Previously, I addressed how I came to decide to plan a trip. Now, I am going to share the tangible steps for how I planned my Mt. Kilimanjaro trip.
Okay, so the desire and decision for going to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro was made; now what?
Queue anxiety: “How do I make this happen?!”
· I don’t have enough time off and could lose my job for taking a month off.
· Finances: I must have enough money to live off of while unemployed for at least 1 month, pay my student loans, and pay for a whole crew to help with the treks.
· What company do I hire to take the trip with? What are fair rates? How do I begin?
· Are there optimal seasons?
· Fitness: I’ve only day-hiked; I haven’t consecutively hiked more than 2.5 days in a row. What do I do for that?
· Danger: How do I get travel insurance, and which one? Also, how do I navigate the high altitude safely? What if I get altitude sickness??
· Flights: international flights are not cheap; how do I budget for that?
I might be missing other things that I was “freaking out” about that needed to get answered before this trip. However, I am going to share what I did for each of the challenges listed:
I decided to quit my job and start a travel contract as a physical therapist. I quit my full-time job 3-4 months earlier than the trip and made a 13-week travel contract in Washington right before traveling.
Here are a few bigger things I did to save and earn more money:
1. Switching from a full-time to a travel contract was the solution for multiple things: how to get time off and money. If you didn’t know, you can make significantly more as a travel physical therapist than a full-time one. This is because companies offer stipends for living expenses that are non-taxable. And you get paid hourly. The hourly rate is less, but that also means less taxes! So the moral of the story is you make more money, and “they” take less money (the government).
~Side note: This was a massive challenge in itself. Figuring out where to go and ensuring I was licensed to take on contracts in other states was very time-consuming and took 2 to 3 months of effort. I turned in my 3 weeks’ notice to my current job at the time before I even had a travel contract lined up for the summer. Plus you’ve got to figure out moving, temporary place to rent etc. The good news is many travel agencies will reimburse you a little for your travel fees and fully reimburse you for your licensing fees.
2. Another hack I did for finances before I quit my full-time job was being honest with my current employer and asking for additional compensation. I told them how much I appreciated working for them and how great it was, but that I would not be able to stay for very long and would be switching to travel contracts. I asked if they could give me a raise so I could stay a few months longer before moving on. Long story short, in the final 4 months of working for them, I got *2* raises.
3. I also hired a CPA to help me with my taxes because I had no idea how to balance the work I did as a physical therapist the previous year, including full-time and some side contract work And starting a coaching business; I got just over $8,000 back from taxes last year. So I had a bank account that I couldn’t access very well and stashed it there for months, and it grew a lot of interest. This account was set up by a friend from high school who works as a financial advisor. I discovered I worked better when I had an “out of sight, out of mind” account so I wouldn’t be tempted to move funds into checking. It worked. There were so many times I forgot about that extra account I was sending my savings and tax returns too.
This one felt like a douzy, and I was near meltdown at times. I read blog articles, scanned websites, etc. I started sending e-mails to various agencies. I also started texting or DMing people I knew who went to Tanzania, Which I think was 2 to 3 contacts. My aunt and uncle recently visited Tanzania and explored near Kilimanjaro for a few days. They gave me two contacts to message via WhatsApp personally. Bingo, I love personal recommendations. Both of their options gave me discounts and good deals. I continued to interview people but ended up choosing one of their recommendations. I have yet to see if it was a good choice! I will let you know.
Optimal seasons for hiking Kilimanjaro
This was answered rather quickly with a Google search. The mountain is open year-round, but there are more ideal months. We selected October. It was a month recommended in articles, and it gave me time to strategize my work and give me time to build my finances.
Full transparency, I have no idea if I am prepared. Over the summer, I have done strength training 4-5 days a week for 35-minute sessions, hiked mountains 2-3x/month, and tried to go on lots of walks! My perfectionist opinion is I am not ready. But based on the articles I have read, I did what was suggested!
Yes, there is danger. Altitude sickness is real. We have consulted with a physician for medication for altitude. I also believe in listening to my body. I have a sort of motto that goes along the lines of “dying isn’t fun”. So, I’d rather quit than push myself to do something that could be life-threatening. Essentially, I am saying that if I notice signs of my health being compromised, I would turn around and go home rather than “I must see the top”. I’m not a danger, junky. I do love safety!
My boyfriend was previously recommended to use World Nomad’s travel insurance. We looked at the packages and rates, it was a good fit. We spent about $225 for both of us.
OOOh, this is a fun one. I worked with a travel hacker who was a credit card points guru! (My words, not hers). I had started my first credit card with Capital One in early 2022 and had racked up a lot of points. So she connected me with people who specialize in booking complicated flights, and I was able to find us Business class tickets for longer than 5-hour flights. I think my boyfriend and I both spent around $600 each. Some classes teach you how to find flights and be credit card savvy. I want to learn from them so I don’t have to hire people in the future for international travel. But hey, business class tickets for $600, yes, please! This does not include the short little flights from Tanzania to Zanzibar (you could do a ferry for $30 one way if I remember correctly). It also did not include our flight to Chicago airport, where we got the sweet deal of business tickets. Honestly, most of that $600 each was paying for someone to help us use our points. So it could have been cheaper if we hadn’t and knew what we were doing already.
I love credit card points and have strategized and gotten more cards/points with the help of experts. I do not recommend just willy-nilly doing it on your own. But if you can understand “the game” and won’t be tempted to spend more than you have. I recommend looking into it. We also used points for a free hotel in Dubai on our return flight.
Okay, So there are some of the challenges and solutions I did in order for this trip to happen.
I am by no means an expert or would recommend someone do this exactly how I did it. I merely wanted to be transparent and share how I did it.
Suppose you are curious about what shifted my lifestyle to pursuing travels and outdoor adventures. In that case, you can access my free guide, which has 5 simple journal prompts that provide so much awareness and intention around my values and hobbies.
P.S. If you want to know how I came to the decision to train and go on this trip, check out part 1 of How I planned my Mt. Kilimanjaro trip!