A woman with anxiety so severe she could barely get on a bus has overcome her fears with a little help from explorers of the 1920s.
Elise Wortley says she suffered from ‘crippling’ anxiety throughout her 20s but was inspired to follow in the footsteps of intrepid women from history.
Often armed with as little as a wicker basket, some rope, a wooden backpack, and a coat made from Yak wool, she now reaches some of the world’s hardest to reach places.
Using the journeys of famous female explorers as her guide, she now recreates their journeys using the same equipment.
For Elise, 29 from London, it was about stepping away from tech to enjoy the natural world.
Her first trip, a trek in India, was inspired by Alexandra David-Neels journey on the Tibetan border, covering 435 miles by foot in a month.
She chose to take only the equipment the French explorer would have had – even going as far as wearing authentic, itchy underwear from the same time period.
“I got a bad rash from washing in rivers but luckily it was nothing permanent.” Elise joked.
On her next trip she conquered Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountain inspired by Nan Shepherd’s trip documented in The Living Mountain.
The book is about Shepherd’s sole journey to the six highest peaks in the Cairngorm Mountains, written in the 40s but not published until 1977.
In the book Elise noted the changes in the scenery: “As climate change becomes such a global issue there is no better time than now to explore nature.”
Elise’s time exploring nature had a positive impact on her mental health as it meant she wasn’t relying on modern technology.
“[In Tibet] I didn’t look at my phone for two and a half weeks” she said, finding her natural surroundings much more calming.
Elise’s trips are not just for her personal benefit however as she hopes to enrich the lives of women along her way.
“Because the project is woman-based, I wanted to help women in the areas I’m going to in some way.” Elise said.
During her trip to the Himalayas she raised £2,500 to provide girls in rural Nepal with reusable sanitary products.
In Scotland she donated to Scottish Women Aid to support victims of domestic abuse.
Currently Elise has completed a pilot TV show and is pitching her series to several networks.
She is also planning a trip to the Valley of Assassins in Iran to follow in the footsteps of 1920s explorer Freya Stark, showing that she has no plans to slow down.
She has found that the trips have calmed her anxiety and has advice for other intrepid explorers looking to make the leap.
“Keep going, do something brave no matter how small that is.”
“Whether getting on the bus or climbing a mountain in the Himalayas.”
“If these brave explorers can do it, so can you.”
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