How to Pack for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Tips, Gear and Advice

When I started to prepare for my adventure to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I was overwhelmed with thoughts and fears of what would happen if I didn’t have the right gear. It’s not like you can go to a store if you forgot something once you’re on the mountain or even in Tanzania for that matter. I spent a lot of time preparing myself and making sure I had ALL of the right gear, making sure I had every possible situation covered. So if you are asking yourself, “How do you even pack for a trip like this?” I’m here to help. I wish I had this list (with photos, too!) when I was packing so I hope this answers your questions and helps make packing easier.

mountains

The Porters are limited to carrying a maximum of 15 kg (35 lbs) of luggage for you. They are life savers and I really don’t know how they do it. Be sure to thank them and show your gratitude.

INSIDER TIPS AND ADVICE

  • Pack light but for all seasons/conditions. You go through 5 temperate climates in just a few days. Be prepared for that.
  • LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS – Lots of layers and things you can re-wear.
  • NO COTTON – it is said that it doesn’t dry at high altitude and you don’t want to chafe. Stick with breathable and moisture wicking fabrics.
  • Pack one complete hiking outfit on the plane, including a long sleeve shirt, hiking pants, underwear, socks, and hiking boots. You can rent nearly everything but you don’t want to risk blisters ruining your whole climb.
  • Be selective in what you take with you. The less you have to carry the easier your hike it and the porters are limited to what they can carry for you.
  • Be prepared to not shower for a week, to take wet wipe baths and to squat behind rocks. Don’t worry. All the cool kids are doing it.
  • It gets cold on the first night.
  • Be prepared to wear the same thing day in and out. The air is thin and cold so you don’t (or probably won’t) sweat or stink like you normally would after a week without a shower.
  • Get a camera that is small and fits in your hip pockets of the backpack. You want easy access and don’t want to carry it or have to take off the daypack to take pictures.
  • The easiest way to keep going is to not look too far ahead. Do take in scenery but focus on one step at a time. It can be mentally exhausting to see the camp site ahead but know it is still 4 hours away. Be like the elephants and watch the feet of the person in front of you. Before you know it, you’ll reach your destination.
  • Pay for the package that has hot meals included instead of box lunches. Trust me.
  • Get a toilet tent. It is worth every penny – especially if you are a woman. Again, trust me.
  • Save your iPod battery for summit night. Music makes it SO much easier.
  • Do you wear contacts? I was worried about this but had no problem with the clean water they provided.
  • Ladies- I found putting my hair in pig-tail braids helped keep it cleaner and easier to maintain for 7 days sans shower.
  • Before you leave home make sure you can layer and wear all your clothes on top of each other: Don’t buy all small sizes and then get to the mountain and realize you can’t layer them. Big Uh Oh.
  • Don’t carry any water on the outside during summit night. It will freeze. Protect it somehow. (Insulation or clothing.)

 

One of the reasons that I selected Climbing Kilimanjaro as my guide company is because I was able to rent gear through them. Instead of forking over tons of money for new gear, most of which I would likely not use again or often enough to justify the cost, I opted to rent some stuff. Most guide groups offer you the option of renting gear for a small price. Added benefit – I didn’t have to pack and schlep as much (or the heavy bulky things) in my suitcases. I was worried about using someone else’s sleeping bag. I got over that real fast when it was warm.

RENTED

  • Insulated Down Parka
  • Walking Poles (These were my BFF. Seriously, I don’t know how people climbed without them.)
  • Sleeping Bag: Warm, four-season sleeping bag. -15° C/ 0° F
  • Warm thick winter Gloves
  • Gaiters (apparently NOT one-size-fits all. Try these on first. Mine were too small…)
  • Balaclava
  • Toilet Tent (DO THIS. IT IS WORTH YOUR MONEY!)
  • Sleeping pad
  • Duffel bag

SLEEPING AND CARRYING EQUIPMENT

  • Medium sized daypack (25-30 Liters)  *To carry only the things you need during the day like clothes, water, raincoat, warm clothing, camera and food.
  • Daypack rain shield cover-  to protect from soaking your belongings. My daypack came with one.
  • Sleeping bag liner – brought but never used.
  • Dry Sacks or plastic bags to protect equipment from rain. I had a 4 L, 8L, 16L and 32 L Sea to Summit bags to stay organized.

