Generally, the first question everyone asked me after I told them I was traveling to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro was, “Are you going with anyone?” It’s a question to be expected. Traveling with people is, on most accounts, pretty fun. It’s nice to share experiences and new places with friends and family. And solo travel just isn’t for everyone. For those who can’t do it or don’t like it, it feels like a fascinating mystery to hear those that can talk about their plans.
For me, small group adventures are the perfect blend of both worlds. I get to indulge my independent streak and the exhilaration of being on my own with the good company and new friends that joining a small group affords.
I arrived in Tanzania at 3am, about eight hours ahead of most of the group. Whisked away to a hotel, I grabbed as much sleep as I could before being whisked back to the airport to pick everyone else up. In my experience, everyone joining the group is pretty open and friendly and interested in getting to know everyone else. Despite our jetlag the hour drive to our hotel near the mountain was lighthearted and peppered with questions for our guides about what we could expect.
In my group, three of us had travelled on our own, and four had come as part of a pair. We spent the first night learning where we’d all come from and why we were all there. A big part of the conversation was comparing training regimines. Some had been training for a year, others had only taken a big hike the week before. But there wasn’t much time for bonding before we were knee deep in adventure.
We took the Lemosho route. Six and half days up, one and a half down. There is plenty of time for talking when you’re walking for that long. And because climbing Kili was a new experience for all of us, we had great interest in checking in with each other. How is everyone feeling? What do you think so far? Are you having as much trouble breathing as I am?
Everyone fell into a nice routine and ease with each other. There was an odd number of women, so we all swapped tent mates each night so that no one had to sleep alone the entire time. We laughed over breakfast, commiserated over dinner, shared toilet paper, sun screen, and energy bars, and marveled at the feat and the view each day.
I look at joining a group as a part of the adventure as a whole. Will you connect with anyone? Will there be a totally annoying person in the group? Will anyone like me? Will the operator take good care of us? The answer to all three is, ‘probably.’ My group and I shared plenty of laughs and tears. We loved each other at times and had to step away at others. We were our best cheerleaders as well as sympathetic ears when a wee bit of complaining was necessary.
I had all the space I needed as a solo traveler and all the camaraderie I needed for one of the biggest challenges of my life. It’s a no brainer for me to try a small group adventure again on a future holiday and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to other solo travellers!
By Nadia, solo traveller Feb 2017