Getting to the top is all about who goes with you

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I’ve heard it said that it is lonely at the top, but I beg to differ. If you do it right you’ll make your best friends on the way to the top and you celebrate there together. Ready to go? Register to get a copy of our itinerary and a YouLi account to make it your own.

At the beginning of 2017, I decided to set two audacious goals: one physical and one professional.

1. To climb Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, with a peak at 5895m (19,341 ft) above sea level – we summited on September 10th just after sunrise.

2. To build a travel management platform that enables more unique experiences around the world – we are launching our public version in November – sign up to be notified!

Both of these goals require training, financing, planning and most importantly: supportive people.

Training

For Kili:
I started increasing my physical training in January, walking everyday and increasing my core strength training through pilates. I injured my knee half way through and had to rehab it while sticking to our ever increasing weekend treks.

I discovered so many beautiful hiking trails in Victoria, including the well named Mt. Difficult in the Grampians. Spend a day doing the long version of that trek to test your knees!

For YouLi:
I started gathering insight and testing ideas in 2015, and with the help of a good friend, we built a prototype for our destination wedding in Jordan. It proved to us that guests on these trips would like to have a place to specify their preferences for an 8 day once in a lifetime trip and see who else is doing what. We took 30 people around the best sites in Jordan with the help of Spice Road Travel – changing many people’s perspectives on the middle east and creating bonds that will last a lifetime.

Financing:

For Kili:
There is no way to climb Kilimanjaro on your own, you must go with a certified company who will provide you with porters to carry your things (we had 28 for our group of 8), the food you need, the tents, and the essential guides to lead the way. All of that is not cheap – and beware the cheap operators. We paid about $1800USD per person plus tips at the end for an 8 day climb with Afrikabisa Tours. That is all inclusive for the days on the mountain, but not including airfare and the nights in the hotel before/after. I can recommend Parkview Inn as a secure option to leave your bags while climbing.

We also raised over $1200AUD to send another Masaai child to school in Tanzania using StartSomeGood. Thanks again to all our sponsors!

For YouLi:
Starting a business is always plagued by the question of how you fill the hole until you become cash-flow positive. If you’re interested in hearing more about how YouLi tackled the startup fundraising game, get in touch and we’ll grab a glass of wine to discuss the pitfalls, the pain and the joy of finding the right backers. We are female founders, based in Australia and running a tech business, not typical, but that’s what makes it fun!

Planning:

For Kili:
One of the people I met who had climbed Kilimanjaro did so on a whim. She happened to be in Tanzania and was invited to climb. She made it, but she’s one of the lucky 44% that do. If you don’t want to spend all that time and money only to turn back part way, I recommend planning for success.

* Research the routes (we chose Lemosho because it was scenic and gave us time to acclimatize)
* Get the right gear (being cold is not worth it)
* Bring the drugs you need (Kili will hurt you in some way, make sure it doesn’t stop your ascent)
* Train at altitude if you can (sorry Aussies, you may have to take a NZ trip for this)

All 8 of us made it – I knew that statistics indicated at least one or two of us probably wouldn’t since Lemosho has an 88% success rate. But we beat the odds and achieved our goal, because of all the planning we did, leveraging YouLi, of course, to pull it all together into one place.

To see how YouLi can be used to ensure everyone gets their visas, vaccinations and vacation in time, signup to be notified when YouLi is available to plan your own Kili trip.

For YouLi:
One of the biggest challenges that business owners face is time management. Time gets away from you and nothing gets done if you aren’t working towards a milestone, and unlike in the corporate world where someone enforces deadlines on you, you have to make your own. I created a few key milestones to keep YouLi on track:

1. Pilot for traveler facing functionality (our destination wedding)
2. Pilot for planner facing functionality (SEEK Learning team conference)
3. Early adopter access to MVP (minimum viable product)
4. Public access to first version of YouLi (launching in November)

The next milestone is all about you, tell us what you want YouLi to be and join us on our journey to make it a reality.

Supportive People

For Kili:
We had about 20 people interested in joining us for the climb. After the inevitable shakeout due to scheduling conflicts and injuries we got to the core group of 8. We were all connected in some way, so everyone knew at least one other person in the group, but we were a mixed team:

* All of us over 35
* 5 from Australia (including one American, one Brit and one Frenchman)
* 3 from America (one from Connecticut, one from New York and one from the Bay Area)
* 2 women, 6 men
* 1 travel blogger (check out the Embolden Adventures podcasts)

We had enough in common to get along and enough differences to complement each other well. Everyone dealt with the unexpected well and stayed committed to the team. We promised each other we would all make it, even if we had to slow down (pole, pole means “slowly, slowly” in Swahili, and we heard it constantly), and we encouraged each other on the trail when spirits were flagging. I know it helped me to have people cheering me on – and in the end, helping me up that last 30 meters.

We even wrote our own song and chanted our way along on Day 5, to the amusement of the other guides/climbers along the way! “You can do this, you can do this, you can do this, take a breath, take a step”.

Huge thank you’s to the climbing team: Paul Boxer, Issac Trotts, Devin Roccisano, Sara Roccisano, Grigori Goldman, Jeff Theobald, and Josselin Cornou. And of course our guides: Hendry Mworia, Alex, Wilfred, Elijah, and Remi.

For YouLi:
As discussed in the book I wrote with Paul (Becoming an Entrepreneur in Australia), the people in your life are critical to success in business.

I am lucky to have a phenomenal co-founder (Bron Thulke), a talented designer (Caitlin Wynne), a creative marketer (Linda Li), and a wise/risk taking angel investor (Paul Boxer). Together, we are achieving my second goal of the year.

And of course, the early adopters and clients who have put faith in us to deliver on our promises are the most important. Now that I know I can climb a physical mountain, it is time to focus on empowering you to achieve your travel goals with YouLi. Let’s get going, one unique trip at a time.

Ready to go? Register to get a copy of our itinerary and a YouLi account to make it your own.

An alternative to 8 days of trekking – grab a Kilimanjaro Beer!
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Jennifer Fein
Jennifer Fein
Jen Fein is the product visionary behind YouLi and epic group travel planner. After years of building digital products as an engineer and product manager for others, she’s now determined to make software that empowers passionate people to create unique group travel businesses. She is also the co-author of Ready to Start? Becoming an Entrepreneur in Australia.