Today at 2.30pm PST, I take off to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania in Africa. As I’m writing this, my heart is filled with a multitude of emotions; I feel ecstatic, exuberant, nervous, restless, humbled, hope, excitement, wonder, awe, relief, grateful, and love. A few days ago, the Daily Muse featured a documentary my emotional move from NYC to SF, and now I set foot to trek the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet.
When Janika, Founder of the Ladies Trekking Club told us ten global ambassadors that the route we’re going to take to get to the top wasn’t the easiest or the hardest route, but the most scenic one, I immediately understood. Life should be just like that; a series of climbs that you can look back in awe. The journey is going to be physically and mentally challenging, but extremely rewarding at the top.
Can you imagine us climbing that mountain from sea level to summit in 7 days? Here is our trekking itinerary. There will be the ten ambassadors, a crew of photographers and journalists documenting our trek, as well as guides, porters, and cooks to make sure we’re all well taken care of. I feel so lucky to be offered this wonderful opportunity to hike this dream mountain of mine, with accomplished women from all around the globe, and do it in support of such a noble cause that hits home for me.
Since some people didn’t know where the mountain was, I thought it’d be nice to put up a map. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, very close to the Kenyan border, on the eastern part of the African continent. We will be sleeping in Arusha the night before our climb. After the long grueling climb, most people go to Zanzibar island to enjoy the beach. Others prefer an adventurous safari at Serengeti National Park, a famous game reserve smacked right on the Tanzania-Kenya border. Many have also told me that the Nrorongoro Crater is a major highlight of their trip.
Diet: I started the new year with an 8-day Ayurvedic Detox Diet to cleanse my body from the toxins that’ve accumulated over the past year (I did this same cleanse in Feb 2012). But on my 8th day, I couldn’t resist the temptation to fly to Las Vegas for CES since I’d never been… and ended up spending 5 days there. When I got back to SF, I was sick as a dog for a couple of weeks. Vegas was definitely too much for me! Either that, or I had a “Herxheimer Reaction” from my extremely intense cleanse, which technically shows that the regime worked far too well for me. Nonetheless, stress from work affected my diet; I wan’t able to keep up with the low carb, low dairy, and alcohol-free diet I was planning to in preparation for the trek.
Mentally: It was tough to prepare mentally. Frankly, I didn’t even have time to think about it until the last month or so. I’ve been so busy, between launching Reclip.It’s new digital weekly ads product, taking on consulting gigs, event planning / fundraising for this charity, and trying to figure life out. I started reading stories written by women who’ve climbed Kili, which made me nervous. The level of intensity and extremity of this trek didn’t hit me until recently. I feel so unprepared. I read up more about what to expect at 14K feet, 16K feet and on summit day. A friend at Google told me that he’s seen personalities change drastically beyond 16K feet since the lack of oxygen swells your brains. Scary isn’t it?? I got some tips on how to control my breathing, when to drink or stop drinking water, how to prevent water from freezing, pacing techniques, dry packing tricks, etc. There’s just been so much on my mind lately, it’s tough to focus. Even today, I’m only mentally 70% there (so tired). Once I land at JRO, I’m hoping to be at 100%.
Training: I am fairly fit and active. They say the only fitness benchmark you’ll need to hike Kili is if you can run 3 miles in 30 mins without being out of breath. A 10-min mile is fairly easy for me (I usually do 9-min miles and can hit sub-8 to 8-min miles if I’m racing & training hard). They say beyond that, it doesn’t really matter how much more fit you are since altitude sickness affects everyone’s bodies and minds differently and unpredictably. I think I became complacent and didn’t train as much as I’d liked. The only thing I kept up for a month pre-climb was a 30-min steep incline at 15.0 at between 3-5 speed on the treadmill, 3x a week. Plus a weekly 3-mile run to the Ferry Building.
Gear & Immunizations: Oh boy, there were so many things I had to get for this climb! I’m very grateful to a few friends (Jae, Mariya, Alan, and Ellie) who generously loaned me their camelpack, -20 C sleeping bag & pad, thermal underwear, daypack, etc. I rented a nice camera for $120 from Aarthi’s friend. Bruce hooked me up with a 20% discount from Sports Basement, which was nice, since I ended up spending over $400 on a large waterproof duffle bag without frames, a headlamp, dry sacks, heavy-duty hiking pants, hiking socks, etc. Additionally, I had to get immunization: polio, Hep A & B, malaria pills, typhoid, etc. I’m so glad Yellow Fever shots are no longer required! Including a comprehensive first-aid kit and medication, I spent another $300 at the pharmacy. Since I am on the “startup-no-health-insurance” policy, I bought a travel one for $150. I think I’m all set?
Fundraising: When the organization told me that raising $15K was a requirement for being an ambassador, I thought it would be pretty easy, given that I’d already raised much more in venture funding. Boy was I wrong. It surprised me how difficult it was to get people to open their wallets, even if it’s for a good cause. Some nag that they don’t get the connection between my hike and the charity. But if you think about it, it’s no different than the way cyclists or marathoners raise money for cancer! I’ve seen some easily splurge $50-100 on a meal, but cringe to give $10 to the less fortunate #mindboggling. Anyway, I’m grateful for those who’ve generously given so far, no matter how little. We’re currently at 36% of our fundraising goals, so if you’d like to contribute, please do so here (donations >$66 will get you a copy of the “Dreamers & Doers” book, published in Sept 2013). We really appreciate your help and each donor will be recognized.
