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. (more…)