A year later: lessons of Kilimanjaro from a lost phone

In just a few weeks, it will have been a year since I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of strangers who became friends. Compassion International has Cause Treks; nature loving opportunities to see the world while also meeting your sponsored child and seeing the work of Compassion in that country.

As you know, I summited Kilimanjaro as an 18 year old. I had been back to Africa a handful of times since my high school graduation in Kenya. However, the Kilimanjaro Cause trek journey was a pivotal moment in my life as an adult. That is a story will be for another day.

What I didn’t share about the trip was that I lost my phone on our return trip home. I had taken hundreds of photos throughout the 10 days in Tanzania, including most of the summit photos for our group. As WiFi was not too reliable in Moshe, where we were staying, nothing was backed up.

It was a crazy day leading up to our trip home. I had safely tucked my phone away in my backpack, putting it where I always do. However this time, upon clearing immigration at the tiny Kilimanjaro airport, my phone was nowhere to be seen.

I finally had to admit defeat when we boarded the flight sans phone. I was so angry at myself. I felt stupid (How could I, a trip leader, loose my phone?). I felt disorganized and devastated that everyone’s summit photos were now gone!

During the flight back, all I had was a tiny journal and pen. You don’t realize how much you rely on your smartphone for long trips when you suddenly are without it.

I opened that notebook up today and looked through my PAGES of notes. I thought I’d share a few things I learned while on the mountain.

Welcome to Melody’s lost phone journal musings after summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro.

  • As I approached Gilman’s Point, I became very emotional. I realized that I was nearing the top of Africa. My 18 year old self NEVER knew what my 43 year old self could do. That I could climb that mountain again; as a wife and mother of three. What an amazing gift!
  • Climbing a mountain is hard. And this climb was probably the hardest thing I’ve done. As we approached Uhuru, the summit, I felt that I had nothing to give. I was completely empty. Then I looked at LaLaunie’s (Fellow trekker) steps and KNEW, I just needed to follow her; one step at a time. It’s how I made it to the top. At that moment, I was a leader who needed to follow.
  • It’s humbling to be served. It’s hard to see people bear my burdens. My porter carried my 15 kilogram bag every day without complaint. He did it with joy; meeting me at the edge of the campsite each evening. He would Take my day pack, leading me to my tent which was set up with a warm basin of water for my “washy washy.” How often am I able to let people experience joy by serving me? My self sufficiency and independence often gets in the of other’s gifts to me.
  • It takes a team to accomplish a goal. We had to work together (from 74 years old to 18) to make the journey. In life we need community. We need each other to be successful. We can’t be isolated and alone. Journeys are meant to be shared, not done alone.
  • You need to prepare in order to succeed. All the hours I put in training counted as I went up. The success of a goal comes from the hundreds of steps leading to that goal.

As for the lost phone. Well, I had accidentally packed it in my checked bag. Upon our return to Washington, I found it waiting for me in my bag.

Hindsight 20/20, I’m so glad I didn’t have it for that trip home. I now have a journal of 43 year old mountain musings that remind me, today, in this strange COVID world, that I can do hard things. And when hard things come my way, I just need to take the next step.

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