Early retirement has meant anything but a restful life for Celia Chandler.
Mrs Chandler is currently in training for an incredible 200 kilometre journey in arctic conditions across Norway to Sweden, driving – or mushing – a team of huskies.
She will be travelling with a group of strangers, sleeping in teepees, putting up with outside bathroom facilities, in temperatures down to -40C.
Celia is a listening volunteer at the Banbury and District Samaritans and is using the expedition as a way to raise much-needed funds for the branch.
“Having taken early retirement in 2017, I decided I wanted to set myself a difficult and meaningful challenge. I am keen to test my mental and physical ability and raise valuable funds in the process,” said Mrs Chandler, who lives in Adderbury.
“I am lucky enough to have received funding from a great new online recruitment business that some friends have started called Zeezi, so every penny I earn will go towards Samaritans.”
Mrs Chandler’s team will be setting up camps, fetching their own water from lakes, collecting firewood as well as preparing their own food and that of their dogs.
“I’m currently spending ten to 12 hours a week in the gym doing weights, spinning and some combat training in addition to walking for eight to ten kilometres a day to get fit enough for the physical challenge,” she said.
“I’m not sure I can prepare for the mental challenge as this is so far out of my comfort zone being away with people I don’t know, away from my home comforts of a hot shower and my hairdryer and my husband Marcus and five dogs.”
Mrs Chandler is a self-confessed ‘dog person’ so her mushing challenge should provide as much pleasure as pain.
“I have three French bulldogs and two chihuahuas and I often walk other people’s dogs too,” she said.
“When I retired just over a year ago I became a Samaritan.
“After a career in recruitment, much of which is phone work, I felt I had the skills they needed and responded to an appeal for volunteers in an open day.
“The branch gets no funds at all. All its expenses are donated one way or another.
“I have done fundraising in the past, having done the Three Peaks Challenge and I thought this would be something very different.”
Anyone wishing to support Mrs Chandler’s effort can make a pledge on the trip website https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/celiachandler
The trip starts next week and is set to run between April 11 and 19.