Thursday, December 05, 2013


Sometime in 2012, my brother started mentioning that he'd really like to climb Kilimanjaro next year. I murmured the sort of vague assent that I often make when I really want to say yes to something but know I probably won't be able to deliver. "Hmmm sounds really exciting," I said without really committing myself. I spent the next 8 or so months working, wedding planning, and then getting hitched and going on a honeymoon.

A few months ago, Walker said, "I'm seriously going to climb Kili in October. Dad's coming, you should come." Then my Dad started working on me. "I'm not getting any younger," he said. "How many epic trips do you really think I have left in me?" I said I thought he had a lot of time and that I couldn't afford to fly to Africa anyway.

My maternal grandparents are deceased but they were big travelers in their day. My parents once gave them a map of the world and some pins to place in the countries they'd seen. By the time my grandfather died, one couldn't see their map for all the pin heads. In short, my parents invited Amanda and I on a two-week all expenses paid trip to Tanzania! This trip would be a tribute to my mom's parents and their love for travel. The loosely conceived plan: My brother, my father, and I would attempt Kilimanjaro while my mother and Amanda would visit the beaches of Zanzibar. Then we'd all reconvene for a week-long safari through the Serengeti. Amanda and I said yes and my parents promptly purchased non refundable airfare.

Parts of the planning process made me want to kill myself and everyone else involved. It seemed that my mother wanted to see every village in Africa. Meanwhile my wife and I had major concerns about we as tourists recreating harmful colonial experiences, and other issues surrounding ethical travel. I was caught between wanting to avoid taking part in "native" performances put on for rich Mizungus while respecting my parents desire to have the trip of their lifetime. After all, they were paying for it.

In no particular order, the five of us researched tour companies, changed budgets and itineraries, and got drugs for Hep C, Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, Malaria, Altitude Sickness, and The Shits. I also loaded up on allergy meds because, as it turns out, I sometimes have really scary allergic reactions that require stabbing an epi pen into my thigh. Walker, the only one who had traveled in sub Saharan Africa before, wisely decided to remove himself from the planning process. Veteran move. At one point I had to take a stand as my mother was insisting on taking public transportation everywhere in Tanzania. (Here's why this is bad). I always worry before doing things I've never done before. I worried that I wouldn't make it up Kili. I worried that my Dad wouldn't make it either. I worried that I'd get sick over there. I even worried that the five of us would create National Lampoon's Safari Vacation or something much more tragic.

Eventually, worried or not, with everything booked it was time to go.

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