Event Planning: While we locked down Shane Mac pretty early on in the planning process to perform live for us (he’s incredibly talented!), securing the event space was a different story altogether. We had to postpone the event twice before we could finalize on a venue and date just ONE week before departure! It definitely took up a lot more time than we’d expected. Thanks to our friends at Crowdtilt, the Kimptons Hotel (thanks Tom!), Splash, and Host Committee for making this happen. See below for more…
Benefit Cocktails in NYC 3/28 & Benefit Ball in SF 4/11
To welcome our arrival back from the Kili climb, we’ll be hosting a celebratory cocktail affair with friends at The Griffin Hotel in NYC on Thurs, March 28th. This will also be my official going-away party, for moving to SF. A ticket is $45/$50 and you can purchase it here.
For our west coast friends, we’re putting together a fun, dress-up benefit ball at the Postrio, at the Prescott Hotel in Union Square, San Francisco on Thurs, April 11th. A regular ticket is $90/$100 (before 3/5) and a VIP ticket is $150 (private lounge at the Postrio, equipped with surprises) so reserve yours here now.
All proceeds minus cost will go toward the IK Foundation. Please RSVP to our NYC Cocktails and SF Ball Facebook Page to get updates. It would mean a lot to us if you can join us in our momentous celebration. We’ll be putting up a slideshow of photos from our hike and from the schools in Tanzania where your donations are going to impact directly. Plus hopefully really cool shots from our wild safari tour. Remember to tweet our super cool hashtag #ladiesontop when you buy a ticket! Thanks and see you there!
See the photo above? This is a very typical picture of how Tanzanian girls go about their day-to-day activities. They’re often tasked with the responsibility of fetching water from a stream or ground well, many miles away from their home. They walk and carry water all day long, such that there’s no time and budget for school. Their male siblings on the other hand, are given educational priority. We strongly feel that these young and bright girls should be given equal education rights and a large part of our donations will go toward supporting their classroom and scholarship funds. If this picture and cause has touched you in any way, I hope you can donate here or attend one of our benefits in NYC or SF!
Surprising my Mom for her 60th!
Yes, yes, her T-Shirt says “No Money, No Honey” lol
On a whim, I decided to surprise my mom by flying her into Kilimanjaro on Mar 5th, the day I descend from the mountain. After 7 days of hiking in cold, wet weather, with 50% oxygen in the air, I’m pretty sure all I’d want to do is to see and hug my Mom. The next day, we will be visiting the schools in Northern Tanzania to donate textbooks and teaching materials. I really want my mom to do this with me because she’s helped me raise $2,000 from her friends and family in Malaysia. That’s a LOT of money in Asia!! I’m so grateful and proud of my mom for helping me fundraise when I barely asked – she’s my superhero.
But the more important reason I’m taking her to Africa is because I want my Mom’s 60th birthday to be the most memorable ever. She’s the reason I’m able to climb such great heights and be the person that I am, so I’d really like to thank her for that. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2013 is the Year of Snake, which is my Mom’s Chinese Zodiac Sign (I’m a boar, in case you were wondering. Probably not wild. Well, maybe sometimes). To top that off, Mar 8th is International Women’s Day, so I’m taking my mom on a 4-day safari. We will be visiting the Serengeti National Park, Nrorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, etc with Nelson, our game drive guide (thanks Aren for the referral!). This all makes for a really meaningful reason to fly my Mom out, and I can’t think of another person I’d rather experience this with!
I am so very excited to see my Mom! I love and miss you dearly, Mom!
Thank You to the Big Donors
Here’s a list of some of our larger donors that I personally want to thank before we leave:
Google Matching Program – $5520
Dato’ Lim Kok Boon – $1,128 (RM3,500)
Synnove Carlsson – $1000
Dave McClure, Ramzi Mansour – $500
General Assemb.ly – $450
Penny Ou – $322 (RM1,000)
Evan Gotlib, Ching-Mei Chen – $250
Jae Kwon – $234
Aarthi Ramamurthy, Sam Gustin, Ruth Ann Harnisch – $150
Waine Tam – $130
Brett Welch – $120
Aaron Lefkove, Eli Chait, Diantie Persaud – $100
Also thank you to Caroline and our awesome friends, family, my Mom’s Line Dancing friends, my Mom’s Church friends, my Mom’s former schoolmates and my Mom’s personal friends. See the full list here. THANK YOU so much for your kind contributions.
Turning Over To a New Chapter
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro will symbolize the conquest and completion of a great big chapter in my life. I have learned so much, met so many incredible people, and grown so much internally. Yet I’ve also endured a lot of hardship, shed many tears and sacrificed a lot. In the end, the risks and investments were worthwhile and I would never have done it any other way. I am also so thankful for all the support and encouragement I’ve received from so many friends, who’ve been there for me through thick and thin. Now I’m taking the best lessons learned and my most positive memories from this chapter into my next, in hopes of creating an even more epic next chapter. I will be writing the chapter on my personal story in the “Dreamers & Doers” book that will be published in Sept 2013; you can pre-order it here or donate more than $66 to our fund to get a free copy.
I also plan to announce and share my brand new chapter at our benefits, so I hope you can make it! Take care and see you in three weeks!