DRINKING

  • Camelbak 32 oz water bottle
  • Platypus Water Bag – Perfect and ideal so you don’t have to stop to drink.
  • Water filtering iodine chemical tablets.

BASE LAYERS

  • NO COTTON. Wear fabric this is breathable, synthetic and moisture wicking.
  • Moisture wicking long sleeve tee-shirts (2)
  • Moisture wicking tee-shirts (2)
  • Moisture wicking sports bra tank (1)
  • Moisture wicking sports bra (1)
  • Long underwear pants (1)
  • Underwear

MIDDLE LAYERS

OUTER LAYERS

  • Waterproof hard shell jacket with hood – breathable and water-resistant.
  • Fleece pants (1) – I only wore these summit night over long underwear and under my waterproof pants
  • Hiking pants (with zippers to turn into shorts) (1)
  • Waterproof pants (1)
  • Gloves or mittens – warm, waterproof recommended
  • Medium gloves. Something warmer than glove liners but not as heavy as summit gloves for daily hiking.
  • Glove liners – thin and synthetic, to be worn under gloves for added warm and protection from frostbite
  • Knit hat
  • Balaclava
  • Sun hat with brim or Bandana ( I used bandana)

FOOTWEAR

  • Ankle high supportive hiking boots (broken in)
  • Shoes for lounging around camp. You’ll want to give your feet a break. I used Keens because they were easy to slip on over socks. (Also – bring a bag to keep your dirty camp shoes in)
  • Hiking socks 3 pairs (Smartwool suggested)
  • Sock liners- 2 pairs Thin, synthetic and one size smaller. They stretch and then cause blisters.

MISC. & PERSONAL 

  • Toiletries -(soap, tooth brush, toilet articles, tooth paste etc.)
  • Sun screen – didn’t use. Oops.
  • Bug spray- deet 25-50%
  • Toilet paper (you can buy travel rolls from Target or take the cardboard out of a roll and put in plastic zip lock bag)
  • Headlamp and batteries
  • Sunglasses – UV protection
  • Camera
  • Extra memory card
  • Extra batteries for camera & headlamp (leave extra batteries in a pair of socks to keep warm.)Batteries don’t do well in the cold and high altitude. Also, check the camera specs before you go to be prepared. You don’t want to have a surprise when you get to the top as you probably won’t want to climb to the summit again just to get that snapshot.
  • High energy snacks – trail mix, cliff bars, chocolate bars or m&m’s
  • Vagina wipes
  • Wet wipes for hygiene and cleaning –  more than you think you need. then add more. You don’t need expensive camping brand. $1.99 Wet Ones from Target will work.
  • Cotton Q-tips
  • Anti-itch cream for bug bites. FYI the mosquitoes are enormous!
  • iPod- but save your battery for summit night.
  • Small unbreakable travel mirror
  • Face Wash – I found it easiest to use Neutragena Face Wipes
  • Quick Dry Towel (optional)
  • Plastic bag for trash – You cannot leave anything on the mountain but the porters can collect the trash for you
  • Sun screen and lip protection, SPF 30+
  • Ziploc bags, to protect camera, binoculars, etc. from dust
  • Contact solution & case
  • Journal and pen *It goes by in a blur and you’ll be grateful you wrote it down
  • Cards, book, etc. something to entertain yourself around the campsite
  • Money to tip porters & guides
  • Dry shampoo
  • Nalgene bottle to pee in – I cut myself off at 6pm so I didn’t have to go because at night the last thing you want to do is leave the warmness of your tent for the frigid air to pee.
  • Go Girl – pee funnel to pee into bottle.
  • No need to bring makeup.
  • Deodorant
  • Baby powder to help keep feet dry (optional)
  • Sterile needles (Optional – in case you need an injection and don’t trust the hygiene conditions)
  • Panty liners to keep underwear cleaner longer (suggested)
  • Did you get all your shots needed to enter the country? Visit CDC website
  • I brought Just In Case Meds: Ciprofloxacin (travelers diarrhea & bladder infection) and Azithromycin (aka Z-pack)

PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT

  • Advil – Heard this helps with AMS too. Took 2 every morning and never ached or got sick.
  • First-aid kit that includes bandages, tape, blister kit, antibacterial cream, antibiotics for travelers’ diarrhea, antimalarials, antihistamines, cold and flu medications, throat lozenges, and altitude medications.
  • Blister kit – with tape, Neosporin and Band-Aids (both regular and blister Band-Aids) I used this even as preventative measures.
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Immodium for anti-diarrhea
  • Malaria tablets – I took generic Malarone
  • Diamox (Acetazolamide)-Used to prevent/combat altitude sickness. I took generic brand and had no symptoms of AMS. There were 4 of us that climbed together, 3 took meds 1 didn’t. The one girl was fine until summit night. She was the only one who got sick. Down fall to it – it is a diarrhetic so it makes you pee more. I cut myself off from drinking water at 6pm so I didn’t have to leave my tent in the bitter cold to pee and it worked like a charm.

PAPERWORK  (I Used 4L water proof Sea to Summit bag to protect passport, money and valueables)

  • Airline ticket
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Prescriptions
  • Yellow fever certificate (if required)
  • Proof of travel insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • Medical Evacuation insurance

Lastly, the most important thing to bring with you is a positive mental attitude. As cheesy as that sounds, this really can be what makes it or breaks it for you to make it to the summit sign. After 5 days, I came to the top with an hour and a half left and wanted to give up but it was that belief that, “Yes I Can Do It!” that made it possible. You Can Do It!  Good luck and have fun on your journey!

If you have any questions on what to pack or what it is like, please feel free to shoot me an email. I’m excited for you to embark on this amazing life changing journey.

Did you climb? What did you bring with you that you found helpful or necessary that I didn’t list here? Please leave a note in the comment section to pass on your wisdom to other potential climbers. 

Photos are either mine or Grace Gan
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Climbing a mountain and what could have been

Confession: When I first added Mount Kilimanjaro to my Life List, I actually had absolutely no intention or desire to climb. I was content just seeing it from the base. In fact, I even noted that.

Standing at the Machame gate waiting to start the climb
Standing at the Machame gate waiting to start the climb. How/why am I standing at such an angle?

However, something changed after I signed up for CCS. One day it just hit me as if a ball bopped me on the head and I realized there was no way I could go to Tanzania and NOT climb. It just wasn’t an option to leave with that regret. I didn’t know exactly why I wanted to do it, I had never done any serious mountain hiking, never even been to Colorado before (to know how I reacted to altitude), nor had I trained in the slightest bit to prepare for climbing, but none of that fazed me. Something in my gut said DO THIS! Perhaps it was me wanting to start a clean slate and put the past behind me, maybe I just wanted to say I climbed Kili, or maybe because it was The Year of Caryn and what better way to honor that than climbing a freakin’ mountain to The Roof of Africa? Maybe it was to have that personal victory of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Or maybe it was to show the ex that I wasn’t being held back anymore. Perhaps it was to prove to myself that I could do it, or to show the world that I could camp out and climb a mountain with the best of them and prove that I wasn’t just another prissy jewish girl. Maybe it was another way to distinguish myself from my peers or from being compared to my sister. Maybe it was to make my parents proud of me. Maybe it was all or none of that. The why didn’t matter to me, what mattered was that I wasn’t going to leave the country without reaching the summit. It was gonna happen, dammit! After deciding, I was more caught up in the act of making sure I had all the right clothes and gear than I was about going to volunteer in a foreign 3rd world country. It took nearly all my energy and research and money. But I was prepared! I meticulously rearranged my trip so that I could still do everything I wanted to do while in-country.

The three other girls in my group and I had arranged to climb with Climbing Kilimanjaro Tours. There were definitely pros and cons but overall they were great. After stopping in town to pick up rental gear, we were off! On the way to the Machame route gate, I felt as if I was being driven to my death with a slow march of music playing in the background and silence all around. I didn’t actually think I’d die but it felt like a movie being played on mute as I watched myself drive closer to the gate. There was no turning back and I was teetering on how I felt about the climb. I was nervous but knew I had to stay positive and put the “can do” attitude to the test that I had worked on creating this year and preached about on my blog. I was most concerned about altitude sickness, hallucinating at the top and the loose rocks.

