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 began to get concerned about the physicality of it.
For three years, I was working full time and studying for my Master’s; life was pretty busy, 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 two years old (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 Mount Kilimanjaro. Immediately I answered “Yes!”, and once I started telling people about my plan, I was far too stubborn to back out. It wasn’t until the departure date was mere weeks away and people starting telling me stories of others failing to reach the summit (including professional athletes) that I began to get concerned about the physicality of it.
I carried on and was reminded again of the golden rule—you never truly know what it’s going to be like until you get there.
I was expecting the climb to be physically exhausting—and it was, but what I didn’t see coming was the impact it would have on my mind—in a positive way! Being amongst nature, away from technology (no phone, computer, etc.) for six days gave me 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 metres above sea level peak is something I’ll never forget. I managed to both meet the intense physical challenge and leave that mountain feeling more mentally present than I had in years.
Another huge highlight of this trip was having my mom join me after the climb. We took a safari together and returned to the farm where we had lived so many years ago.
Coincidentally, about a month after we had booked our flights, my dad received a letter from his Tanzanian counterpart Bernard, whom he hadn’t heard from in ages. 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 great fortune of having him guide us to the farm and fill 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 recognised each other. Travelling 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 favourite, this one still tops the list. I’ll always cherish this trip for allowing me 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.
Author - Tatum Gardiner
Tatum Gardiner is from Canada. She is a passionate traveller who has been all over the world. A marketing professional, she works hard and plays hard.