Give Back: Support Education in East Africa

I’ve made reference to the fact that I’m heading to Tanzania next month, and yet I don’t believe I’ve actually told you the purpose of the trip.

hiking in IsraelWell, I’m hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. That part is probably not that much of a revelation. Usually, when people head to Tanzania, it’s for one of three reasons: to hike Kili, to go on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater or to visit blissful Zanzibar. I hope to do all three while I’m there (though as of now, only the first part is confirmed).

And it’s just apt timing that this all falls on my 30th birthday. Tackling a mountain (in every sense of the word), raising money for a great cause and heading to Africa once more—can you think of a better way to begin a new decade?

That’s right: I’ll be huffing and puffing my way up Africa’s highest mountain (19,341 feet) in just seven weeks’ time. We will be taking the least used route, the Shira Plateaua via the Northern Circuit Wilderness. The trek will take eight days, during which we will sleep in mountain tents. When we are through, we will be spending a day with the children that Impatiens Kilimanjari supports.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaMany work trips for me materialize out of the blue, anywhere from a week’s notice to a couple of months, depending on the scope of the assignment and the news angle. This one I’ve known about since last spring, but I didn’t want to jinx it by saying anything until the contract was signed.

I was approached by Katrina, she of Estonian fame, who I have known since 2005. Katrina was in the same program in Holland and Denmark where SVV and I first met, and she and I have remained friends over the years. She’s lovely, she’s fun, and we have so many of the same interests—from photography to diving.

EstoniaSo when she asked me if I’d go to Tanzania with the non-profit for which she’s working, there was no answer other than the obvious: Uh, duh.

Katrina currently works for Ladies Trekking Virtual Club, a grassroots organization out of Europe for international women who have been to Kilimanjaro and also for those who dream of visiting the Roof of Africa during their lifetime.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaAnd it just so happens the group is motivated by a united, noble cause: to raise money for education in East Africa. We will be producing a book called Dreamers & Doers, “a collection of inspirational stories, life-changing moments and acts of kindness,” and the message is one on which I’m sure we all agree: That everybody is entitled to education. Every penny of the proceeds made from the project will go toward educating young girls in Tanzania.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaTo put it into perspective:

  • $1,000 pays tuition for a private school in Tanzania
  • $130 buys 40 textbooks for a Tanzanian classroom
  • $40 buys an atlas for a rural Tanzanian school

Mt. Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaThere are nine of us ambassadors going—including tech superstars and fellow Americans Caroline McCarthy and Cheryl Yeoh, whose blogs I have been following—as well as several members of LTVC (15 hikers total), all of whom will be collaborating on the project. My job will be putting down experiences in words, and probably taking a number of photos along the way. (Good thing, because that’s pretty much the only thing I know how to do.) Though something already tells me that in Tanzania, words might fail me, as they did in Rwanda and Cambodia and other unforgettable places I’ve experienced in recent years.

If you’d like to help out, you can do so in the following ways:

  1. Become a sponsor of the project.
  2. Donate to the Tanzanian schools, no matter how big or small a contribution you can afford. (And if you do this, please let me know so I can send you a thank you note personally from Africa.)
  3. Buy the book when it comes out.
  4. Write a post promoting the book. (If you’d like to do this, shoot me an email at CamelsAndChocolate AT gmail, and we will chat.)
  5. Just follow along and offer words of encouragement. Those are always welcome, too!

Mt. Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaOh, and if you’ve ever been to Tanzania before, I’d love if you chimed in down below. I have several a hundred lingering logistical concerns, particularly as I plan on extending my trip: How physically fit do I need to be to accomplish this hike? (I’m really afraid of altitude sickness.) Is it true there is cell service on a lot of the mountain? (Trip Advisor says it’s so, and that baffles my mind.) How do you even pack for a trip like this? (At least we’ll have sherpas.) How much is “enough time” on Zanzibar? (Without your husband divorcing you for being away from him too long.) And can one actually do a day trip (or two) out to the crater from Arusha? (I’m arriving a couple days early to acclimate to the altitude and also so I’m not stuck in a plane on my actual 30th birthday.)