October 14, 2012. Not only was this the day that I anxiously waited for as the day I’d start my 7 day trek up the World’s Tallest Freestanding Mountain, this was also the day I had been waiting for since I got engaged. This was the very day I was supposed to walk down the aisle and become a Mrs.

Talk about irony and symbolism. I was going to “begin my climb on the mountain of marriage” but instead I wound up quite literally climbing a mountain. I knew when we booked that date it would be significant and about new beginnings and adventures but I didn’t know it would be a date I’d forever remember for an entirely different adventure.

It was a total coincidence, completely unplanned to have both events on the same day. Just how the Universe had it work out because of external factors: When the boss approved me to go to Africa (after rejecting April & August), and having to change volunteering from 4 weeks to 3 instead of extending because my sister planned her wedding 3 weeks after I was to return.

This was a date that always seemed down the road, off in the future, but it caused me much anxiety as it loomed over me and slowly approached. Focusing on preparing for the climb helped me to not think about the wedding (or as much, as I would have otherwise). It helped divert my thoughts and energy away from missing him. But just like that there was no more waiting for October 14th to arrive. The thing is, time never stops and no matter how hard you wish it away, that day always comes eventually. And it always passes. I was glad I had the climb to preoccupy my mind but that day took the cake as the winner of ALL THE EMOTIONS. The usual Holy crap, I am about to climb a mountain thoughts on top of the Oh look what time it is now?! Right now I would have been getting my makeup done, putting my dress on, walking down the aisle, saying I Do, having our first dance… The weight of the day was enormous. I spent most of it inside my head. To look at my watch and clearly envision the alternate universe as it would have been happening at that very moment was a very complex out-of-body experience. It was extremely depressing and disturbing yet justifying. Justifying because here I was embarking on an amazing adventure of climbing to The Roof of Africa thinking about what could have been, how much I had accomplished and the dreams I conquered. I was truly disconnecting from the world for a week to do nothing but get lost in thoughts of self discovery and to successfully achieve that personal victory.

In my travel journal that day I wrote, “To new challenges, to new beginnings and going over the hill to leave the past behind.”

A week later, after my climb finished, I found out that it was one of the worst days of Chicago weather all year with tornado warnings and torrential rain. It would have been a nightmare to have a wedding that day. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?

Day one in the Rainforest
The girls and I ready to start our adventure

2012 in review. Year of Caryn complete.

Happy New Year, readers! Hope your year is off to a good start. How has another year passed already? Can someone please tell me because I am in disbelief that it has been a year (as of Jan 2) since I made that life changing decision that completely changed my life. It is true, time never stops and looking back, it really does help heal the wounds. It was a very difficult year emotionally but I refused to let misery encompass my life. So instead of wasting my days moping, I decided to learn about myself and made 2012 into the year that I began to find Caryn. I wanted to discover whom I was, what made me happy. I wanted to pursue dreams that I had let fall away and I wanted to become the most authentic version of myself. I did a lot of reflection and soul-searching and I took a deep look at who I had become and who I wanted to be and finally stopped dreaming and started doing. I had deemed 2012 The Year of Caryn and that it was. I find it bittersweet that it is over because I learned, grew and accomplished so much. I am kind of sad to let “my” year go. I know every year can be The Year of Caryn but it isn’t the same. And plus that’s just The Life of Caryn then.

Looking back, I am proud of 2012. It started off to be heart-wrenchingly painful where I was at rock bottom but I turned it around. It could have been just another miserable year but I made it into a year about self-exploration, independence, actualizing dreams, amazing adventures in Africa, volunteering, four (!) visits to DC, finding happiness and myself, winning things, and growth, learning, giving to others and being grateful.

January

Emotional. Tears. Swollen eyes. Heart-wrenching pain. Breakups. Saying goodbye. Losing a best friend. Mom’s 60th. Seeing an Intuitive. Receiving justification. Light-bulb moments. Dark days. iPhone acquired. Celebrated birthday. Realizing the fake vs. true friends. Depression. Crying in a public bar. Visits from supportive & amazing friends (from across the country.) Family support. Soul-searching. BiSC registration. Costa cruise crash & sinking.

