Lahari moved to Sheffield from Hyderabad, India, to study an MBA at Sheffield Hallam University.
I didn't really get a chance to go out walking in the village I grew up in, and especially not in Hyderabad - a big, polluted city. Now I take the Peak District for granted because it's on our doorstep, but we all realise how lucky we are to have it.
I came here knowing nobody and the university circles were not where I wanted to be, mainly because everyone had different interests. Staying in Sheffield after studying was certainly not part of the plan. I even considered going back halfway through my course because it was very isolating, but then one of my Indian friends who is now back in India suggested joining a walking group.
In a university, it's a bit of a bubble and I wanted to break out of that and learn about the local community and people and things that they would do here. Being part of the Ramblers has been a massive help in establishing my personal network in the UK. I literally went from thinking 'Oh my god I can't live here, I want to go back', to not wanting to go back at all because all my friends and my partner are here.
I definitely wanted to meet new people and to build new friendships. In hindsight, I don't think I realised how much of a motivation this was for joining. And now, all my best friends are from the group, we socialise a lot outside of the walks, and it's fantastic to be a part of it.
I am very proud to say that our group has done so much for vulnerable people over the years. I've seen so many people who, if it wasn't for the group, have nowhere else to go and socialise and get out and about.
I keep saying it to everybody. It is underrated how much walking and being in touch with green spaces keeps you well mentally. If I am having a busy and stressful day, I just take 15 minutes to get out into the park across the road. That 15 minutes' walk changes my mood and relaxes me. I don't think I'd be able to do that if it wasn't for the green space.
When I first started walking with the Sheffield 20s&30s Walking group over three years ago I wasn't very fit and couldn't tackle longer and difficult walks. However, recently a friend from our walking group and I scrambled up Ben Blabhein in the Isle of Skye, supposedly one of the most difficult Munros to climb. Just a day after that, a few of us from our group climbed Ben Nevis -- this was only a dream for me a year ago. I'd asked a friend how to approach difficult walks up hills and mountains and she'd said, 'the more you do it the easier it gets'. It may sound obvious, but it kind of stuck with me and I did try to walk regularly before climbing Ben Nevis and Snowdon, and Ben Blabhein last year! I still can't believe that I am able to enjoy our national parks as much as I do, and getting up to some of the wonderful summits and trig points and enjoying the views from the top is truly remarkable.
Lahari is a member of the Sheffield 20s&30s Walking group. You can start walking with a local Ramblers group in your area this Festival of Winter Walks.
Find a walk near you. Filter by 'Festival of Winter Walks'.