just more pressure, but it could be the first step that changes how you live your life.

Additional Information:

List of Hikes by Location from Hong Kong government

Lists of ‘top hikes’ in Hong Kong

https://thehkhub.com/top-10-hong-kong-hikes/

https://www.sassyhongkong.com/wellness-hikes-trails-adventure-bucket-list/

http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/great-outdoors/hikes/index.jsp

https://www.timeout.com/hong-kong/sport-and-fitness/best-hikes-hong-kong

List of night hikes

http://www.scmp.com/magazines/48hrs/article/1594628/night-hikers-share-another-perspective

 

Blog written by Rebecca Himpson

Cover photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Night view photo by Andrew Wulf on Unsplash

 Lantau Peak photo by Jen Loong on Unsplash

 Family beach photo by Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash

Online Fundraising needs to create stories & journeys in order to be more effective

We’ve all been there. You see a request from a friend, colleague, relative, an acquaintance asking you to donate to a charity they’re running, walking, swimming, biking, hiking, jumping for, you first check how well you know/like that person (how strong their brand is) and then briefly check the charity. If both seem ‘OK’ then you follow the ‘donate now’ button, donate a few $$’s, then go on about your day. You get a ‘thank you’ email from the crowdfunding website and likely don’t open it — or check to confirm the amount you donated is the same as on the receipt. You don’t check-in on them on how the training/preparation is going or what the cause is about. Several months later, the same person posts they finished the event and thanks everyone for the support — you think you remember giving them a donation but can’t be 100% sure — you click ‘like’ and, once again, move onto the next post on social media. Sound familiar?

Crowdfunding platforms have spent so much time, energy, and effort getting donors from landing on the page to hitting the donate button, that the engagement after donating has been an after thought.

At present, there is little differentiation between the various crowdfunding sites. All allow charities to create and event for a cause, allow people to sign-up and set a goal, point the donations to the causes’ bank account, then tell people to post on social media and email people until they hit (or surpass) the fund raising target.

During a recent research project investigating a new way of approaching social crowdfunding as part of the Founders’ Institute program (fi.co), I interviewed a dozen charities in Hong Kong. A common theme among them was that crowdfunding generates donations which can help, but there is no real way to generate a dialogue or education donors about the cause they’re just donated to.

After months of research and guidance from industry experts and future clients and users, we believe we have an answer. We’re currently building our first prototype with customers and entering product trial soon!