What I Learned:
Climbing Kilimanjaro is like a form of meditation...sort of
There were definitely moments of high energy and excitement throughout the trip, but then there were often moments of absolute quiet and serenity.
One image that’ll never leave my mind is on the evening of summit night. I was standing in line for the bathroom and I look to my left and see the silhouettes of people in the main tent chatting and getting ready for the trek, the peak of the mountain in the background, and the clear dark sky above me. The utter peace and stillness I felt in that moment, even though I was about to do the hardest thing I’ve ever done, is something I’ll never forget.
The effort of the group is stronger than the individual
I swear I wouldn't have made it to the summit if I went it alone. From day 1, the determination and energy of the group was a major factor in keeping us all going. Although not everyone made it to the top, what we accomplished as a group as a whole is something to be proud of.
No Shower? No problem.
Just kidding, still pretty gross. It was a concern of mine going in BUT I found that I was more focused on trying to breathe and not pass out than how dirty my hair was.
Attitude is everything
What made my trip as incredible as it was was the positive attitude everyone kept along the way. I can only imagine how different the entire experience would have been had everyone let the difficult conditions get to them. In the words of one the participants Elizabeth, "we are blessed."
The Kilimanjaro song none of us actually knew the lyrics to
Every morning before we began hiking, the guides and porters would dance and sing a song in Swahili to get the team motivated. Although we only knew the first 3 words, "Jambo, Jambo bwana.." it was a really great way of lifting everyones spirits and hyping us up before a day of trekking.
2 words. Zucchini. Soup.
Another lesson, don’t underestimate the food they’ll feed you on the trek! I swear I had better food on the mountain than I’ve had in upscale restaurants in NYC. My biggest regret is not getting a recipe for the zucchini soup.
Feeling right at home
Okay yes, there may have been a bit of a culture shock arriving in Tanzania from New York. However, the people there made myself and the rest of the team feel so welcomed. The amount of hello's and waves we received while walking through town, how helpful and accommodating the guides and staff were, really allowed everyone to relax and enjoy the experience.
Thinking "Damn, I really did that."
It's an incredible feeling looking back on what I've accomplished, and it's something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life! If anyone questions my ability to do something or if I'm ever doubting myself, I know I'll be able to look back on this adventure to motivate me to keep moving forward.
Do your best to prepare for the climb, but don’t over exert yourself
There were people in my group who trained for months leading up to the trip and some who didn't train at all and still made it to the top. If I can do it - someone who prepared by taking long walks (6 minutes tops) to the bagel shop - anyone can.
Don't neglect the sun screen!
It may be cold at the top of the mountain, but those sun rays are not playing games. They will literally roast you. Pack sun screen!
Tie your laces tight toward the ankle and loose up top when trekking down the mountain
(And clip your toenails short!) This will help prevent your toes from hitting the inside of your boot resulting in bruising and pain...I would know :)
Go in with an open mind and little expectations
From weather, to health, there are so many conditions out of your control while on the mountain, it would be silly to go in thinking you'll know exactly how it'll all play out. Keep an open mind and few expectations going in and you are golden!