February

Set personal goals. Self-reflection. Registered for volunteering in Tanzania. Girl sleepovers. Apartment hunting. RM work test. Date with Dad to see American Idiot. Emotional battles. Misery. Optimistic. Ugly tears. No appetite. Girls night out. Out of town friend visits. Signed a new lease. MIA Valentines Day. First Kitchen Aid! Scary Warm weather in 40’s! Whitney Houston’s death. Deadly tornado in Illinois.

March

30 Day Shred. Deadly tornado in Alabama. MRI results show new lesion on liver. Launch of ChiTownTweetup. Countdown to BiSC & Africa. Travel shots.

April

Acting like a teen again by gabbing on a call for 3 hours. New work team. Spontaneous trip to DC on a one day notice. Surprising friends for goodbye parties. 30 day shred. First official CTTU event at Blue Line Lounge. Planning. Creating. Dreaming. Tears. Dinners with friends. Botched haircut. Botched haircut fixed. Consulting call. New friends. Blog post causes tension. First blog post payment earned. Announced Africa to world. Shopping for Mad Men. Brunch with BiSC Chicago friends. Countdowns. Conflicting emotions. Dick Clark died.

May

Planning. Surprise visit a graduation. DC visit #2. Second CTTU event at Kirkwood. Book Africa flight. No more dreams, now reality. BiSC. Reunite with good friends. Freedom. Guard down. Wedding in Houston. Internal struggles about returning. ALL the emotions. Exiled from hotel room. Sister’s engagement party. Vegas. Abraham Lincoln hoax. Stolen stripper vodka. Soul-searching. Attempts at self-discovery. Spreading positivity and happiness. Lessons learned. Dancing on tabletops. In public. In bars. Letting go. Hit goal weight. Blueberry Stoli’s. Phone dates. Skype dates. Winning the Amazon Kindle Fire. Strip Clubs. Mad Men Party. Zumanity. Get ripped in 30.

June

Month of lots of skype dates and phone dates with friends. Applied for Visa. Attend invite-only Twitter party. Stacy’s Bridal shower. Brunch. Train to visit Mandi. Social media day. Assist in friend’s proposal. 4-way air-hockey. Planning. Stress. ANXIETY. Mom’s graduation. CTTU Sunday Funday at Brunch. Won free BiSC trip while skyping. Positive attitude. Personal Growth. Realizing more dreams and desires. Weight gain begins for no apparent reason.

July

Told my blog gave perspective to woman whose son moved away. Bought Tweetup for Change domain. Creativity. Founder. Entrepreneur. Risks. Charity. Philanthropy. Fireworks. Phone Dates. Skype Dates (Stacey). Almost record-breaking hot weather 100’s. Crazy humidity. Sox game for Dad’s Birthday. Fireworks at The Cell. Bridesmaid for the first time. Conflicting emotions. ANXIETY. Pepperoni chin breakouts. See Ex for the first time. In a wedding together. Extreme awkwardness. All the emotions: tears, pain, happiness. Fever and zits from anxiety. Rivers of tears. Missing him. Longing. Opened wounds. Talking causes crying. Saying goodbye all over again. Heartache and heart-break. Visits to Botanical Gardens to find calmness. Wedding dress decision time. In Aurora, Colorado movie theatre massacre. Bridesmaid chooses to be ex’s friend over me. Lose a friend. Uncomfortable. Lies. DC visit #3. Roadtrips with Maxie to Richmond. Cake Pops. Chocolate food fights. Laughter. Drool-worthy brunch. Bacon Bloody Mary’s. Sister’s Bridal shower. Dad’s 61st. Last minute visitors. Pre-work breakfast bonding. Olympics in London. Wacky opening ceremony. Biased USA reporting. Michael Phelps makes history. USA women’s gymnastics wins gold. Realizations that I’m not ready for friendship, despite wanting to be. Begin couch to 5K. SMC Social events. More shots. Africa preparations.

