Cruising solo across the Gulf of Mexico last Christmas, I had a lot of time to think. Traveling alone, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And this led me to realize that, while I was about to have a lot more flexibility in life, I hadn’t really taken advantage of that flexibility when I was last single. In my twenties, I’d held onto longstanding “one day, I’d really like to…” non-plans (e.g. “I should go to Hawaii“) for years without doing anything about them, and years went by without “advancing the plot.” In my thirties, everything was about the kids or otherwise driven by family commitments, without any real pursuits of my own.

This felt, in a word, tragic, so I challenged myself: “Okay, so what’s a big thing you want to do?” I thought: “Well, I should take a cruise to Alaska.” But that didn’t feel particularly ambitious. A periodic daydream tickled: “I’ve always thought it would be neat to hike Kilimanjaro and see the stars at night.” Now that would be something: foreign travel, a new continent, a physical challenge at least an order of magnitude greater than anything I’d done before, and wildly outside my comfort zone in almost every dimension.

It seemed, in a word, perfect. Except, of course, that I knew almost nothing about the trek, and I was in the worst shape of my life– barely under 240 pounds, I’d bought all new clothes for my Christmas cruise because none of my old stuff fit anymore. Still… the prospect was compelling: a star on the horizon at a time when I was starting to feel directionless. Something to think about to pull me forward instead of succumbing to the nostalgia and sentimentality that otherwise seemed likely to drown me. If not now, when?

Project K was born.

When I got back, I published some new years’ resolutions, but decided to withhold explicit mention of Kilimanjaro until I’d convinced myself that I was actually able to get in shape. I set up a home gym, sweating on my previously unused exercise bike and buying an incline trainer over a treadmill because maximizing incline/decline seemed prudent. I ran a 10K. And then I ran much more, including a treadmill half marathon (via iFit) in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. I requested a catalog from a Kilimanjaro tour company. I read a few books: I bought Polepole and The Call of Kilimanjaro, and a friend sent me a third, self-published account (there are approximately a million of them). I learned much more about the challenges of the hike (mostly related to remaining upright at extreme altitude). I idly wondered whether anyone would ever ask what the “ProjectK” tag on my blog meant.

I’d planned to publicly commit to the trip at the end of June, after I’d told my parents and enlisted my older brother to join me. But I chickened out a bit and decided to wait for my annual bonus at work to decide whether I could afford the trip, and by then I was focusing on September’s Alaska cruise and the final details for our family vacation at New Years. Finally, on December 1st, I pulled the trigger and sent in the deposit for our Kilimanjaro trek next summer. So now I’m committed.

We’re booked on the Western Approach, an itinerary with 11 days in-country and 9 days hiking.

There’s still a ton to do– we need flights, gear, shots, and visas, and I still have tons to learn. I need to broaden my workouts to include more training with incline and decline. I’d like to learn some basic Swahili. I need to do some real-world outdoorsing at lower altitude and lower stakes. I’m going to read some more books. I’m going to find advice from some friends who’ve taken the trip before. I’m going to worry about a million things, including the things I haven’t yet thought to worry about. But I’m excited. And that’s something.

Tempus Fugit. Memento mori. Carpe diem.

Published by ericlaw

Impatient optimist. Dad. Author/speaker. Created Fiddler & SlickRun. PM @ Microsoft 2001-2012, and 2018-2022, working on Office, IE, and Edge. Now a SWE on Microsoft Defender Web Protection. My words are my own, I do not speak for any other entity.

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