As a child, I watched a National Geographic special on TV on Mount Kilimanjaro and ever since, have wanted to go there. The show talked about how it was the highest peak in Africa and showed its distinct biomes: the rainforest, the moorland, the alpine desert and the snow summit. For years it was on my “to do” list. You know, that list we all keep in the back of our heads and say to ourselves someday I am going to do this and that. Needless to say, I was excited when I finally decided to climb this mountain and check it off my list. I soon realised that this expedition –climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro– was more than a trip that would allow me to check something off my list, it was a journey that revealed 5 important lessons of life I needed to be reminded of.
1) Your greatest competitor is not the person next to you, but you.
On Mt. Kilimanjaro it is not man versus the mountain or you versus the next guy, but rather, you versus the voice in your head. Every day on the mountain, it was easy to give in to that voice in your head, which would plant seeds of doubt and fear— “Am I strong enough to accomplish this task? Am I going to get altitude sickness today?”
This never-ending chorus of negativity can take over your day and sap the energy out of you. Fighting and overcoming the demons within me was harder than dealing with anything else on my journey to the mountain-top.
2) It takes a village.
Success is hardly ever a singular journey. It takes support, which can come in the form of family, friends or even mentors. To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro I needed the support of a guide to show me the way, a cook and three porters to carry not only my personal belongings but also supplies needed for the trip. Without their support, I could have never made the journey.
3) It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.
It is easy in life to get focused on the end destination and forget about enjoying the moment and taking time out for yourself. Luckily, I had a guide who made it a point to stop every now and then to talk about the unusual plants and even things like the vastness of nothing in the alpine desert region. It was during these moments that I realised that enjoying and making the most of the journey was just as important as getting to the top.
4) Slow and steady wins the race.
When you stand at the base and look at the top of the mountain, it can seem like a daunting journey, one that will take forever. Throughout the trek up the mountain you will hear your guide and other locals say “Pole, Pole”, Swahili for “Slowly, Slowly”. You soon realise that as you walk up, slowly you get acclimatised to the altitude and preserve a lot more energy. The mountain-top isn’t going anywhere so why hurry, take your time and you will eventually get there.
5) A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Even though climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro has always been on my to do list, I didn’t think it was something that would be possible. Africa always seemed so far, so exotic and so expensive –or so I thought until I took the first step of googling Mt. Kilimanjaro and learning what it would take to climb the mountain. The more I read, the further I got in the process of planning my trip until I found myself in Mumbai waiting to board a flight bound for Tanzania. You will never know what is achievable until you take that first step.
Story and Images by Brian D’Souza
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Category: Travel and Culture