Mt. Kilimanjaro, TanzaniaAll Tanzania images are courtesy of LTVC.

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Comments ( 60 )

  1. This is awesome! I wanted so badly to do something like this for my own 30th, and I dropped the ball on it. Maybe I’ll call in a redo for the 31st. I would love to support y’all in ever way that I can, so I’ll shoot you an e-mail.

    I’ve never been to Tanzania, but for the altitude sickness concern you could try to convince your family doc to prescribe some Diamox. I take it every time I go to Colorado because I struggle so much with altitude sickness. I think Ibuprofen is also recommended, but I can personally vouch for the Diamox.
    The Modern Gal recently posted..Why we have to make each day matterMy Profile

    • THANK YOU. These are exactly the kind of tips I need! I already have Cipro for any stomach problems (always carry it with me) and Ambien for sleeping (again, always carry it with me) but had no idea what one took for altitude!

  2. It’s a long time since I was in Tanzania, but at that time Arusha was the centre of all the safari business and you could get trips anywhere from there. Our safari covered Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, Olduvai gorge and the Serengeti. I don’t think you could do a day trip to the crater though as it would take a long time to get there and back, and you’d hardly have any time there. Plus half the beauty was camping on the crater rim, seeing it swim in the clouds in the morning, then descend down through the clouds as if into a lost world… Am I selling it enough? There are other parks nearer Arusha if you have limited time – like Lake Manyara and Arusha park. Lake Manyara was good, but couldn’t beat Ngorongoro or the Serengeti.
    I never made it to Zanzibar; instead, I had my Swahili culture and beach time at Lamu off the north Kenyan coast. Beautiful, we spent five or six days.
    Hark at me, giving you travel advice!!!! That’s made my day!

    • I LOVE getting travel advice from others–particularly from Africa, which is such a challenging beast for me (mainly because of the lack of tourism infrastructure). Thank you for all of this! I think I’m skipping Zanzibar this trip and am focusing on the safari instead.

  3. hey there – i spent almost three weeks in tanzania a few years ago and i have to say that the part i was most excited for (zanzibar) was actually the most disappointing. i’ve heard mafia island i much prettier and captures that spice route/castaway vibe better. but if it’s a choice between safari in the crater and zanzibar, i’d def do the crater…or lake tanganyika.

    • I think you might just have decided the trip for me. Yes to the crater, no to the island. Realistically, think I can do a 4-day/3-night safari from Arusha?

  4. Zanzibar is one of those places where it’s just lovely to wander around and get lost in the mess of streets and eat leisurely meals and laugh at the children giggling at you, so it’s kind of hard for me to say how long you “need.” You could easily do the sites in a weekend, but I’d advocate staying longer. We were there five days, and I was certainly never bored. The Night Market is fantastic, and you’ll find all kinds of amazing things to eat there. I’d highly recommend Zenji Hotel ( It’s not luxury, but it’s very comfortable. Most everything in the rooms was locally made, the staff was super friendly, the rooftop is a great place to relax, and the jam at breakfast might be my favorite jam ever. I’d probably say 3 days for sure, longer if you can.
    Theresa recently posted..2012 In ReviewMy Profile

    • I’m starting to think I might try to do the crater this trip since I’ll already be in Arusha and save Zanzibar for a later vacation with Scott so we can take a week or so to dive it. Did you go on safari while in Tanzania?

      • That seems like a good idea. We, personally, really enjoyed Zanzibar, but I think it might all be in context to what you’ve been doing before/after or what you’re after (adventure vs relaxation). It was toward the end of our 3+ months in Africa, so we were pretty worn out and really loved relaxing there and just absorbing the culture, wandering around the tiny streets, meeting and chatting with locals, trying one of everything at the night market, bargaining for tinga-tinga paintings, etc. So the fact that it’s more of a place to hang out than do things (besides dive) makes it, in my opinion, a nicer place to go with a significant other than alone.

