8 Life Lessons I Learned from Climbing Mountain Kilimanjaro

Even the longest road begins with the first step. And though you are not a bird to glide, at least you will not overfly the road. You only have to go one step after another.

— Catherine B. Roy

How many of you have a dream but you have put it off for a variety of reasons? As I share the Life Lessons I Learned from Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak at 5,895 metres or 19,340 ft), I ask you to reflect on your dream and the importance of taking one step after another to make it happen.

In 2008, my vision board included a picture of a safari jeep to represent that both my husband and I wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and go on a safari. At the time, I did not know when or how this would happen. As luck would have it, my friend Rae and her family got posted to South Africa and invited us to come during summer break in July and August of 2011.

  • Lesson #1: Vision Boards are powerful manifestation tools

When making a vision board just put that intention out into the universe and see how it conspires to help you. The second part of this is to share your vision/dream with someone who will hold you accountable. Research indicates that those that share their dreams are 70% more likely to achieve them.

  • Lesson #2 – Age is just a number

I had done some research and found that the youngest person to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro was 6 yrs old and the oldest was a couple from Vancouver. He was 85 yrs old and his wife was 84. Don’t let your age hold you back from accomplishing your dream.Our Route: We decided to climb the Machame route which has one of the better success rates due to the fact that they take you to a higher altitude on day 3 of the climb and then take you back down to help your lungs acclimatize for the summit on Day 5. At the end of Day 3, I was seriously wondering what I had got myself into. Due to an old sports injury, my knees have difficulty coming down steep inclines. The 690 metre descent down had caused my knees to ache in pain. I asked my husband to take a picture of me with a drawing my friend’s daughter had done for me to help inspire me up the mountain. The tag line said: “Do it for the good.” She knew that I had raised over $5,000 in doing my climb for a local South African library so that they could continue operating.

  • Lesson # 3 – By helping others, we do in turn end up helping ourselves in the process

Knowing I was doing this climb to help others, actually helped to inspire me to continue moving forward. That and some ibuprofen for the pain! Day 5 at midnight we began to summit. Imagine starting the climb in complete darkness except for a head lamp to help see where you are going and -15 degrees with a wind chill. The air was incredibly thin. Early on in the climb, I felt the symptoms of altitude hypoxia as I was beginning to stagger. Our guide came to me and said, “Susanne, let Eddy carry your pack for you up the mountain. You need to conserve your strength.” At first my ego said, “You don’t need any help. Don’t be such a wimp.” But then this voice of reason deep inside me said, “Susanne, you are being given an opportunity to make it up this mountain. Take it.” So, I did just that.

  • Lesson #4 – Receive help when offered

It is very difficult for me to accept help due to my stubborn nature, but there are times that I need to learn to accept it with ease and grace. How many of you have refused help when it has been offered to you to achieve your dream? It is so important to receive help when it is offered.I had been prepared for what it would be like physically, but had not been aware of how much it would affect me mentally. As I listened to the clicking of everyone’s walking poles against the rocks, I heard a rhythm emerge. I started saying a mantra over and over in my head which was timed to the clicking of people’s walking poles on the rocks. The mantra was. “I will make it. We will make it.” Imagine saying this over in your head for 7 hours. This is exactly what I did to get to the top. My husband used visualization techniques to imagine himself at the top of the mountain. It was an incredible feeling to reach our goal. Once at the top though, I found out something interesting. Others in our group had to give up their day pack as they were walking up as well. So I wasn’t the only one. Thank god I didn’t listen to my ego!

  • Lesson #5 – The mind is powerful beyond measure

The universe supports whatever thoughts you put out there. My husband used visualization, while I used a mantra to help get me up the mountain. There is no one right way to do things. You have to do what is right for you to help you achieve your dreams.

  • Lesson #6 – Stop comparing yourself to others

I need to stop thinking how others may judge me and do what is in my best interest. When we compare ourselves to others, we rob ourselves of our very own joy.Descent: We had just under an hour to revel in our accomplishment, and then we had to start descending back down the mountain. This time, I accepted help readily from one of the guides who locked his arm in mine. What had taken me 7 hours to climb, took only 2 hours to descend. Unfortunately, by coming down so quickly, I got black toe (blisters under the toenail) on both my big toes. After a quick rest, we had to continue down to our last camp so that our lungs could recover. This was the most painful part of the entire journey as every single step hurt my big toes.

  • Lesson #7 – Growth requires us to continually change

Sometimes it is harder coming down off the mountain, than it is to actually climb up it. You have all that adrenalin and energy to reach the top, but then once that is achieved, you have to climb back down so that you can find another mountain to climb. We all need to come down after we have reached our dreams and goals so that we can continue to grow.

  • Lesson #8 – Believe in you and all you can do

After I returned home, I read an article about a person who was blind who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Seven hours of climbing that mountain in the dark with headlamps was mentally exhausting alone, I could not even begin to imagine 7 days of complete darkness. This demonstrated to me in spades just how strong our will power can be. All you need to do is believe and take that first step.

Here is to each and every one of you living all of your wildest dreams. All you need to do is start with a simple step.

Sending sunshine,