See that big mountain? In January 2017 I’ll be climbing it! Not on my own of course, that would be insane. I’m going with two friends from work, together with a group of explorers who aim to raise funds for the ZSEA, Zoological Society of East Anglia
I’ll get this out of the way right now – I am insanely excited about this! More than I have been about anything for a long, looooong time!
And I mean jumping up and down with a lifetime of Christmas days and birthdays rolled into one kind of excited!
My legs are jiggling up and down right now as I write this!
Look at that mountain! LOOK!
I’m going to stand on top of it!
(After months of planning, fund raising, training and the climb itself.)
But how cool is that!!
Okay. I need to calm down.
Dave…WTF? Why? When?
Two weeks ago I was met by a very excited colleague, Amanda, who told me she had signed up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I admired her for making such a bold decision and when she told me her reasons I couldn’t fault them.
Amanda said one reason for going is because she wants to make a difference in the world. Often people focus on what they can’t do instead of focussing on what they can do.
“I’m just one person, what difference can I make?”
Everyone’s heard that before, right?
But one person can make a difference. They make a choice and the effects are felt as the ripples travel out and impact on others. Sometimes in small ways, others more profound and long-lasting.
Amanda told me she wants to show her children that they can do anything they set their minds to. There shouldn’t be any barriers. Life isn’t about accepting the here and now as forever, but reaching for a goal, striving to push yourself to do better.
She wants to be that one person who makes a difference, not just to serve as a lesson to her children but to help a damn good cause at the same time.
I like that.
(Just to let you know, despite my previous derisive post about icky touchy feely emotional holier-than-thou memes I’m going to throw one in here because it matches how I feel. Besides, you never met a hypocrite before?)
My instant reaction to Amanda’s news was: “Wow! Good for you! Go for it! I’ll help with fundraising!”
In my head I was thinking: “I wish I could do that. What an amazing adventure that would be.”
A day or so later another colleague at work, Julie, announced she’s also going.
I’m still thinking: “I’d love to do that.”
My reasons for not going were instant. My long time blog subscribers will know about my hip problems – being overweight then losing weight rapidly left me ligament and muscle issues. And then there’s the diabetes thing. I have to be careful. I have to look after myself. I can’t climb mountains now. Twenty five years ago maybe, but not now.
But hey, I’m happy for Amanda and Julie. They’re doing something amazing and I’ll do everything I can to support them.
Fleeting conversations at work between the three of us were energetic and full of smiles. I could help with fund raising, make posters, help them plan events and all that jazz.
I really wanted to go too.
In May 2015 I wrote a post Better At 40 Than 20! about how I was a better person at 40 compared to the sluggish, overweight turd I had morphed into at 20.
Two things happened at the same time – it dawned on me that there was no real reason why I couldn’t climb Kilimanjaro, and Amanda and Julie encouraged me to really consider it. Once in a lifetime opportunity, raise funds for animal conservation and climb a big fat mountain!!
What was stopping me?
Nothing but mental barriers.
My hips are better. They ache every once in a while, but nothing like they used to. In fact this week they haven’t hurt at all.
This week I’ve adjusted my diet. Simple steps really. I’ve cut choccy bars, crisps and garbage out and eaten healthy food, all cooked from scratch.
I bought an amazing book Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks. It’s amazing what he has to say about protein and carbs.
Funny side effect – no hip twinges. Nothing.
I’m astonished to think that even by tweaking my diet it’s helped that fast.
As for being diabetic. So what? There are people with way more serious health issues than me who do amazing things.
I manage my diet well, take my meds every day.
Basically there’s nothing stopping me.
I could do this.
I could train, work hard, plan, raise funds…I could really go and climb that mountain.
Suddenly things clicked into place.
I realised that life (for me at least) was static. Work is always fun, that’s a given. I love it. And writing being my passion is always there. Something switched on in my head. Clichés are abound here – the light bulb, the veil being lifted, the fog clearing – you know what I mean?
Damn, this is hard to describe, and I’m a writer!
Okay. This might sound odd because I’m not one of those people who evaluates their life. I don’t take stock and have grand plans for the future. I just get on with the day-to-day.
I thought about who I am, where I am, where I’m going, and what I’m going to leave behind when I’m gone. Everything is normal. Next week, next month, next year will be the same as it was.
There’s no adventure.
When I was young every day was an adventure.
I used to go mountain biking in my teens. Long days trekking out into the country, finding new places to explore. Everything was new. I think lots of people lose that sense of wonder as they get older. Instead of finding new places in life to explore they stick to the safe rails and head in one direction.
The clicking thing, the cliché of realisation came fast and hard, and even though I gave the decision good quality thought I couldn’t avoid the fact that this was something I needed to do.
My initial reasons for signing up are indeed personal:
- The desire to be part of something amazing, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
- A chance to improve my health, my well-being, my outlook on life.
- The need to prove to myself that my life isn’t static, that I can challenge who I am, where I’m going and then look back at where I’ve been and be proud of that achievement.
I sent a text to my sister when I was considering what to do, who I’m sure won’t mind me sharing with you:
My sister is all about the positivity!
It’s also about legacy.
I don’t see death as a bad thing. It’s part of life. Everyone dies. It’s what we do when we’re alive that matters.
All the hard work and finally reaching that summit means I’ll leave behind a legacy for generations to talk about. I published a book in 2015. That’s pretty cool. I have another two planned. Hopefully they’ll stick around long after I’m gone, so shouldn’t that be enough?
