7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Jun 10, 2014 at 3:30 a.m. ET

Considering climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Whether you're ready to go conquer that mountain this year or need a little more time to think about it, there are plenty of reasons that challenging your mind and body and embarking on new adventures are worth the effort.

1. Immerse yourself in a different culture

In Canada, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by so many cultures. You can hear different languages being spoken and sample all kinds of traditional ethnic foods practically wherever you go in our cities. But there is also something incredibly special about going to another country and immersing yourself in the language, traditions, foods and beliefs of the people there. When you spend days on the side of a mountain in Tanzania with people who were born and raised around that very place, you can learn so much about their culture and way of life — far more than you could ever learn from a book or internet search.

Maybe you can't jet off to Africa just yet, but that doesn't mean you should miss out on a chance to learn about a culture other than your own. Do you have a friend from a different background? Or perhaps know a senior citizen who came to Canada when they were young? Why not get together and share stories from your backgrounds? What a great way to learn about different histories, cultures and ways of life!

7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

2. A chance to learn a new language

When you're climbing a mountain for days without the smartphones, iPods, tablets, etc. that usually keep us distracted and isolated from one another, you have the opportunity to really talk. You will literally spend hours and days during which your only distraction from the exhaustion your legs are feeling is to talk to your fellow trekkers and guides. Over 100 languages are spoken in Tanzania, but the communal language is Swahili. Swahili is a beautiful language, with many sounds similar to those we use in English as well as the same alphabet, which make it very easy to learn. Climbing Kilimanjaro is the perfect opportunity to learn some of a new language, so don't miss your chance!

Fortunately you don't have to travel halfway around the world to learn a new language. If you've got the language bug, then take out some language tapes from your local library, and then consider joining a meetup.com group in your area to practice your skills.

7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

3. Experience totally different landscapes

If you've ever driven across or visited different parts of Canada, then you know just how varied the world's landscape can be. From miles upon miles of flat prairies to the jaw-dropping Rockies, we get a whole lot of variety here. But the differences you'll see on Kilimanjaro are something else entirely. Because the same plants and animals that thrive at sea level can't live at higher altitudes, the landscape you walk through will change drastically from day to day. The tall trees of the rainforest will get shorter and shorter, then turn into shrubs and then disappear entirely, leaving way for dirt and dust, then rocks and shale, and finally it will all be covered in a layer of snow and ice. Between these shocking changes and the stunning views, you'll definitely want to have your camera handy.

Don't forget, you don't have to climb a mountain to see all the wonders nature has to offer. Your local park or nearby forest has all kinds of amazing plant life and creatures worth observing and learning about. And when you see something you want to know more about, a quick online search or flip through a reference book can have you discovering all sorts of cool things about how nature works.

7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

4. Learn to embrace the unknown

You can do all the prep work you want before heading out on a journey like climbing Kilimanjaro, but there's no way to fully prepare for the number of beautiful sights you will see, the wonderful people you will meet and the physical challenges you will face. You might wake up each day knowing which camp you're going to, which route you'll be taking and who will be guiding you, but there will surely be unexpected wonders along the way. So all you can do is be open to them, and enjoy. It truly is the adventure of a lifetime!

Not ready for the mountain yet? Then check out an area of your city you've never been to before. No matter how well you think you know the place where you live, there's always more to find out.

7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

5. Because you can

This is the simplest but most important reason. Before we did it ourselves, we pictured those who said they were going to climb Kilimanjaro outfitted in florescent snowsuits, carrying picks and ropes, facing down blizzards and tethering themselves to the side of the mountain so they wouldn't tumble off. But that isn't at all the case. With a highest elevation point of  5,895 metres (compared to Everest's 8,850 metres), reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is a very feasible goal. A good backpack, solid hiking boots, some walking poles and a variety of layers to keep you comfortable in the different temperatures, along with a few other key items and an educated guiding team, are enough to get you safely to the top and back again. No climbing harnesses or pickaxes required.

Keeping life interesting and making memories is all about challenging yourself — body, mind and soul. So even if you aren't ready to climb a mountain yet, don't lose sight of that conquering spirit. Find a challenge that seems just out of reach, and make it happen... because you can do it!

For a different challenge, find out why everyone should run a marathon at least once >>

7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

6. Push your body to accomplish what seems impossible

Although making it to the top of Kilimanjaro is completely doable for most with the necessary training and preparation, it is still undeniably a challenge. Walking for four to 10 hours a day, mostly uphill and along rough terrain, especially when faced with the added unknown of how your body will handle altitude, certainly has its difficult moments. But it wouldn't be nearly as exciting and memorable if it weren't challenging. Feeling exhausted, nauseated or cold, or experiencing headaches, loss of appetite, trouble with digestion, blisters, aches, etc. are just some of the many side effects that can come with trying to climb a mountain. But when you push through those pains and make it up and down the mountain, what you'll be left with is a huge sense of accomplishment and some humorous anecdotes about the infinite ways getting there challenged your body and mind more than you could have imagined.

Does climbing Kilimanjaro seem like too big a goal for you to set just yet? Don't worry, because there are plenty of ways to enjoy the satisfaction of challenging your body without trudging up a mountain. Consider signing up for a race, such as a 10-kilometre or half marathon. Whether you run or simply walk your way to the finish line, pushing your mind and body to train for and compete in such an event will be a huge source of pride.

7 Reasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

7. The view from the top

The days you spend climbing Kilimanjaro are amazing and worthwhile even if you don't make it to the top. But if you do manage to summit, then it will likely be one of the most inspiring views of your life. Guides try to time summit day so that you reach the top around sunrise. Standing atop a golden mountain as the sun comes up, with sparkling snow around you, glaciers and other peaks in the distance and fluffy white clouds as far as the eye can see, is not an image you're likely to ever forget.

Feeling like you're on top of the world when you summit Kilimanjaro is an amazing feeling, but you don't have to be close to 6,000 metres above sea level to see the world from a new perspective. Stand atop the Scarborough Bluffs, the Capilano Suspension Bridge or any hill or tall building near your home, and feel the exhilaration of seeing your world through new eyes.

Memorable experiences

Whether you have the budget, gear, physical fitness and motivation to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro this year or you don't think it's in the cards for you just yet, there are so many reasons to explore our great world. Whether that's climbing a mountain or learning more about the city you've lived in your whole life, don't be afraid to try something new and to challenge yourself. Until you do, you have no idea what you're capable of!

Photos courtesy of Sheelagh Daly
Note: These observations are based on a unique, personal experience. Consult your family doctor and/or other key professionals in your life before undertaking physically and mentally demanding goals such as the ones discussed here.

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