Big Mountain. Small Steps.

To kick off the small story month, I figure it would be appropriate to share a small adventure I had over Christmas up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

When I left Cambodia in December, I made a small pitstop in Tanzania to climb to the roof of Africa with my friend Andrea (remember her from Bolivia and Bangladesh). Why I would choose to climb a mountain in the middle of a difficult transition home is its own series of stories, but lets just say since it was between Asia and America, I decided it was on the way.

To be clear, technically there isn’t anything small about Kilimanjaro.  At 5,985 meters above sea level (nearly 20,000 feet for the Americans) Kili is the highest peak in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world.

The goal of climbing Kilimanjaro isn’t a small one either. In fact, it’s big and intimidating. Bigger than I ever imagined when I agreed just a few weeks earlier to attempt its summit.

There is one small thing about Kilimanjaro though- a small secret you must learn in order to conquer her peak: If you want to make it to the top of the mountain the only way there is by taking very small steps.

Sure, you can buy all the right gear (which we didn’t), train for months to be physically prepared (which we didn’t), and hire the most expensive mountain guides available (which we didn’t). Yet when it comes down to it, no matter how prepared you are, you still have to take the whole mountain one very slow step at a time.

I’m sure you’ve heard that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” While I won’t argue this truth with Lao-Tzu, I think there is more to the story.

The first step is critical to begin, but a journey of a thousand miles actually requires the average man to take an additional 2,639,999* steps in order to make it to his goal.

Certainly I wouldn’t have made it anywhere near Tanzania had I never taken the first step. But that step wasn’t enough to get us to the top. Reaching the summit required many faithful steps – approximately 110,880* small ones over the course of eight days- many of them taken when we felt too tired to actually take another one.

The lesson is this: while the first step is critical, never underestimate the power of the thousands of small steps to follow. You need every single on of them to reach your big goal.

More Kilimanjaro stories to come. What are you walking towards?


*If the average small step of a person is 2 feet, there are approximately 2640 steps in a mile.

** Kilimanjaro’s Lemosho route which is approximately 42 miles long. 


One response to “Big Mountain. Small Steps.”

  1. “No matter how prepared you are, you still have to take the whole mountain one very slow step at a time.” Soooo true and such a good life analogy. You are a rock star.

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