AUGUST

Concerts for Mothers Day. Seeing J.LO & Enrique. Great entertainers. Photo class. Accomplishing goals. Laid off. Blessings (not) in disguise. TUFC’s Dip Your Beak for Change at Drinkingbird. Won amazing headphones. Found out he’s dating. Elephant chest steps. Motivation to be ready to date. Shopping and preparing for Africa. Bachelorette planning. Neil Armstrong died.Sears Tower Skydeck glass city views. Deep dish pizza and cookie pies. Cupcakes from ATMs. Belly-ache laughs. Being local tourists and playing tour guide. All the walking.

SEPTEMBER

Horrible skin. Stress trumps a positive attitude. Flu. Sickness. Aches. Stacy’s Bachelorette. Last day of work. Job hunting. Loneliness. Lady-friend cycle late. Excited for Africa. Final shots. Filed for unemployment. Pressure to limit trip length. Standing ground. London Layover. Kensington Palace. Long flights. Disconnected from technology. Independence. Appreciation. Learning Swahili. Safari. 20 year-old dreams come true. Teaching kids. Lots of hugs & smiles. Kids shouting Teacha! Teacha! Pictcha! Pictcha! Personal exploration.

OCTOBER

Zanzibar. Palm trees. Poverty. White sand. Aqua water. Snorkeling. Relax. Actual vacation. Pools. Slave trade tours. Flights. Rewards. Love. Friendliness. Gratitude. Lesson plans. Photos. Kids singing to me. Teaching. Hugs. Waterfalls. Day trips. Coffee plantation. 1st Peanut butter sandwiches. Art projects. New cultures. Goodbyes. Tears. Climb Kilimanjaro. Tents. Boulders and rocks. Climbing legitimate rock walls. Personal goals accomplished. Survival. Hiking 7 hours a day. 13 hours to Summit. Accomplishment. Proud.  Mental power. Stunning sunrises. Who needs to breathe? Camping. Tents. Behind-the-Rock Potties. Layers of clothes. I CAN DO THIS. Wet wipe showers. Sleeping bags. Hot Tea. Guide crush on me. Climb mountain same day as my wedding. Tornadoes on wedding day at home. All the emotions of that day. Realization that I like traveling internationally alone. 22+ hour flights. Peace. Content. Calmness. In my element. Tranquil. Return home to enormous stress. Anxiety. Daydreams of returning to Moshi. Coughing. Cat-scans. Lance Armstrong stripped from awards. Parents proud of all my accomplishments. Give up eating meat that is GMO. Superstorm Sandy. Man jumps from space 

NOVEMBER

Culture shock. Anxiety. Depression. Weight gain. Workouts. Sister’s beautiful wedding. Mixed emotions. Tears. Love. Baking. Sign up for online dating. Finally ready. Thanksgiving. Share gratefulness. Gratitude. President Obama re-elected. Best re-election speech. Relieved. Grateful to be able to vote. Grateful lady bits are safe. Revisit orthodontist. Retainer. Again. Job hunting. Moving on. Missing past. Dates. Stress. Baking. Just Dance party. Begin running.

DECEMBER

Birthday. Visit DC & Richmond #4. Apartment hunting in DC. Road trip with Maxie. Donated my birthday to charity:Water. THE WORLD IS ENDING! Anti-climatic-false-Apocolypse. Her lack of perspective. Pain. Helpless. Frustration. Stress. Begin Eating Clean lifestyle. New Years with good friends.  Cards for Humanity. Sabers. Champagne.

Other things that were big this year:

Obama‘s endorsement of gay marriage! Honey Boo Boo. THIS NEEDS TO STOP NOW.Gangam Style. One Direction. Some Nights & We are Young by Fun. Death of Trayvon Martin. “Legitimized rape”. Chick-Fil-A controversy over gay marriage. The Hunger Games. 50 Shades of Grey. Facebook IPO bombs. Clint Eastwood argued with a chair. Hostess files for Bankruptcy – end of (fresh) Twinkies. NFL replacement refs.

Any other big things from 2012 that I forgot?

Here’s to 2013 & another year of growth and new adventures!

Happy 2013

 

* EDITED to include forgotten events.

No drinks for me this year, I’m pledging my birthday to Charity: Water.

