On December 31st, I will be celebrating my first summiting Mount Kilimanjaro -the highest peak in Africa- anniversary, focusing on the post summiting effect, looking at how this year went, the good and the bad, only to find out that this might be the most decision driven year of my life, maybe the most rewarding as well.
My feet, photo by me
The minute I stepped a foot into that eco-lodge at the midst of the bush in Mpumalanga, South Africa I sensed that my life will never be the same again.
How It All Started…
Let me take you slightly back in time, first thing first I am an Egyptian Law School graduate, who has been lucky to be part of a 10 days Photography expedition in South Africa, and I can tell you that the minute I stepped my feet into our “at the midst of the bush” ecolodge in Mpumalanga, I knew that my life will never be the same again, I came to the conclusion that I definitely shouldn’t pursue a legal career, I deserve the life of a world explorer, a photographer, “a documentor” without even noticing it.
The entrance to the ecolodge in Mpumalanga by me
I was grateful to God & my parents who gave me the opportunity to embark on such a journey.
Throughout the expedition, I was so overwhelmed to the extent that I started to write down the details of each and every day, from being chased by the biggest spider ever to literally hugging trees in huge forests out of joy, from chasing the big five at open parks to enjoying the sound of shower rains that makes one feel calm and stress-free. I was grateful to God & my parents who gave me the opportunity to embark on such a journey, a journey that allowed me to think deeply, showed me the real me, and the hidden adventurous side of me.
Starting My First Invisible Blog
Three month after the expedition, although by then my experience was limited to visiting the UAE, Turkey & South Africa, but I felt I was as experienced as Ibn Battuta or Marco Polo, therefore I started a blog, where I basically posted photography work, and wrote about my experience in South Africa in an amateurish style. Who cares I am writing for the love of travel and to keep my memories documented, no one will read them anyway, and I don’t have the guts to showing my blog to anyone, my friends will laugh at me that’s guaranteed, they will say “who the hell do you think you are, it’s just one exotic trip, who cares!”.
At Moholoholo Rehab Center in Mpumalanga by me
My wildest dream was to tour the world, record my experiences and start my own photography business based on that, so I traveled a bit more, ceased every opportunity, did lots of photography, participated at group exhibitions, been published in two offline publications, and endorsed by many, meanwhile I was hesitant, inexperienced, not knowing how to start, wasn’t even sure if my plan was doable, at this stage I thought that first thing to do is working in the legal career, so when I leave it I am sure I did the right thing.
Time went by me jumping from one job to another, once a trainee lawyer, another as admin, then an International Relations Specialist, and finally a Legal Researcher. Every job I did was killing me every day, waking up each morning not looking forward to another day at work, always distracted, curious to fulfill my travel lust, reading posts of people who were brave enough to leave everything behind, and do what they are passionate about.
Interest In Photography Slowly Vanishing
Little by little my interest in photography vanished, it did not completely go away, however my love for travel was way stronger, and that developed a new passion pretty quickly; in travel writing it was, I guess the reason why it developed over photography is that my photography skills were never strong enough to convey my messages, I took beautiful pictures of waterfalls, nature, and animals, & won a couple of awards, but never was I able to take that picture that “is worth a thousand words”, therefore I needed to nourish a more powerful skill, a way in which I can communicate my love for travel, and push others to experience the world that they probably don’t know a lot about.
A Life Changing Challenge
On June the 2nd, 2012, I was hiking on the Swiss Alps, seeing myself the one with the slowest pace among my friends, while hearing stories of people who succeeded or failed at climbing the North Face, on that day I decided my top priority when I go back home was dieting, exercising like crazy and getting fit, because if I love adventure there is no other option, but becoming VERY fit.
That’s exactly where I was hiking at Kleine Scheidegg in Switzerland however it was more snowy, haven’t seen so much greenery as in the photo (Photo courtesy: Ed Coyle)
At this point in time, I have lived in Switzerland for 3 months -on a work training, roamed around the country during weekends and visited 10 Swiss cities, wandered around the continent and been to the Netherlands, France, Spain, Germany, Italy & the Vatican City, and already been to Tunisia, Malta, England, Kenya, Turkey again, & Thailand.
A few days after I started my getting fit plan, September 8th, 2012 to be exact I bought my own domain, started a real travel blog posting travel articles irregularly, mainly my adventures, and misadventures, along with travel tips, and whatever it takes to move people out of their comfort zone, sharing the posts on my Facebook personal account without getting so much attention still, which made me lose interest in writing one by one, I lost hope at getting any attention, those around me not convinced that I could be a writer, travel writing is a nonexistent term in the Egyptian dictionary, and I have graduated from Law School so what I am doing makes no sense at all.
Photo Courtesy:Jen Collins
In October 2012, I attended a course teaching how to turn your passion into a profitable business, which gave me a strong push to continue pursuing my dream, for God’s sake there are people in my society who are as crazy as me, the tutor himself was an engineer who quit his career to become a motivational speaker, so now my dream doesn’t seem unreachable as I think it is.
One by one, I decided to take things more serious, to taking writing to the next level, to work really hard on enhancing my skills, started to apply in blogging and travel writing courses, the most significant was a one day workshop in London. And the outcome was meeting for the very first time with a bunch of travel writers, learning about my dream job, making interviews with random people in the streets of London, and most importantly taking travel writing more serious, trying to be more committed to writing regularly which I hugely failed at, however my readership increased over time, and some of my friends started to realize that I was a “not so bad” writer.
Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb : The Turning Point
Still waiting for a miracle to come my way, I started to apply in travel agencies, willing to do any travel related job, thinking that any job that has to do with travel will satisfy me, got one interview, but I was over-qualified for the job they offered. Until climbing Mount Kilimanjaro came my way, the miracle, the turning point it was. My first trekking experience, I have hiked many times in Egypt, Africa & Europe, but never I done it for several days, never did I climb a mountain but Mt. Moses in Sinai that did not require any special experience.
Our guide Ismail taking my hand to the peak (Photo courtesy: Christina Wichert)
Although the route we followed did not require any special skills, only good physical fitness, and strong legs, but it was one hell of a mental challenge. Surprisingly mental, not physical; thing is you spend 6 days on the mountain, hiking for 5 to 6 hours a day on average -except for the peak day, this is when the hike gets longer and much more tiring-, without getting proper sleep, the luxury to shower, to look in a mirror, or use proper toilets -squat toilets they were or anywhere hidden amidst nature-, freezing weather at night, altitude sickness gets its toll on you, your life gets very primitive, with no access to electricity, you happily eat what you are served without any complaining, you are 6 days dedicated to hiking, eating, sleeping and repeating.
This is when a mental struggle attacks you “Are you insane? Why are you doing this to yourself? You’re drained out of energy and there’s still a long way to go, is it really worth it?”. To me the equation was quiet simple “since I was able to lose weight, and become fit, I’m definitely able to push myself to reach Africa’s highest point”.
My Certificate of Completion
After one hell of a peak day, and making it to the top, it was one hell of an indescribable feeling -those who never made it will never understand- ; strength, persistence, decisiveness, contentment, accomplishment, and willingness to do anything, the best I can to realize whatever I dream of, my second time to feel that my life will never be the same again, but this time it was not a thought, it was a decision. I realized how our brains have complete control over our decisions, and actions, that obstacles are nonexistent, and nothing can stop us from achieving anything in life, no matter how difficult, or challenging it was. This is when people around me started to realize that I am not just another traveler, I am different, passionate, and totally addicted.
Writing in my blocknote about my post summiting feelings at Kilimanjaro Airport by me
A Fresh Beginning
This is when I started to look at my life from another perspective, a perspective that pushes me to disapprove of my unsatisfying life, my job that was giving me the hardest time ever, if I love travel writing, and strongly believe in it, then I have to be pro-active, approach online and offline platforms to write for them even for free, and even if no one responded I have to get my word heard, and shared, one day people will believe how useful, and insightful travel writing is, how it demolishes gaps between different cultures, and how it widens our horizons. I started to be filled with hope, and motivation.
Photo Courtesy:Alban Gonzalez
Finally, I received replies to write for several online and offline platforms -this is when my articles started to go viral-, all free of charge. A month later, a clash happened at work, and a couple of days later the online platform fired me for some misunderstanding, which made me frustrated in a way that all I wanted to prove is that they have made the worst mistake ever, and showing my boss that I don’t care about my unfulfilling job, as I will very soon quit.
I revisited my sent items re-sent my writing samples and resume to whoever did not respond to me, until I received a quick reply from Travelstart Egypt, who did not get my previous application a month earlier, in the course of 3 days, I had one phone interview from the headquarters in South Africa where I kept asking the interviewer “Is travel writing a real job? Am I really going to write travel articles for a living? -it felt like a dream coming true-, an interview with Egypt’s Country Manager in Cairo, a phone presentation, and bam I got the job.
My precious received on Dec. 20th, 2014 after almost 7 months of being a Travel Writer (Content Manager)
Where Did My Parents Stand?
They were completely disapproving of my decision to leave the legal career, always repeating “it’s such a shame to waste your 4 years of prestigious studies to travel, write articles and do photography for a living, that’s not even a career”, at first their words sounded convincing, and made total sense, but after years of experience, learning, and deep thinking I decided that I won’t settle for the less, would rather waste 4 years of my life, than wasting my whole life doing something I hate.
Photo Courtesy:Luke Addison
I am not saying it ever was an easy decision to make, not only it required guts, but several years of traveling, learning, self learning, & thinking nor am I saying that my job is perfect, or stress free, there are lots of times where I keep doubting my decision, thinking to myself have I done the right thing, or am I going to regret it later? Where do I stand today, and where will I be tomorrow? For God’s sake not only I’m convincing myself, my family & friends that I did the right thing, I am also convincing a whole society that what I am doing is a real job requiring writing skills, lots of reading, research, and above all a passion for traveling, and discovering.
But at least, now I wake up looking forward to another day at work that brings a new challenge, a piece of article that will go viral, or will only be admired by a few, who will learn something about somewhere around the exhilarating world we live in, looking forward to hearing comments, and feedback to improve, and feel good about myself.
Looking at my life all over again, I found out that it’s travel, travel, and more travel that forged the person who I am today, it’s a compilation of travel experiences that made me determined to quit a job I hate to do a job that I love. So finally I’m following Confucius’ say “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”.
At the end of the day “when you want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist. Keep the faith, know that you are not a victim of your circumstance, and follow your heart.