        We didn’t do a safari in Tanzania. We did all of our safari-ing in southern Africa (South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, and Botswana) + Uganda. An eastern Africa safari is definitely on my list though. I think the landscape of Tanzania/Kenya is what you grow up imagining when you think “safari” and would be awesome to see in person. I can’t wait to see pictures/read about it if you go!
        Theresa recently posted..2012 In ReviewMy Profile

  5. I too would second Diamox – I used it in Peru with no side effects. I haven’t been to Tanzania but I just had to say going to Africa to celebrate your 30th birthday is an awesome idea. I should know…I went to Kenya for two weeks to celebrate mine – way back in 1982!!!

    What a wonderful cause – education is freedom. I will await the book!!


    (9 more sleeps until Cambodia but who’s counting?!!!)

    Laurie recently posted..Sixty new travel experiences the year I turned 60 – part 3!My Profile

  6. Thank goodness you published this in the afternoon because otherwise my sister (also a reader of yours) would have said that I stole the idea of Tanzania from your post.

    My FB status at 89 am this morning was: “Setting a travel goal for the family. Zanzibar & Tanzania before 2015.”

    I’d love to donate and help in any way. We are also thinking about traveling there not this year but probably next. How can I help schools, on location, with my young children. Is that even possible.

    Also. So jealous. Will be following you (yet again) faithfully online.

    • I will take good notes and let you know about the on-location thing when I return!

      And surely Kasia has been to Tanzania, right? I feel there’s nowhere in Africa she hasn’t been!

  7. Sooo happy for you! And what a way to spend your birthday- in Tanzania! (although I do selfishly wish you were coming to Kenya but you’re going to have a fabulous time)
    Laura recently posted..Merry Christmas!My Profile

    • And I selfishly wish I had a few extra weeks to hop “next door” and see you in Kenya!

      I know you gave me Zanzibar advice already, but have you done a safari in Tanzania, as well? I’m thinking I might do that in lieu of Zanzibar simply due to cost and also time.

  8. Yay! Sounds so fun! I can’t speak for training for climbing Kilimanjaro specifically – but, with respect to your comment about training on facebook, I would focus less on the diet aspect (specific number of calories, still eat good for you food) and more on the physical training, and then fuel yourself as needed. Obs if you are smaller you will have to work less to propel yourself up that mountain, but if you don’t fuel enough, you won’t be able to train hard enough. Make sure you spend quite a bit of time in your boots before you do. Nothing worse that being sidelined by blisters!

    • I actually hired a trainer, and she’s the one who has me on 1,200 calories a day. I agree, it does seem low (and I’m STARVING).

      Do you have any boots you recommend? I have a couple of pairs of all-terrain Merrells, but need to purchase a real pair of hiking boots ASAP.

  9. This is great! Another fellow travel blogger and I are want to build a school in Kenya this year!!
    Sebastian @ recently posted..Wie bereitet man einen Road Trip vorMy Profile

    • Oh, that’s fantastic! Angie Away volunteered in a school there—if you need any help from people who have worked in schools there, I’m sure she’d be happy to chat.

  10. What an incredible idea for your 30th birthday. I have never been to Africa but can’t wait to read about your adventures.
    Ayngelina recently posted..I’m going to Finland!My Profile

  11. What a wonderful project and way to spend your 30th! Best of luck and looking forward to following you up Kili!
    Pete recently posted..Confessions of a Travel Blogger, Part ThreeMy Profile

  12. What an awesome post — I hadn’t known you and Katrina go so far back! Really excited to be climbing Kilimanjaro with you, and thanks for the shoutout.
    Caroline McCarthy recently posted..dpstyles:


    OS 8 was beginning of the end, but boy…My Profile

    • Me, too! I’ve been reading your writing since your CNET days. I was stoked when Katrina sent me the list of fellow ambassadors and saw that you’re on it.