Christmas Eve is in exactly six days. Which means my birthday is also in six days. People tend to forget about birthdays this time of year as they get lost in the shuffle and excitement of THE HOLIDAYS! Instead of wishing people to remember my birthday, my wish this year is that we can give back by remembering those who are not as privileged as us.

Growing up, I’ve been very lucky to have a very loving and supportive family. I’ve never really asked for much. Yet, I’ve still been given bountiful opportunities and received birthday gifts. Usually my birthday consists of birthday dinners and celebrations with friends and family.

But something shifted for me this year and I’ve come to realize just how much of my life I want to spend helping others. I’ve had amazing opportunities; I’m privileged to have the experiences that I have had. I went to overnight summer camp every summer as a child, I went to a Big 10 university and got a degree. I graduated without any debt and I studied in Florence, Italy for a semester. I’ve been to 24 countries already, I backpacked for four weeks through Europe and recently went to Tanzania just to pursue a volunteering dream. This list goes on but in the end it comes down to the fact that I am very lucky to have had all the opportunities I’ve had.

I know that while I have had all these experiences, there are many out there who only know a life of war and poverty, of struggle and hardship. When I was in Africa, I saw people drinking from the same stream that they bathed in. I saw rusted flimsy roof tops and people walking miles upon miles just for water and to provide for their family.

I often donate to friend’s causes like honoring loved ones or running a marathon.When disaster strikes, whether it was the Tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Sandy, I give money to the Red Cross. I hadn’t actually shown up on the doorstep ready to make a difference myself until I went to Tanzania. I had a life long dream of volunteering and having an impact on someone else’s life so I went to Africa, to actually DO something, not just pay for change, but to DO it. I started Social Impact Project for this reason, too. And I am proud to know that I accomplished that. But I don’t want it to stop there.

So this year, I am doing something different. I am continuing my efforts to make a difference, to make it part of my lifestyle rather than just  something I did once.

And that is why for my 28th birthday I want to start it off by giving back and helping others. I am pledging my birthday for a cause that gives 100% of what it raises and uses it to bring clean drinking water to those in need. I am pledging my birthday to help Charity: Water.

We take so much for granted and clean water is just one of many things. If you’re interested in reading about all the ways clean water can change the world, you can find them at Charity: Water.
So great Caryn, you are pledging your birthday. What does this mean?
This year, I am committed to raising $1,000 dollars for this cause. I realize I am not giving $1,000 of my own money; I’m asking my friends to help me.
This year, I will not let people buy me dinner to celebrate me. I want to celebrate life.

This year, no one is allowed to buy me drinks. Sure, I’ll have my friends get together, instead of buying me drinks on my birthday, I’m asking friends to take that money and put it towards something that actually matters.

I used to hate having my birthday at the end of the year, around the holidays. But I’ve come to realize, it is symbolic with starting the whole year over, starting fresh not only as the date changes but as another birthday passes. This year, as I head into another year, my 28th year, I want to start it off by giving back.
I have no idea if I’ll reach my goal. But it isn’t so much about the number as it is about helping somebody who deserves it, somebody who actually needs that “drink” for survival.

That is the best birthday gift I could ask for.

Thank you!

Here is a link to my birthday Charity: Water page.

Safari Adventures: It’s like the Lion King or Discovery Channel -only real and unedited.

Best photo bomb ever with the giraffes; a sand tornado, our safari jeep & all 25 volunteers on safari
Can you spot the BEST PHOTO BOMB ever? (with the giraffes); a sand tornado, our safari jeep & all 25 volunteers on safari

In Swahili “safari” means trip or vacation. Not crazy-cool-awesome-African-animal-wildlife-adventure as we know it to mean. How much more rad would it be if every time you got away, even on a weekend trip to say Wisconsin, you said you were going on safari? I mean, even in Europe they call it “holiday.” Both sound so much more like a mystical fantasy getaway than “trip” does.

