"It wasn’t until the trip got closer and people starting telling me stories of others failing to reach the summit (including professional athletes) that I started to get concerned about the physicality of it."
For three years I was working full time and working on my master's degree part time; needless to say my life was fairly stressful and I had very little time to travel. As a graduation gift to myself, I decided I was going back to Tanzania where my family had lived for two years. Since moving back to Canada when I was 2 (28 years prior), none of us had returned and I’d always had the desire to see where I had lived the first two years of my life.
When talking about the trip with my parents, my Dad asked if I was going to climb Kilimanjaro when I was there. Immediately I answered ‘yes’, and once I started telling people about was my plan, I was far too stubborn to back out. It wasn’t until the trip got closer and people starting telling me stories of others failing to reach the summit (including professional athletes) that I started to get concerned about the physicality of it. While I knew the climb would be physically exhausting, what I didn’t expect was the impact it had on my mind – in a positive way!
Being away from technology (no phone, computer etc) for 6 days gave me the time to think… really think. Plus let’s be honest, when you’re climbing ‘pole, pole’ (slowly, slowly) up a mountain at high altitude, talking isn’t the easiest thing to do. Trudging up the final day of the ascent, witnessing the sun rising over Mount Kilimanjaro and reaching the 5,895 MASL peak is something I’ll never forget.
Another huge highlight of this trip was having my Mom join me after the climb. We planned for a safari and to return to the farm where we had lived. About a month after we had booked our flights, my Dad received a letter from Tanzanian counterpart Bernard, whom he hadn’t heard from in years. Bernard had been looking through old address books, stumbled upon my parents’ names and decided to write a letter.
We were able to meet up with Bernard, and had the fortune of him guiding us to the farm and filling us in on its history. I’ll never forget the look on my Mom’s face when she first saw Bernard, when we drove up to the farm and saw familiar buildings, but also when she and one of the prior employees recognized each other. Traveling with her allowed me to see the country through a different lens than I would have by myself, and also put context to so many stories I grew up hearing.
While all my trips are special, when asked about my favorite this one still tops the list. I’ll always cherish this trip for giving me the opportunity to reflect not only on my past, but also plan for my future. Did I mention I reached the Kili summit on New Year’s Eve day – just in time to start the new year with a fresh perspective!
Tatum Gardiner is an avid traveler who lives in Winnipeg, Canada. You can reach her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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