Check In With Your Values and Prepare To Reach New Heights

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I went on an adventure with my family and I can’t wait to share our story with you. Over the next few weeks, I’ll tell you all about our journey, the lessons I learned along the way, and the hardship I overcame in the end. If you’re just joining the adventure, start here.

After months of planning for our trip to climb the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, my daughter, my husband and I finally took flight. Read here on why all our pre-flight preparation was surprisingly energizing.

By Fanny Schertzer (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

We drove to Tanzania from Kenya to start our Mount Kilimanjaro climb. One of the highlights was seeing the biggest banana market in the world (no joke!). Everywhere you looked were bananas… giant trucks full of them, huge mounds of them at the market, people carrying more on their heads. It was phenomenal.

“Wait, What Did I Sign Up For?”

Reach New Heights

As we drove toward the hotel, we spied Kilimanjaro. It was HUGE, right in front of us! It went from a crazy idea to reality. You could see the shock on our daughter’s face, thinking, “Wait, what did I sign up for?”

Our climb would start from the Marangu Hotel the following day. The highlight of our arrival to the hotel was Dora, a tiny, serious woman with giant glasses who was our quartermaster, in charge of making sure we had enough equipment.

The Damp, Dusty, Musty REI

Reach New Heights

She had a checklist and insisted on seeing and touching each piece of equipment, for each of us. If we didn’t have the right things, she would then lead us to her equipment room, which looked like Aladdin’s Cave, full to the ceiling of used equipment.

Need a water bottle? She’s got 30. How about a sleeping bag? Pick one out of the basket.

Broken Teeth?

Thankfully we managed to pass Dora’s inspection. We then had to pass Anthony’s 90 min briefing, discussing all the perils of our upcoming trip, including but certainly not limited to:

  • Broken teeth from eating frozen chocolate
  • Frozen water bottles which will lead to dehydration
  • Sun blisters, if you don’t cover up (which I discovered for myself)

We were thoroughly subdued by the time we finished with Dora and Anthony. And it was finally time to hit the mountain!

Could we possibly be any more prepared? Too bad Dora and Anthony weren’t around to prepare me for what it was like to return to Washington, DC after the adventure had ended; I had to learn those lessons on my own and look forward to sharing those lessons with you.

It was finally time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Reach New Heights With Family

For the first four days of the climb, we hiked 5-9 hours per day in glorious sunshine, through rainforest, moorland and desert from 4000 feet to 16,000 feet. It was breathtakingly beautiful and so peaceful, as it was just the three of us and our guides.

We were completely unplugged with nothing to think about, except making it the next hut. So we played every game you can imagine, multiple times, including geography, fizz fuzz, market, and more. It was fun and strenuous at the same time, with no distractions other than taking the next step.

There was a trail family of people we saw every day, but we didn’t hike with them because we were the slowest by far. We can thank Elias, our chief guide, for that; he wanted to ensure we did not get altitude sickness.

Don’t Forget, Altitude Can Make You Sick

So did we get sick? Yes and no.

  • My husband, Neel, had a faint headache for three to four days, but not much else.
  • I was very sick for two days, but ironically got better after I stopped taking altitude medicine.
  • Our daughter Ariana was totally fine, at first…

Room and Board, Mountainside-Style

Reach New Heights in Africa

Curious about the room and board on the mountain? We slept in A-frame, wooden huts with four bunk beds, meaning we always got one hut to ourselves. There were dining huts for meals, which consisted of a lot of soup, rice and meat.

On day four, we arrived at Kibo Hut at 16,000 feet. It was COLD! I was literally shivering a few times that day, despite wearing almost everything I brought with me.

At this point, we were in a dorm with other hikers, with very basic food and toilets. We went to sleep at 7:30pm and woke up at 10pm, to start the final ascent to 19,000 feet. We left at 11pm, and even though it was frigid and dark, we were all excited to make it to the top.

Life, Unplugged

Reach New Heights Kilimanjaro

Unplugging is something many of us struggle with. We look at email before bed, first thing in the morning, in the middle of dinner, while working out, while cooking dinner—you name it. Yet not being distracted by our devices can be energizing. It allows time for connecting with family, playing games, laughing, and sparking imaginations.

It what ways can we integrate distraction-free time into our lives? And how? One place to start is to take a look at your values. Do you value being available for work at any given moment? Or do you value spending quality time with family? It’s important to check in with our values daily. I sure needed to do that once I got back to Washington, DC…

What do you think—did we make it to the top? Make your guess in the comment section or on Twitter!

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  1. Michael A. Koplinka-Loehr
    May 7, 2017

    Love ‘accompanying you’ on the journey.


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