I vividly remember what it was like when I started to tell people that I was planning to try to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. People looked at me as if I wasn’t fully straight in the head. Why would I do something like that? Who did I think I was? Did I really think I was up to that sort of thing? Most people did not ask me those questions in so many words. Those were, in my mind, the meanings behind the looks I got. The manager at the gym I was training at, however, was more blunt. He looked at me from head to toe and then said, “Do you realize how difficult that is? Do you really think a woman of your age can do something like that?” It was almost as if he was disgusted at the thought of me thinking I was up to that sort of a feat.
Climbing Kilimanjaro was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I can’t say that I was determined to reach the top. I wasn’t. When I got on the plane to travel to Tanzania, I told myself that the purpose of this trip was to be in the company of a mountain. Whether I reached its top was irrelevant. It was the experience that mattered to me. I did reach the top. I believe I reached the top not because of any physical strength I possess. I reached the top because I was surrounded by a very small group of people on that trip, complete strangers, who showed faith in me. That faith, added to my own faith in myself, created a will power that drove me to the top despite the pain, the cold, and the sheer exhaustion.
I’m now in the final preparation phases for another big adventure and I feel like I’m getting the same sort of responses from people around me. Who do I think I am to believe in myself so much? It’s almost as if I’m committing a horrible crime. I never belittle the sorts of challenges I set for myself. I knew that climbing a huge mountain was a formidable task. I knew I wasn’t a generally athletic woman. But why couldn’t I, with some training and some self-belief, at least give it a go?
This is how I’m approaching this new adventure. This trip will be the most difficult thing I’ve challenged myself to do yet. There is a possibility that I may not succeed. Who cares? It is not the success that I strive for. It is the experience itself – the attempt – that is my ultimate goal.
There are a million reasons why people like me decide to challenge themselves through different sorts of adventures. Every time I begin to plan an adventure I ask myself over and over why I’m doing this particular one. My answers vary with each trip and they vary as time passes. I have a need to see the world. But I want to see it as it really is. I don’t want to see its boxed up version. I want to see Earth in its raw, naked form. I want to be one with my surroundings. I want to be part of them. I don’t want to watch things go by from a rolled down window. I want to feel my legs taking me places. I enjoy that feeling as much as it can be difficult and painful. I want to test my endurance. I want to test my self-reliance. I want to test my belief in myself. I want peace and quiet. I want to be able to hear my thoughts. I want to be able to disentangle my thoughts. I want the meditation that comes with constant monotonous forward movement. I want to meet different people. I want to taste different food. I want to see different cultures. I want to learn. I want to grow as a human being.
The whole point of going out on an adventure for me is not reaching its end. The point for me is the experiences I get for however long that adventure lasts.
To all the disbelievers, know that I have faith in myself regardless of your lack of it. Know that there is no need to be concerned about failure because success is not about reaching an end point. Success is about the trying.
My struggle these days is not in preparing for another arduous journey. My real struggle lies in constantly shaking off other people’s doubts so they don’t affect me and pull me back. That is so much more difficult than the hours and hours of training, preparing, and planning.