"It was a strenuous walk of about 10 hours a day for a week. I got very bad blistered feet and was walking in a huge amount of pain. But I finished it," says the former senior human resources (HR) professional with the Economist Group who now runs a HR consulting and coaching firm.
She says the experience taught her about the strength of the mind. "I can tell people from my own experience that when you put your mind to something, you will find a way to achieve it."
Originally from Britain, Luya was relocated to the Hong Kong office of the Economist Group in 1997. In 2002, to recuperate from the stresses of her working life, she took a sabbatical and joined a fitness retreat in Africa where she met her future husband. A year later their first son was born.
"At that point I was 39. I had given up hope of meeting somebody so it's a great thing [to have met my husband]."
After giving birth to her third child in 2008, she decided to leave the corporate world and devote more time to her young family. She also needed time out to contemplate her next step in life. "I had a burning ambition to do something on a one-on-one basis," she says.
In the months that followed, Luya spent time with her children, started thinking about setting up her own business and took on the challenge of the Gobi march. Since returning from the race, she has been developing her business in career management, which embraces aspects from writing resumes and corporate outplacement to coaching people who want to change their lives.
Luya says some of her clients are business people who are struggling with managing their teams, while others are trying to figure out what they want to do in their career.
"Coaching is about helping people think through the issues and how they can reach their goals," she says. "At the back of this is the knowledge that people can do it if given the opportunity, the right tools and techniques."
Luya also coaches women executives. "I've been a corporate executive and now run my own business. I have a young family and juggle family and work. I've lived some of the issues that women face. It's about focusing on what is important and thinking why you are doing things but not others. Generally you can find the answers because you know yourself better than anybody else," Luya says.
- Smaller living space, and air and noise pollution cause stress in people.
- But the can-do culture is impressive: everybody makes things happen and people here are so driven.
- While working hours are usually long, this is changing.