Written By: Apurva Chandra
Whether you're on it alone or have a big group of friends ready to take on the challenge you should go climb Kilimanjaro. Really. You can come up with a hundred reasons not to go, but the reality is this: there has never been a better time than now to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. So start planning (and then find a local tour operator or sign up with one of ours).
With that out of the way, there are a few things you should consider before you make plans with anyone to hike up to 19,340 feet.
Many potential travelers are intimidated by traveling alone in a foreign country for a variety of valid reasons including (but not limited to) safety, loneliness, anxiety, and cost. On the flip side, there are some real concerns with traveling in groups as well. Going on a trip like this involves A LOT of time together, so disagreements are likely to happen and the extent to which these occur could impact your enjoyment of the trip.
In this post I'll go over the pros and cons of traveling alone. Hopefully it'll give you some peace of mind before you start training.
Pros of Traveling Alone
You can go on the exact tour that you want to go on and pay for whatever you want to pay for. Pick the route, the tour company, and the hotel you want to stay at before and after the trip. Control whether you go to Zanzibar, a safari, or back to the airport after the hike. This is your once-in-a-lifetime moment and you choose to spend it however you like.
Sharing is caring, but having your own tent can be pretty nice at the end of a long day of hiking.
People are motivated to climb Kilimanjaro for many reasons. Some people just want to get away from their regular life and have some time to think on their own. When the hike is over for the day you have plenty of time on your own to think and/or meditate. There's plenty of time to talk with your friends when you get back home.
There's something to be said for making the decision to go halfway around the world by yourself and climbing the tallest peak in Africa. People who do this inevitably learn something about themselves they never would have discovered otherwise.
Cons of traveling alone
Hiking to Uhuru Peak might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you and it's nice to have someone you know that you can share this experience with. Doing this with someone will (likely) strengthen your bond with them and will give you incredible stories to share a decade from now over a Kilimanjaro beer (or three).
If you are someone that enjoys being around people and are more prone to being lonely it might be difficult to not know anyone at the outset of a trip. You'll definitely get to know the people in your group better over time, but if you're the type of person that doesn't make friends all that quickly this could be a really long 5 or 6 days.
Many things, like hotel rooms, can potentially be shared, so if you're rolling solo you'll need to be ok with an added expense. Related to this, if you realize you forgot something while packing it's great to have a (more responsible) buddy around who can help you out in a bind.
Speaking with folks who have done Kilimanjaro on their own, none of them mentioned feeling unsafe at any point during the climb. Despite that, though, being in a foreign country by yourself can present some sketchy situations. In those instances it's nice to know that someone you've known for more than a couple days is close by.
I was fortunate to do my Kilimanjaro trek with two close friends of mine and had the time of my life. For me, having them with me made the trip more fun. However, in our group we also had two people who were traveling solo and we all became fast friends. While on the trip I realized that Kilimanjaro attracts a certain type of person - and more often than not it's a like-minded traveler looking to explore the world and have a good time doing it. In the age of Facebook it's also easier than ever to keep in touch with the folks you meet on the mountain.
To sum up - there's no definitive answer here, like the last episode of Serial. Just realize that your experience will likely be different depending on whether you go solo or in a group. Whatever you decide though, be sure to experience the mountain and everything she has to offer. Like Jack Kerouac said -
"Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain."