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February 5th, 2016

Journeying well

Since the last time I wrote I have travelled several thousand miles across the world and walked several thousand meters up a mountain. Meanwhile, I am stunned to tell you that the total you’ve given has increased by several thousand pounds as well! At last count we had received just over £3,500 in donations. Enormous thanks to all of you for your generosity and support, not only financial but for all your messages of encouragement before during and after the trek. It has meant a lot.

It was an incredible experience with massive highs as well as some tough lows. The mountain is stunningly beautiful and we were really fortunate to be walking with a great group of people and of course our team of guides and porters who were overwhelmingly inspiring in their kindness and strength. They somehow managed to provide us with delicious, freshly prepared meals every day, served on a beautifully laid table, folded napkins and all, met us every day from the trail to take our bags and wet gear, carried our packs when we were sick as well as their own and even produced an iced birthday cake on the last day for one of the team which was accompanied by an enthusiastic song and dance. Their generosity was humbling and left a deep impression on us all.

Despite our legs feeling strong, the altitude got the better of both of us unfortunately and we weren’t able to complete the final summit hike but both feel that we pushed ourselves further, physically and mentally, than we ever had before so have no regrets. As a porter said to us on the way down, “This rock will always be here. You can find it again. But you can’t find life here if you lose it”.

Goals are really important. They give us direction, setting us on a course and they serve as a motivation to continue. Without the allure of reaching the highest point in Africa, it is unlikely that we, or many others for that matter, would find ourselves on Kilimanjaro at all. But we often spend a whole lot longer on the journey than at the destination. In Kili’s case, 6 days versus 15 minutes!

Not having reached the summit, but knowing that I’d had a life-changing experience none the less, I was forced to consider the value and significance that the journey had had in and of itself. The beauty that I’d seen, the conversations I’d shared and the kindness I’d received weren’t depleted in any way by not standing on Kibo Peak, disappointing though it was not to complete what I’d set out to do.

I feel reminded that life is not just about what we achieve but the route we take to get there; the places we see, the people we travel with and the way that we choose to interact with and respond to those things. I realise that this is something that underpins my work with young women too. I hope that we are able to help them to aim high and aspire to great things, but also to know that their success is as much about how they journey as where they journey to.

Fiona

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