Come visit me over at En Route Traveler today…

Have you checked out En Route Traveler yet? It is an online resource that inspires and educates the independent traveler on how to prepare for a journey, discover affordable planning and travel options and best of all, guides the traveler on how to experience a place’s culture and environment in an authentic and responsible way. It is a fabulous resource with very informational articles and beautiful photos!

So when they asked me to guest blog about my experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity! So, I’m excited to be guest blogging with not one but two(!) posts over at En Route Traveler today sharing 24 Insider Tips for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and my Complete Packing List for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Be sure to check it out! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

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The Bittersweet One Year Anniversary {Parallel Universes}

Today would have been my one year wedding anniversary.

I’m struggling with this. It is a very surreal and strange thing to process. How has it already been a year? It is crazy to think how fast time has flown by and all that has happened in the past year. Had I gotten married, NOT ONE event of this past year would have happened. Not.a.single.one. Think about that for a minute. Crazy, eh? It is stop-in-your-tracks and mind-numbing to think what could have been. It is even more wild to think that all the memories I have now from this past year would not exist. That’s such a strange to think about. Where would I be today?

Today is also the day I celebrate my one year anniversary of starting my assent up Mount Kilimanjaro.  I am so proud of myself for accomplishing that feat; a feat that I am still in disbelief that I DID; a feat that I have to look at photos to believe sometimes. And that would not have happened had I been celebrating the wedding anniversary.

So instead of cutting into and eating the top-tier of my wedding cake and exchanging paper gifts, I am alone looking through photos from when I climbed Kilimanjaro. It was ironic, it was coincidental, no it was Kismet, that it fell on the same day. I couldn’t have planned that better if I tried.

It is this parallel universe of celebrating two anniversaries; like looking down a kaleidoscope and seeing an alternate life. It’s like Sliding Doors; seeing what your life might have been if one decision was different. I’m proud of all that I’ve done, accomplished and am experiencing; of how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned about myself. But I miss him and wonder what our life would be like.

I know where I live now, who I’ve met, and the things I’ve done – none of it would have happened. My outlook on life would be different. I know I am much more positive and grateful for the little things; I would not be who I am today, that’s for sure. So much would be different. I’d be a Mrs.

There are those things we look forward to all year; we set goals, we hit milestones, we meet new people, we plan vacations, we advance in or change jobs. We have experiences that we expected and others that we never could have predicted. We grow another year older, wiser.  Yet the one thing that is consistent in all of it, is that time doesn’t stop. With that, every decision we make leads us on down a new path, and we must learn from our experiences. I guess having both anniversaries on the same day, makes today easier to swallow; it puts life and the choices we make into perspective.

Today is, and always will be a bittersweet day. Two anniversaries in one; today I celebrate both what I accomplished and what could have been.

Last year today, in my travel journal, I wrote, “To new challenges, to new beginnings and going over the hill to leave the past behind.” And that is just what I am celebrating today.

Happy Bittersweet One Year Anniversary, to me.

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today…

I arrived in Tanzania, Africa for what was the greatest adventure of my life – a month of volunteering & teaching in the community, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on Safaris, and visiting Zanzibar. All of it completely changed my life. I’m in disbelief that it has been a year already. I miss Moshi and my experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I don’t think a day goes by that I haven’t thought about it in some capacity.

I’m so grateful for that experience.

I can’t believe all that has happened, come and gone in the past year and all that I’ve learned and discovered both about myself and others along the way. Nzuri sana.  It’s funny, I always catch myself first, but my instinct is still to say “Asante Sana” instead of “Thank you.”

In that month, I learned so much about myself, what it means to be a community, how privileged americans are and how much we take for granted. I learned so much about gratitude and appreciating what we have; that being wealthy has everything to do with how grateful and happy you are and nothing to do with how much money you have.  I learned to follow my heart; to express love and gratitude and to live passionately. I learned there is so much more to life than just the items we own or the cars we drive or the life we live. I realized how important it is to experience other cultures and to leave your first world expectations at home when you travel to a third world country.

Time and how we perceive it is an odd thing. I reflect and think about all that has happened in the past year since I first arrived in my host city and I am silenced.

When put in perspective that I’ve already lived in DC for 7.5 months, one year ago feels simultaneously both light years away and just few months ago.  It’s a teeter-totter of emotions and memories. It seems like it never happened; it seems like 6 months; it seems like decades ago and it seems like a year.

So much has happened since I landed in Tanzania. I look back on the impact the children had on me, and vice versa; the fact that I no longer have to dream about someday fulfilling a lifelong dream of volunteering and going on African Safari’s is exhilarating and saddening.  It’s crazy that I actually held residence in Africa. Not at a hotel, but a place I called home for a month. It’s hard to fathom that I climbed the largest freestanding mountain in the world and lived to tell the tale. I think about that accomplishment and it still blows my mind that I DID THAT.  At this point it feels like it is a figment of my imagination, just a dream I conjured up in my head, and I have to look at photos for proof I didn’t make it up. I am still in awe and incredibly proud of myself that I actually did it let alone successfully made it to the summit no less. I accomplished 7 things on my life list.

In the past year since returning, I flew 22 hours alone, my sister got married, I was unemployed for a while, I moved across country on a gut feeling and then I got a new job soon thereafter; one that I love because I know I get to impact lives everyday. I made a new home in that new city and made new friends. I’ve accomplished  2 more things on my life list.  I ran my first 5K. I played league sports and started my own Ladies Only fantasy NFL leagues with friends. I have spent an ENTIRE year eating only meat that was GMO/anti-biotic free.

Man, a lot has happened – and that’s just the start of it all.

From the moment I boarded the plane wondering what this adventure was going to be like – until now – the adventures haven’t stopped. When I woke up a year ago today, I never would have predicted just where my life would be today – all because of that one decision to go to Africa.

I miss Moshi and my students every day. This adventure and experience has become a part of who I am and I am proud of the person I have become. I am strong and brave; I am bold and adventurous. I have learned to be true to myself, to follow my gut and to surround myself with people who make me a better person. I am more positive and grateful. I know that I can accomplish big things; I know I can push myself; I can climb mountains and continually challenge myself. I’ve learned to honor who I am and to do what makes me happy.  I’ve grown more into the person I want to be. Asante Sana.

You can’t predict what the future holds but you do have to have faith that you are going in the right direction. Time is a funny thing. It never stops. And as we get older, it only goes faster. It blurs together and weeks become months and months become years. I still can’t believe an entire year has gone by.

What started as the greatest adventure of my life has evolved into my life being a giant adventure now. I am grateful for my experience and thankful I had the courage to follow my dreams and make it happen. I look forward experiencing (what is now) the upcoming year and reflecting on all that I will have done. Maybe a year from now I’ll be in a different city? Engaged? Single? Maybe I’ll be an Aunt? At a new job? Whatever will be this time next year, I look forward to all the adventures that lie ahead.

Hakuna Matata.

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