Immediately after arriving in-country, a group of 25 of us volunteers booked a weekend safari with Pristine Trails. Pristine was simply wonderful and I highly recommend them! Adam our coordinator was fantastic (and adorable) and made everything so easy for us! On our way to the safari parks, we stopped to visit the Maasai Tribe. They are the only tribe (of over 140 tribes) that still completely lives by and follows tradition. They believe they get all the nutrients they need from the cow so they only eat cow meat and drink cow blood. I actually felt scammed and pressured to buy jewelry. Tourists come to see them all the time, so they profit off of us. But seeing their tribal dances and their homes were really neat. I guess the cow method works for them – they live long lives, are all over 6 feet tall, and when they jump vertically, man do they get air!

maasai
The Maasai

To see animals in the zoo is fun for a little while but then you are reminded they are trapped in captivity and you feel bad for them. To see the animals in their natural habitat, roaming completely free and wild in nature is unlike any other experience I’ve ever had. The animals and terrain – it is literally a live version of The Lion King. It felt very much like an out-of-body experience for me, as if I was watching Nat Geo or Discovery Channel only real and without a TV screen to protect me from the wild animals. This was up close and personal with nature at its best.

We got to visit two National Parks: Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park. Between the two, we saw four out of five of The Big 5 (cape buffalo, leopard, lion, elephant and rhino). I was bummed that the only one we didn’t see was a leopard. There are only about 4,000 black rhinos left in the world and we saw 3 of them! We also saw a family of about 30 elephants bathing (one of the highlights!), tons of giraffes and wildebeests, water buffalo, a hyena, a jackal eating a gazelle, a baby gazelle just minutes after it was born and struggling learning to walk, zebras, so many gorgeous and vibrantly colorful birds, hippos, ostriches, baboons and monkeys that even stole our chocolate and cookies from our lunches. The zebras seemed to always be posing for photos. They are very photogenic! One of my favorite, most symbolic photos is of a water buffalo standing besides a skull of another water buffalo.

My group for the safari was so much fun. We took dirty photos of the animals and scenery and kept playing songs from The Lion King; even our driver sang along to Hakuna Matata! Whenever I saw the warthogs, all I could think about was Pumba singing, “I clear the savanna after every meal.” 

One of the highlights: seeing the elephants bathe

 My driver spotted two figures out in the distance about a mile away that appeared to be approaching us. It turned out to be two brother lions that walked right up to our jeeps (and peed on the jeep behind me), and then kept walking. As they passed us, I saw two warthogs notice the lions strolling towards them and they took off in the other direction faster than their little legs could carry them. It was adorable and amusing but a reminder that this wasn’t a movie, it was real life, and I was witnessing the power of the food chain. Lions are cool in a zoo, but in the wild, they are absolutely stunningly beautiful and extremely majestic. I was mesmerized by their beauty. These brothers were slowly strutting towards us with such an arrogance kind of like they were saying, Yeah, look at us you silly tourists, we’re The Kings of this savanna, so we’re going to pee on your jeep just to prove it to you.

The progression of them coming closer and closer.
Beautiful brothers. (All photos here are mine except the one where I am clearly not taking it)                                                            Maybe Bert’s? If it is yours and you want photo credit, please let me know and I’ll gladly update it.

The monkeys were everywhere, on the street and in the trees. It was really neat to see the female cleaning the male, just as I’d seen in videos but this was IRL! During lunch, Chris was enjoying his cookie, when suddenly a monkey came from the trees and snatched it straight from his hand. Another one came towards me, I grabbed my lunch and ran. He grabbed the chocolate I accidentally left behind. He was fascinating to watch and he knew to unwrap it just like humans do. Another group went back to their jeep after lunch only to find a monkey sitting in the backseat eating their food. #cuterascals

Baboons
Bottom middle: the monkey eating Chris’s cookie. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have gotten that close.
Baby Gazelle, Jackyl & Gazelle, warthog, Water buffalo alive & dead, hyenas, hippos & zebras
Baby Gazelle, jackal & gazelle, warthog, water buffalo alive & dead, hyenas, hippos & zebras

This is already photo heavy as it is – so if you want to see more pictures click here.

I wish we could have stayed in tents in the national parks but we didn’t. I think it would be have been so neat to sleep in their territory, listening to them howl before you go to sleep. But we slept at a much safer campsite. I smile every time I look at these photos and still am in disbelief that I did it and am able to cross it off my Life List. There will be a next time because I know I will do another safari at some point. The joys of witnessing nature, no one trip will ever be the same.