I’m On Team Journey

Sep 28, 2016

In which a destination person learns to appreciate the journey.

Before we left on our Kilimanjaro triumph, I wrote about how the journey is the destination. Truth be told, I believed that maybe 70%. Because there’s always a competitive little demon in me that wants to reach the summit, no matter how cool the trip to get there is.

There was a lot of self-talk to remind myself that we had seven full days of trekking to get to the summit and two more back down. In between, there’d be about half an hour to rejoice at the summit. That’s it, just 20 or 30 minutes.

Before we left, I spoke with our support person at the trekking company’s HQ. He told me a story about hiking with a man who was making his second attempt to reach the summit. The first time, it was all about getting to the top. He was so laser-focused on that one goal, he failed to see the glory all around him. Perhaps it was the self-imposed stress, but he didn’t reach the summit. To him, the trip was a failure. Fortunately, he booked a second trip. This time he allowed himself to enjoy all the other aspects: the nature, the weather, the insights his guides had about the plants and animals they encountered along the way. He made it about the journey. And this time, he reached the summit. But even if he hadn’t, it would have been a good trip.

I worried that I myself might not fully enjoy those days, that I’d be the one to miss the point of this trip entirely. So I paid attention, reminding myself to look around at scenery I could only imagine.

Those nine trekking days were absolutely incredible, so full of beauty and traveling through different climate zones. It seemed like every day we were in a different part of the world with new vegetation (or none), weather and trail conditions.







We traveled in a pack of eight hikers, with four guides and a posse of porters who schlepped our stuff with ease. The camaraderie was electric; part of the joy of this journey was getting to know everyone. As if it were a great cocktail party, our group mixed and mingled effortlessly, taking the time to ask personal questions and give each other a little boost when we needed it. One in our group called us a family, and it certainly felt like it. Mornings often included a swap meet to share supplies; coming together for dinner after each hike was the perfect time to rehash the day’s events and psych ourselves up for tomorrow’s effort.


Almost before I knew it, we were getting up at 3:45AM to get ready for our summit attempt. Just like that, it was time for our big test, the reason for all the time, money and effort we’d invested. Off we went, headlamps blazing.

Starting in the dark allowed us to think less about the rocky terrain that challenged us for the first hour or so. Quietly, we took it step-by-step.

The sunrise was an early reward, one that charged us all a little bit more.


Then it was just slogging. Honestly, there’s no other way to describe it. The altitude hit us and we pushed through our fatigue. I silently beseeched my headache to go away, while Fred pushed through light-headedness. I cycled through all of my mantras: This is a gift and an opportunity. The only way out is through. Think of the tanzanite earrings you’ll buy at the end! The most powerful motivator, however, was the mistaken belief that if we made it to the summit, we’d take an easier path down. Not sure how that got in my head, but it did and it wasn’t until we were safely up and down that I realized we simply back-tracked to return to camp.

Many hours after our early morning departure, we found ourselves at the top of the world. 





Everyone in our group made it up and down. Then the pressure was off – the mood was even lighter over the next two days. Celebrating at the bottom was the icing on the cake.



p.s. After we made it back to civilization I said to Fred “I know we’ve just been on a magical journey that most people will never get to enjoy. Truly, I’m grateful. But if I’m being honest, I’m really glad we made it to the summit. It would have felt a little like failure if we hadn’t.” That little competitive demon in me never goes away!






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