In my head this is going to be one hell of an achievement. Books are easy. I tell stories because it’s in my nature. I can’t not do it.
I sit. I write. I make things up. People read about it.
Even though I’m proud of that it doesn’t feel enough somehow.
I need this.
I need to push my physical, mental and emotional limits.
I need to experience the camaraderie of my fellow explorers as we tackle the mountain together. I want to know what it’s like being up there, the emotional highs and lows, the sheer joy and mind-blowing sense of:
YES! WE DID IT!!! WE’RE AT THE SUMMIT!!
Hard work – but damn it’s going to be worth it.
Now the emotional stuff is off my chest there’s the practical matters to deal with.
The charity we’ll be raising money for is the ZSEA – Zoological Society for East Anglia.
Taken from their website:
The ZSEA contributes to international conservation efforts and ensures that the people of East Anglia are able to discover lots of information about Animals from all over the world.
To help us in that aim we operate Banham Zoo and Africa Alive as well as making grants to conservation efforts around the world.
When Amanda told me about the charity what went through my mind was the story about the few remaining rhino’s left in the wild, and indeed any endangered animals that may one day only be found in zoos.
I remembered seeing in the news last year a story about the last male white rhino. Not just in a park in Africa or a zoo.
The last one on the planet.
The above photo and report can be found on the Guardian website: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/12/last-male-northern-white-rhino
This is the opening paragraph for that story.
What is it like to look at the very last of something? To contemplate the passing of a unique wonder that will soon vanish from the face of the earth? You are seeing it. Sudan is the last male northern white rhino on the planet. If he does not mate successfully soon with one of two female northern white rhinos at Ol Pejeta conservancy, there will be no more of their kind, male or female, born anywhere. And it seems a slim chance, as Sudan is getting old at 42 and breeding efforts have so far failed. Apart from these three animals there are only two other northern white rhinos in the world, both in zoos, both female.
Jonathan Jones – 12th May 2015.
That report made me ashamed to be human.
You could argue that lots of species become extinct.
Rhino’s are hunted and killed by humans for stupid reasons – in Asian countries like Malaysia, South Korea, India and China, rhino horn used for medicine, which morons believe can cure them of illnesses like fevers, gout, rheumatism and a whole host of other issues that modern medicines can do a better job.
To put that into context take a look at the photo below. Be warned – it is very gruesome and might be upsetting to some people.
Be upset. Be angry. Be disturbed.
See what a savage and idiotic species humans are.
Then ask yourself how you can be that one person who makes a difference.
Take a good hard look.
Burn that shit into your memory.
The next time someone shakes a charity bucket at you with a sticker of an animal on the side, asking for funds to “save the animals” you go ahead and drop your loose change in it without hesitation.
You are one person.
And one person can make a difference.
There is no reason whatsoever that any animal should suffer and die like this.
Animals don’t have a voice. They can’t protest. They can’t raise awareness of their plight against poachers and hunters. They don’t have a seat on any governing body to request amnesty or aid.
They are preyed upon by evil.
You and I, dear blog reader, have a voice. We have the power to help stop this. We have the power to leave behind a legacy which teaches others that our planet, our home is all we have and it should be cared for.
I want my legacy as a human being to be that I tried to make a difference. That I tried to help prevent the pointless slaughter of innocent animals.
What the ZSEA does.
As you can imagine signing up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro means a lot of learning. There’s kit to organise, training to do, fund raising event planning and so on.
It’s not easy to see how a single charity bin waving fund raiser in the street connects with the conservation of endangered animals. You just see the person, the rattling bin, the raffle ticket, and so on. What you don’t see is the masses of planning behind it all.
For example, here’s a short list of what I’ve been looking at this week after signing up for the expedition:
- Kit planning – YouTube videos on what to pack for the expedition, the tip of the iceberg, hours and watching and learning.
- Putting together ideas of fund raising events – planning dates, times, venues, people, time, where and how.
- Researching the ZSEA – who they are and what they do.
- Diet plans to get the most from fitness training.
- Looking at local gyms.
- Dates for meetings with expedition and fund raising leaders.
- Working with Amanda and Julie on how to organise the next 9 months before we leave for Africa.
- Visas, passports, money, jabs.
- Reading guides on climbing the mountain, kit tips, what ACM (Acute Mountain Sickness) means.
There’s a lot to take in.
And that’s just for starters.
My role in a much larger picture is simple – raising funds for the trip and the charity, but also raising awareness of what the charity actually does, the stuff that happens at the other end of the charity bucket.
The ZSEA Africa Live! work with provides funding and donates staff time to many conservation projects in the wild to help support the future of many endangered species.
Have a click on this link: http://www.africa-alive.co.uk/Conservation/ConservationProjects.aspx and take a look at some of the projects below.
There’s a funny thing about fund raising – people don’t give to causes, they give people.
Therefore it’s important that when I ask for your help, dear blog reader, that you know why I’m doing this. Yes indeed, for personal reasons, good ones too, but also for the chance to make a difference to our planet.
I drop coins in charity buckets and bins all the time, but this is my chance to do something big, to be involved in something I have genuine deep feelings for.
My fund raising page.
I have set up a fund raising page at Virgin Money Giving.
There’s not much on there at the moment, but I’m hoping to bring it to life throughout my journey.
I’d like to think at least some of you might click that link and donate to the ZSEA.