Dear Montecito: Ally Hodosy
As schools around the country start to reopen and older students begin the migration back to college life, I worry about the safety of teachers and pupils alike. But a smaller, less socially conscious voice in the back of my head quietly cheers for the small freedom of leaving home. Some of us may have spent these summer months mourning lost vacation time, but others – myself included – hark back to the simpler times of ye olden days when we could walk around our hometown without fear of catching the plague. I feel as though I’ve been beaten over the head with the irony. Hindsight is 2020; yesteryear will always be a “simpler” time.
This is all to say: it’s easy to find an excuse not to do something, whether it’s taking that jazzercise class or a trip to Palm Springs. Some of us even have the luxury to assume we’ll have the same opportunities in the future, so we put it off until next time. But as my mom likes to say: “Sometimes, next time never comes.” As an antidote to this, I offer you the spirit of adventure in the form of a letter from Ally Hodosy. Please enjoy this story from a charming and intrepid woman with a carpe diem attitude.
Growing up, my family traveled all the time. We were always booking trips, packing suitcases, and gearing up for the next adventure. My parents felt this was a valuable time for us to bond, and that traveling together allowed us to learn about new cultures and grow. Now, more than ever, I’ve had time to think back on our trips and appreciate all I’ve gained through travel.
There’s nothing like a little isolation to remind you what’s important. Like many of us, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my life and remember some of my fondest memories from traveling the world with my family. Walking with elephants in the Serengeti. Exploring mosques in Dubai. Flying over the Tahitian islands next to my little sister and forever co-pilot. Even a pasta fight on a balcony in the Netherlands. There were all the things that revealed a deeper respect for wildlife, history, other cultures, and of course some good old-fashioned, messy fun. In reflection of all this, I wanted to share the story of my favorite destination. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and potentially the hardest thing I ever will do.
I had just graduated high school when I traveled to Tanzania for the first time. It was my grandfather’s greatest wish to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. My family couldn’t resist joining him on his journey to climb one of Africa’s greatest treasures.
Mount Kilimanjaro, also known as Kili, is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single freestanding mountain in the world. It stands at 19,341 feet and is just as scary as its name suggests. For nine nights and ten days, we did nothing but climb.
We started the trek in the middle of the dense African rainforest, my favorite terrain of the climb. Here, we were surrounded by wildlife; our base camp looked as if it had practically been taken from the movie Tarzan. By the end of our second day, the rainforest had completely vanished. All the green and lush flora faded away as we entered the second climate zone of the mountain: Heather and Moorland. In this zone, temperatures can spike to 95 degrees and drop to freezing at night. But climate zone three was the most challenging for me. In the alpine desert, we could have walked for miles on miles with no sense of how far we had gone. Surrounded by nothing but sand and rock, it looked like we were headed down the road to nowhere.
Five days into the climb, the altitude started to slow us down. Because of the lack of oxygen, it became hard to even think. In order to keep moving, we had to only concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. I shared a tent with my 14-year-old cousin, Kieran, and by evening, he barely had enough energy to take his socks off. At the end of the sixth day, we started to enter the final climate zone of the mountain. It is called the Arctic Zone and is the home stretch to the summit. In this zone, temperatures dropped well below zero as we climbed through dense ice and snow, surrounded by glaciers on both sides of the trail.
On the day of the summit, we started our ascent at 3 am. The only thing I saw for the first three hours of our climb were the stars as I blindly followed the voice of our guides. When I reached the summit, I felt a great sense of pride. My family had conquered a mountain together – I tried to soak in every second of that moment.
The last two days on the way down were filled with endless celebrations. Our amazing guides and porters, who made my whole trip, taught us Tanzania’s greatest hits as we sang and danced until it was time to say our goodbyes and go our separate ways. By the end of the climb, I found it very hard to leave the friends I had made on this amazing journey. We became so close with our group and went through so much together that it was strange getting in our car and driving away at the end of the trail.
Luckily for me, my family still had another week to explore Tanzania and get a taste of life off the mountain. We went on multiple safaris across the Ngorongoro Crater, explored the Tanzanian countryside, met many Maasai villagers and farmers, and viewed countless side street soccer matches. It was the trip of a lifetime and an experience I will never forget. Out of every place I have ever had the pleasure of visiting, Tanzania will always be my favorite. I love the language, the people, the wildlife, and the unbeatable African sunsets. I loved it so much that I went back the next summer. To all the other travel junkies out there, I hope you too get to experience all of the amazing things Tanzania has to offer and that you love it as much as I do.