Well, I got back from climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania a few days ago, and I’ve been mindful to take it easy as I adjust back into my daily life. At first, I envisioned blogging and posting as many pictures as possible to share with everyone. But now, I’ve noticed that I need a little more time to process the amazing journey I’ve just made.
I hope to ease into blogging about the climb over these next few days and weeks. In the meantime, I think it’s important to note that I miss the camaraderie of my teammates, as well as the simplicity of life on the mountain—waking up, eating, hiking, hiking, hiking some more, eating, sleeping, and doing it all over again the next day. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other, and think about the amazing stories of survival and strength in the fight against cancer (which inspired me to climb in the first place). It was refreshing to be outside and witness such beautiful scenery and people each and every day.
And now, after hours of traveling in safari vehicles and on big planes, I’m finally home. I have to be ready to go back to work tomorrow, too.
Yet despite my excitement for a hot shower, clean laundry, my bed, and access to refrigerated food, I find myself feeling a little unsettled. For example, it seemed really odd to go grocery shopping on Saturday after having witnessed Tanzanian children beg for food at the base of the mountain. I also dropped and spilled an entire gallon of apple juice later that day, and felt very wasteful.
This isn’t the first time I’ve confronted these types of emotions. I’ve negotiated these feelings after getting back from Semester at Sea and my Texas 4000 for Cancer bike ride. As a result, I know it will take time to get over the initial culture shock that often accompanies a transformative experience.
However, there are certain aspects of my life on the mountain that I hope I carry with me for a long time, such as: taking time to notice the great beauty in various people, personalities, and scenes of nature; being patient with myself as I tackle challenges; and always remembering that I’ve got it really, really good in comparison to many other folks out there.
During the climb, our guides would speak to us in Swahili and say, “pole pole,” or “slowly” or “gently” so that we wouldn’t overexert ourselves while climbing. I’m thinking of that phrase a lot today, namely because I’d prefer to still be on the mountain, bonding with my teammates, and having our guides and porters take care of us. That mindset makes me realize the irony in that what was initially a challenging and slightly scary experience for me is now my new comfort zone.
So, I will go pole pole back to “normal” life tomorrow. In doing so, I aim to be a little more pensive to make this transition easier. Additionally, I hope the phrase reminds me to slow down and appreciate life more often…even when 19,341 foot mountains are many thousands of miles away.