Finding happiness

Being in motion on a long hike makes me happy. Here I am at a camp on Mt. Kili.

Figuring out  and finding happiness has consumed me lately.  I’ve been reading a lot about it. What makes us happy?  As far as I can tell, what makes us happy is a series of contradictions.  You need a stable government, unless you live in Mexico and then apparently you are happy without one.  Earning more than $70,000 per year supposedly doesn’t lead to greater happiness according to statistics, except that in the very specific places where people are the most happy individual income is higher overall.  You need freedom, but one of the happiest towns in the United States has a lot of restrictions.

In all my reading and research I can pinpoint four things that seem to truly make people happy—good relationships, volunteering or doing good for others, a sense of purpose, and your perspective.

Here are just a couple tips, using the four points above as a reference, to try and increase your happiness quota:

  • Get together with good friends at regular intervals. Have a monthly dinner club, or book club, or […]
Finding happiness2018-02-14T15:58:45-04:00

Failure is the mother of success

Plank at sunset on Kili

While I can’t say I’m not bothered by failure, I can at least recognize that very often I get some of my best stories out of failures or at least times when things didn’t go as expected.

Still, failing is hard.  It’s hard to accept.  It’s hard to admit.  It’s embarrassing.  When I failed to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro those were a mixture of the emotions I experienced—embarrassment, frustration, sadness, disappointment, but also understanding and acceptance.

The moment I realized I wasn’t going to reach the top I started crying.  I don’t cry that often so I’m not really used to it.  And, normally if I need to cry in public I try not to.  There was no holding back these tears.  They just came.  I’d exerted too much energy getting this far to utilize any effort holding back tears now.  I’d lost control of my body, physically and emotionally.  I basically cried myself down that mountain, doing the walk of shame as everyone heading up stepped aside to let me down.

They were letting me pass, but I had let myself down.

Failure is the mother of success2018-02-14T16:12:52-04:00

Mountaintop Meditation

Night Sky on Kili. Maybe I should have just looked up at this for meditation. Photo Credit: Freddy Aguero

While meditation is proven to be beneficial, I just can’t do it.  I am possibly the world’s worst meditator.  Still, when I was hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, out of desperation I turned to meditation.  On the mountain during the long, dark night when I was shivering and wondering why I’d done this to myself, I attempted a variety of meditative tactics.

I used visualization, picturing myself sinking into warm, black sand.  I was still cold and awake.

Deep breathing had its turn.

I tried to imagine I was the sun radiating warmth and light.

Counting wasn’t helpful.

I tried relaxing my brain.

I tried clearing my mind.

You might just call it lying to yourself, but I told myself I wasn’t cold.

Reciting a repeated mantra didn’t coax me back to bed.

Eventually, I started singing the lullaby my mom used to sing me as an attempt to self-soothe.  She would rock me to sleep with Summertime—the song where the living is easy.  I imagined it was summer and thought about how somewhere the living was easy.  Nothing seemed to help.

I […]

Mountaintop Meditation2018-02-14T16:28:17-04:00

Plank Story: Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro

We are currently standing on Mt. Kili with the peak behind us. That’s how big the mountain is.

Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro was a spectacularly grand adventure and simultaneously self-inflicted torture.  On the first night I accidentally peed in my sleeping bag and broke my headlamp.  The sleeping bag and headlamp were both much needed tools on the mountain.

That’s me and Matt sitting on the right in the orange jacket. Photo from ready_freddy_123 on Instagram

Day Three

On Day three I wrote in my journal: When you look back on this trip as a positive experience, remember it is not.  You are miserable.  This is terrible.  You did this to yourself.  Vacation normally flies by but if you want vacation to pass slowly hike Mt. Kilimanjaro.

That was a breaking point for me.  I’d been up the first two nights shivering.  Lack of sleep and freezing nighttime temperatures forced me to figure out how I needed to get by on the mountain.  That night I put on nearly all my clothes and threw some heat warmers into my sleeping bag and finally slept.  […]

Plank Story: Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro2018-02-14T16:29:26-04:00

Tips for Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro

When I was planning my trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro, I wish I could have found a list of tips for hiking Mt Kilimanjaro to help me prepare.  What’s out there is every tour organizations plug for why they are the best at getting people to the top, but not really helpful info from someone who had done it.  For the 35,000 people who hike the mountain each year, this lack of information is a gaping hole in the internet where you can usually find answers to everything.  Everyone has a different experience, and you may discover you have different needs than I did.  But after hiking, these are the things I wish I could have known earlier.  Each of these helped make my hike better and easier.  There is no particular order here.  I’d want them all.

Tips for Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro

  • Balaclava: Bring a balaclava for the journey. A thin one like they wear in the television show Survivor works best.  This becomes a very versatile tool.  You can cover your face to protect from dust and sun.  You can cover your nose to help warm the cold air a little […]
Tips for Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro2018-02-14T16:29:00-04:00