THE DIRTY FREEDOM DIFFERENCE: Is this you??
There are scads of Kilimanjaro trekking companies out there. So why climb with us? It's simple yet significant: We don't want to just take you to the summit and back (or other destination) safely. We want to prepare you physically and mentally for the adventure so it will be the life-changing event it should be. Let me tell you my story, and see if you can identify with any of it. While I can't guarantee that your adventure will mirror mine (nor perhaps would you want it to), I can assure you that you will come off that mountain with a different perspective of yourself, others, and the world.
After participating in one of our treks, one or more of the following might occur in your life:
- You might change jobs, leave a job, or retire.
- You might leave a relationship and/or start a new one, romantic or otherwise.
- You might start a new business.
- You might lose or gain some weight.
- You might change your body image and your overall view of yourself, which can result in innumerable positive effects.
- You might move to another location, whether it be 10 miles away or 10,000 miles away.
- You might learn a new language.
- You might discover that you like African food.
In my case, all of these happened to me! Again, though every participant's experience will be different, just be aware that you could be in for a hell of a ride not just in the act of climbing Kilimanjaro, but also for the rest of your life. But be assured: It is not necessary for any of these things to happen. Just know that the possibilities are endless.
For me, my situation was somewhat grim before I ventured to Africa in September 2016. As mentioned in the previous page, I am an insurance coverage trial attorney by profession. As of April 2016, I was overweight, depressed, in a bad relationship, and completely burned out with work. It wasn't that I didn't like my clients or the job--I did. However, the years of fighting 24-7 for my clients took a serious toll. I was also very bored with my life. I felt that I had nothing to look forward to--no purpose--just driving my desk each day at the computer, hoping to retire soon and start traveling. I had already done two epic bicycle rides: one from Seattle to San Francisco, and the other the Oregon Coast.
Holy smokes, I had no idea what awaited me! After I received the invitation from Heather Thomson asking for women to climb Kilimanjaro in September (and got accepted, thank goodness), I had a goal again. Although I have always been an "exerciser," I had to shift a bit away from my distance cycling activities to training geared to climbing. For me, it was terrifying, because I do not consider myself a climber. Yet I trained hard, climbing local mountains whenever I could, strength training, and simply walking and HIIT training as often as my personal trainer advised. By time September arrived, I was ready to go but was terrified. I have a very healthy fear of heights, and being a not-climber, I was worried that I couldn't make it. Oh, and then there's the extreme high altitude: good Lord -- 19,341' at summit? Nope. Nope nope nope.
Does any of this sound familiar? Is this YOU?!?
As it turned out, I can climb Kilimanjaro, 'cause I did. And so can you. On the morning of September 25, 2016, our team reached the summit at Uhuru Peak. I was in agony from the thin air but happy to know that the mission was accomplished. We started our way down and a day later eventually reached the gate and CELEBRATION!
What struck me most post-climb is that although there was plenty of advice about how to physically prepare, there was no instruction that I can remember about how to mentally prepare. Yeah, people always reassured me "you can do it," but there weren't any specifics. That is where Dirty Freedom shines.
We will not only provide information about training you physically. We will provide information about how to train mentally so you can get the most out of your journey. The truth is that for marathons, bicycle rides, and other endurance events, it isn't so much what shape you're in, although that's clearly important. It's your mental strength that will make you or break you.
My example: When I rode from Seattle to San Francisco in Big Ride Pacific Coast 2008, me and 25 other cyclists endured 1,000 miles of hilly terrain and 70,000 feet of climbing to reach the Golden Gate Bridge after 15 days of riding anywhere from 70-90 miles per day. It cannot adequately describe how painful it was. Each morning I would crawl out of my tent, exhausted from the previous day, but somehow I and my compatriots would all climb back in the saddle and do it again. And again. And again! One morning in particular is very memorable, because it was the day we almost lost my fellow rider, Motel, whom I enjoyed riding with very much.
Motel was in a LOT of pain on about Day 10 or 11. We had just left one of our camps in California, and it was a beautiful day. About 10 minutes in, Motel suddenly jumped off his bike and exclaimed, "I QUIT!!!" This development was very demoralizing for me, because I wanted everyone to make it to the end. And I liked Motel--he was quiet, friendly, and always had an encouraging word, despite the tremendous amount of pain he was enduring. We called the ride leader, and Motel told him he wanted to be driven in the sag wagon to the nearest airport so he could fly home. But his fellow riders weren't about to let that happen.
For about an hour, I and several other riders gave Motel a pep talk and explained that completing this adventure wasn't about the pain and exhaustion he was feeling in his body. If it were up to our bodies, we would have all quit long ago. Rather, it's the mental stamina and determination that get you there. I remember another two riders, a husband and wife team from Washington State, telling Mark about their adventure riding their bikes clear across the United States a few years earlier. They said, "Completing these events is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental." I'm not sure I'm remembering their numbers quite correctly, but you get the idea. And believe me: they were absolutely correct! By time I started that ride, I had ridden my bike over 2,000 miles in hilly Washington State training, and I was as ready as I could possibly be. But like Motel, I hurt. My butt hurt. My crotch burned. My shoulders ached. My knees were KILLING ME. Actually, pretty much everything hurt like a you-know-what. And I had the misfortune of developing cyclist's palsy in my hands and wrists. They had gone completely numb, and no amount of shaking my hands made it stop. Yet sheer badger tenacity kept me going when my body was screaming for me to stop.
Fortunately for us, Motel got that message loud and clear, and he hopped back on that bike and rode like the devil for the rest of the trip. He never looked back, and in fact, it became hard to keep up with him! When we got into camp that night, I commented that Motel was a complete animal, and everyone laughed. It was a special moment I won't forget.
Before you arrive in Tanzania, we will help prepare you to manage your fears so you can be completely open to your trek and enjoy it to the fullest. For me, my fear was extreme, and it was completely unnecessary. It had a negative impact on my experience, yet even with that fear, I came off the mountain a completely new person. We will also help you to mentally prepare for the upcoming challenge so you can use that energy to your advantage instead of to your detriment. Like Motel, we want you to channel all your energy into clearing your mind for the trip--not worrying about what's coming. Trust me: Your guides and mountain staff will assure as much safety and comfort as is possible considering you are climbing the highest mountain in Africa. So leave your cares behind, and transform your life by immersing yourself in Africa's mysterious and beautiful nature.
So stop making excuses, and get out there and grab life by the horns! Get your dirty on, and find freedom.
Onward and upward!