Late 2019, my sister and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Here we were, reaching for the tallest mountain in Africa, and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895m. The hike and the happiness and challenges that came with it gave me a different perspective on life.
1/ This Too Shall Pass : The hike was tough. Not the physical walk itself; instead, the mental focus and the altitude sickness were the real struggles.Between days of fog to start with and a huge snowstorm on the night of the summit, we were exhausted. How could anyone sleep – in a tent – with noise, anxiety and altitude sickness symptoms?!But the summit night came. By 11:30 PM, we were getting up. It was time! During more than 7 hours in the night and cold, all sort of thoughts crossed my mind. Although I saw the stars in the sky, appreciated the “calm” wind after the storm and felt inspired by the composure of our guides, the long night summit walk felt like a never-ending climb. I had to keep myself moving forward : “one step at a time”. All of a sudden, we could see the end. I knew that I would have done anything to get us there. At 8 :30AM, we made it to the summit.From rain to sun, from storm to calm, from darkness to light, from pain to peace, this journey was a good demonstration of 2 things : Whatever the difficulty, “this too shall pass”, just keep walking & Beauty can take different forms, open your mind to discover the hidden gems. It’s up to us to develop gratefulness in any circumstances.The mental fight I had to push myself harder than I ever had and to keep believing, was possible only because I felt part of something bigger. We had a team of people taking this feat physically and mentally with us…
2/ What A Team! From encouragement from my sister, to unconditional love from our whole family, to the support from friends and the incredible care of our guides and porters, it all made a difference. My sister brought the vision. Our family brought the practical, financial and moral support. Our guides brought the expertise of over 100 climbs. Our porters brought tremendous strength : “Imara kama Simba” : “As Strong as Lions”. In fact, our belief in the value of making a difference started even before our climb : While we wanted to reach the summit ourselves, we also wanted to impact others.
My sister and I raised money for a greater cause : access to education. We were able to donate 3,200€ thanks to the heart-warming generosity of family and friends to NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE).Going Higher : Why Settle For Little?Looking back, I realize the unknown was both a blessing and an effort : I have travelled to over 40 countries. Yet, here I was, learning to adapt to the surroundings, people and situations once again, with very little control, and to enjoy the struggle and excitement that came with it! My experience also gave me the determination to surround myself with the right people. Each person in my journey was important. This was also the case during my MBA a few years earlier, when I realized that a group is much stronger with different capabilities: I eventually learnt to discover everyone’s abilities and how to use them.
I realise, once again, how much of a difference people can make.Finally, this ascent prompted me to keep longing to have more impact and to grow my reach. Like any project we take on, this hike saw its fair amount of challenges, but adversity is in the moment and mental strength can ease the pain and help focus on the beauty. If we set our standards to elevate our caring for others, of caring for ourselves and of positive impact on lives, we can change the world!