  13. I AM SO PSYCHED FOR YOU. Serious amounts of psyched.

    I actually have a lovely friend from college who started a Tanzanian non-profit education/school-building program. This is her org:

    Safe travels, friend. Can’t wait to hear all about it!
    Kerri Anne recently posted..A Sea Shanty Of SortsMy Profile

  14. 1) Tanzania is my dream destination, I am so jealous/excited for you!!! 2) What an INCREDIBLE place to celebrate your 30th! 3) I love the cause!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..San Francisco & Napa Valley: Day 3 (Part 2)My Profile

  15. OMG this is going to be so awesoooooooooooome!!!!!!
    Erica recently posted..Exposure: Nerf Gun WarsMy Profile

  16. You’re amazing! What an inspiration. I did a 12 mile hike in Maui recently and basically considered myself to have fulfilled a lifetime worth of hiking requirements right there… maybe not.

    Oh, and you mentioned Cambodia made me think… remember the time we were IN THE SAME CITY AND DIDN’T SEE EACH OTHER? Still breaks my heart.
    Alex recently posted..The Hawaii Hostel Experience: Banana Bungalow in MauiMy Profile

    • Oh right, that time. I’d prefer to think about 2013 instead: The time we are going to be IN THE SAME CITY AND SEE EACH OTHER. It’s gonna happen.

  17. That is so awesome and good for you. It is always great when you have purpose for travel.
    We went to Zanzibar and spent 9 days on the island. Paje Beach is beautiful and it was not very crowded when we were there. Stonetown is great for photos and also for getting lost in the mazes of the old town. Hope you have a blast. Can’t wait to get back to Tanzania :)
    Giselle and Cody recently posted..Vietnam Video pt 1 and 2My Profile

    • I’m starting to think I might save Zanzibar for a trip when I have a week or two to relax and just spend a few days after this one in the crater instead. I really want to make the most of Zanzibar and its diving and not feel rushed to get home to my husband and pup!

  18. Wow! This trip sounds amazing. And the organization? Right on!!
    Diana Edelman recently posted..Fact vs. Fiction: the Thailand Sex IndustryMy Profile

  19. So awesome! I love this! Checking out the links re: Tanzania now.

    heidikins recently posted..Confessions of a Bookaholic: Books Read in 2012 (Part 4)My Profile

  20. Your life is so incredible!!!!

  21. This sounds like the trip of a lifetime! Climbing Kili is very high on my bucket list. I’m going to check out the Ladies Trekking Virtual Club since I’m based in Europe and love hiking.

    I’m also happy to do a book review on my blog when it comes out and help promote it. Just let me know.
    Laurel recently posted..My Favorite Travel Adventures of 2012My Profile

  22. What an adventure! I can’t wait to read all about it!
    Pernilla recently posted..A new year, a new adventureMy Profile

  23. This sounds like such an incredible adventure. My best friend, Caryn, just got back from Africa in October where she volunteered at a local school for three weeks and then climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. It was an absolutely life changing trip for her and the things she experienced there are things she’ll carry with her forever.
    terra recently posted..First you bitch & moan, then you set some goals. Also, 2013′s do-it list.My Profile

  24. Hey! So Terra told me about your adventures and I couldn’t be more excited for you! And good news- I can answer all of your questions! I JUST got back from doing this trip in October. I volunteered/taught in Moshi, TZ for 3 weeks, went on a weekend safari to Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire, and went to Zanzibar (both with a company called Pristine Tours, USE THEM and tell Adam I say hello) all before I climbed Kili for a week. I did the Machame route so I can’t speak about your route, but I am more than happy to tell you everything you need to know. I TOTALLY get the feeling of having ALL THE QUESTIONS. Even the ones you feel silly about, I had them too. Feel free to email me and we can set up a time to chat. I am jealous you get to do this, I would do anything to do it all over again!

    YAY for an amazing life changing adventure ahead of you. And good for you for climbing for a charity. I didn’t have time to do that and that is the one thing I’d do differently.

  25. This sounds like fate, with this project coming together on a milestone birthday. I hope you have a fabulous trip and that the fundraising is a success!
    Emily in Chile recently posted..Saturday in Santiago: Foto Ruta SantiagoMy Profile

  26. Kristin,

    The more I am reading your blog, the more I am loving it! I have so many questions! As mentioned in this post it seems you have a different full time job. Do you do travel blogs on the side as a hobby since you travel with work?

