5 Ways Tanzania Changed My Life

My journey to the top of Africa changed my life

Several years ago I flew off to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and try to impress a beautiful woman. In the end I failed to reach the summit, but I did impress the woman enough for her to marry me. It's been years since my first visit to Tanzania and I long ago reached Uhuru peak on my second visit. But as I look back on my life since that amazing trip, I have realized that I'm a better man today than the one who stepped off that plane so nervous and excited all those years ago. It wasn't my final victory in reaching the top of the highest freestanding mountain in the world that really impacted me. It was the people and culture of Tanzania. The warmth, laughter and support of the Tanzanian people have left a lasting impression on me in many ways. The ones that come to mind immediately are:
  1. I laugh more freely - One the first things that struck me about the people of Tanzania was how eager they were to laugh, to simply enjoy the moment. As I climbed Kilimanjaro and porters passed me carrying heavy loads they always took a few moments to joke with me and share a laugh. Even under the burden of 60-80 pound loads these men took the time to laugh and joke.
  2. I enjoy life more fully - Almost every person I met in Tanzania seemed to live life fully. Yes, there was poverty and challenges beyond my ability to appreciate. But that didn't stop people from sharing a laugh and enjoy the few things they did have access to.
  3. I welcome new friends more openly - At one point on our travels Lisa (the beautiful brunette) and I ended up traveling on a local bus across Tanzania. We were the only white people on a bus packed to overflowing. At first I have to admit, I felt a bit intimidated and out of place. But as the bus cruised down the road we began to feel welcomed by these people; these strangers. We were all on a journey together, so why not enjoy each other's company? Smiles slowly emerged and we were welcomed as a fellow traveler, not a stranger or foreigner.
  4. I try more new things - Traveling through Tanzania and up Kilimanjaro we got lost, were confronted by "strange" people, tasted new foods and even got sick on the top of the African continent. But in the end, it all worked out. We tried something new, something a lot bigger than Lisa and I had ever tried before. And it was wonderful. Thanks to the warmth and generosity of the Tanzanian people we got through all the tough times and had a life-changing experience. We learned to be brave and try a few new things, even something as big as a mountain.
  5. Appreciate things more - As an American watching the news, my view of East Africa was pretty bleak. But my experience in Tanzania was quite different. I know there is plenty of poverty and problems in Tanzania. But I was struck by how much people appreciated the few things they did have, and how they appreciated each other more than anything. These weren't a "poor" people waiting for people like me to give them a hand out. They were proud, hopeful and lots of fun. They were my teachers and I learned to appreciate all the little things I had and the people in my life.
Thank you Tanzania! I'm a better man today because of you.
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