    How did you get into travel blogging?

    Currently I have a blog of my own and it started as my horse riding adventures, and then turned into my regular adventures. Recently I haven’t gone on any and am SERIOUSLY debating just up and leaving where I am (if I could figure out how to pay my student loans) and just travelling around and writing and experiencing life.

    I’m really enjoying looking at your photos and reading about exciting places to go. I’d love to do that hike as well, and I’ve never been to Africa!

    • You are very sweet–thanks! And welcome!

      I work as a journalist for a number of magazines (and, in the past, newspapers as well). I also write guidebooks and do copywriting for big companies. That’s my “main job.”

      On the side, my husband and I run a digital marketing a brand strategy firm, Odinn, and I just incorporated an events and production company, as well.

      I dabble in other things, like contract work for a travel agency.

      While I do have advertisers on my blog, C&C is by no means my “job.” Just a project I love dearly and put a lot of time into. All the travels you’ll see on here are either personal trips I take with my husband or family, or work assignments that I’m covering for a print publication and then recap on my blog with no editors to tell me what I can and can’t say =)

      I’m going to write a series on blogging soon, but for now, here are a few answers to your questions:

  27. This sounds like an awesome adventure! I used to live in a little village in Kenya right on the Tanzania border, and I could see Kili from our home but never climbed it myself. I was beautiful in the right sunlight – I can’t imagine how awesome it must be up close and personal!
    JoAnna recently posted..An Oasis in the Desert: Stand-Up Paddleboarding in the Sonoran Desert | ArizonaMy Profile

  28. Enjoyed your recent post on your upcoming trip to Tanzania. My wife and I are planning a trip there this summer and hoping to climb Kili as well. Do you have any advice on booking an operator? What group are you using to guide you up the mountain? Happy Trekking!

  29. As an East African citizen and resident, I always feel a tinge of shame whenever I read about a charitable initiative from outside the region. I know, many such initiatives, like yours, are well-intentioned with a genuine desire to help, and therefore deserve praise and support instead of condemnation. But they also also point to our own failure to meet our obligations. Our governments do have the resources to provide basic education for their population. But due to high levels of corruption and incompetence, those resources largely end up in the pockets of a few individuals instead of being used for the public good. As a society, those of us who a bit well-off can do a lot in lifting our own people up, but sadly, only a few of us are willing, hence the need for more charity from outside. We are slowly changing this, and hopefully, in the not-so-far-away future, this need will be minimal.

    That said, all the best with your Kilimanjaro climb. It is an experience you will love. The biggest challenge with Shira route is acclimatization. Compared to the other routes (Marangu, Machame, Rongai, etc), Shira route starts at quite a high altitude, making you more susceptible to altitude related symptoms from day one (Unless you are actually taking the Lemosho Route, which is a modified version of Shira route, but better suited for acclimatization). But with adequate altitude training before that, you should be fine.

    I did Kilimanjaro a few years ago, via the Rongai route. You may read about my experience at:
    Timothy recently posted..50 Off-The-Beaten-Path Places to Visit and Things to do in KenyaMy Profile

    • Your people aren’t the cause of the corruption, so it’s not something you should feel shame for. Everyone needs help at time. And it’s not just East Africa; there are communities everywhere, in Europe, in the United States. I live in Tennessee, and Memphis just a few hours away has some of the worst crime and poverty (as did Oakland just out of San Francisco where I lived before). Actually, we’re battling a pretty ugly war against meth use here in TN, which is pretty disheartening.

  30. Hi Kristin, great to see you climbing Kili for a worthy cause! Can’t think of a better way to begin a new decade indeed. I really like your photos — they look really sharp! The photographers did an amazing job!
    Amani recently posted..Best Kilimanjaro Tour Operator vs. Right Kilimanjaro Climb CompanyMy Profile


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  4. […] is the reason why I’m now restricted to 1,200 calories a day as I try to get in shape for Kilimanjaro next month!) Vegas is the kind of place where you live to eat and not eat to live. […]

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