Featured traveller: Jennifer Fein

At the Solo Female Traveler Network, we want to create a community that celebrates and empowers women and their achievements. We love listening to our network members and hearing stories such as Jen’s, who gives us a first-hand account of her experience summiting Kilimanjaro for her 40th birthday. 

Do you have a story worth sharing? Apply to be featured on our global community!

ON CLIMBING MOUNT KILIMANJARO

I spent six months training for summiting Kilimanjaro – although living in a largely flat area of Australia, that training mostly consisted of endurance. I did everything I could to prepare, and I kind of assumed that if I don’t make it, it’d be because my body didn’t adapt well enough. That was almost the case.

I unfortunately didn’t react well at all to altitude sickness. I had nausea and diarrhoea. I couldn’t keep much food down, and was living off of sugar, like candies, because my body wasn’t able to digest rice and food like that. This wasn’t giving me the long-term protein kind energy – afterwards I was like, I don’t ever want to see a hard candy ever again in my life!

The day of the summit begins at 11pm. You are woken up and fed tea and a biscuit, and then you start walking at midnight. You walk in the dark for six hours to the summit. And I’ve never been more cold in my entire life. I read all the blogs and I had like all the layers – now when people ask me what to pack for the ascent, I’m like, you think you have enough layers? Bring one more. At one point I remember thinking that I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes. I started walking with those walking sticks and I had to give them up because I needed to poke my hands in my pockets within the first 10 minutes of walking. 

Along the way I became so dehydrated and hit a crazy sugar low. I just sat down at a rock and started crying. And then the sun came up and I swear it was this moment of like, ‘this is why humans worship the sun’, this moment of salvation of like, ‘I will now live because that ball of fire is coming up over that horizon’.

Within five minutes, all the warmth was back in my body and I thought, ‘I can do this’. A little bit of hot tea and sugar later and I managed to do the last little bit, only another like hundred meters up or so which takes an extra hour to get to the true summit. 

 

I made it all the way to the top on my own power, and from there the guides assisted me down from the peak because I was moving so slowly, and was so exhausted. They literally just picked me up on both sides, like one big guy on either side, with my feet kind of dangling. It was ridiculous, but at the time I felt like the scarecrow from the wizard of Oz. Because I was so altitude sick, I started singing ‘I’m off to see the wizard.’ I was gone. I was very gone. 

People say that they hallucinate and see fish. I don’t think I hallucinated, although in my mind I remember seeing an aeroplane flying by, but I think that’s an actual true thing that happens because you’re at 5,800-ish meters. We went up the Lemosho route, which takes longer, but is so scenic. I highly recommend following this route up. 

So the big question: would you do it again?

Personally, I’m not hiking above 4500m again. But this experience will always be one of my ultimate success stories, and I am glad that I have done it.

Where to next then, if not a hike?

I’m going to Europe next, starting off in Spain and then attending a wedding inside the Vatican, which comes with a whole host of dress requirements!

Have you read the story of Jeanette Dijkstra, all-round superwoman destroying landmines in Angola? No?  Read here! Or what about tips of preparing for your first solo hike? 

Our Favourite Walking Shoes

‘I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more….’ but only in the right footwear! A good pair of shoes not only lasts you years, but also lives your adventures along with you as a trusted, reliable and utterly-essential gear item. Here’s our selection of the best walking shoes out there right now. 

“Help! I’m going on a trip and am looking for a comfortable pair of walking shoes – what do you recommend?” Questions like this come up often on our FB group and we always love reading the responses. From day walks to Camino hard slogs to preparing for your first solo walk, our community knows just what shoes to recommend based on tried-and-tested experience.

Best shoes for CIty walking

As voted by Mandy: Anothersole is amazing. Free international shipping too. Very pretty and super comfortable. I only wear them for everything now, including travelling for months! Bonus points – they match everything. Even dresses so you don’t have to compromise style for comfort. I don’t work for them I’m just a huge fan.
As voted by Victoria: AllBirds are excellent and can be thrown in the washing machine. I prefer the wool ones (no, my feet don’t overheat in summer) but they also do ones made from bamboo. They’re not the cheapest shoes but I think they’re great value. Comfy. Look smart. Have a variety of styles. No blisters. I live in mine.

As voted by Anne:  Check out Teva Tirra sandals. I find them very comfortable for walking long distances over different surfaces. When my feet tend to swell (e.g., when flying), I adjust the straps. They’re just as effective around water, and they transition from daywear to smart casual in the evening. Look for a colour that will blend with your capsule wardrobe, for me, that’s brown or black.

[These would be the ideal shoe for our Ecuador meetup!]

As voted by Dawna:  I’ve also done pretty well with one set of Tevas and a set of Chacos. The Chacos I have are leather and are a little dressier looking, but unfortunately, I think they’ve discontinued that model… But maybe they have something new that’s similar?

[Readers, we’ve got you! We’ve listed a recent version of Chacos in leather.]

Best shoes for hiking

As voted by Kirsstina: Hoka speedgoats. I wear them for my thru hikes of 400km (250 miles). Altra Olympus are super cozy too. 

As voted by Caroline: I have these, they were perfect for all the hikes I did, including in Borneo. They also seemed to be leechproof as my feet were completely leech-free while other people were less fortunate.
As voted by Rachel: I have these and they’re the best thing I’ve ever bought. Super comfy, didn’t take long to break in and 100% waterproof.
As voted by Kate: Love love love my Lowa Renegades! 4 Camino walks and the W Trek in Patagonia….(3 pair overall) Lightweight!

We’re firm believers in testing shoes out in-store to make sure they are the right fit for your specific shape, however, this list will get you started in the right direction. Take the time to wear your shoes in before embarking on a trip – your feet will thank you later – and be sure to pack moleskin for blisters and wear wool socks.


Planning your first solo hike? Read these tips first. 

best shoes for walking

Ed’s note: This post contains affiliate links to help support the running of the SoFe Travel team and SoFe community at large. Wherever possible, we support women-owned businesses and ethical, sustainable organisations. Got any product recommendations? We’d love to hear about them! email us on inspo@sofetravel.com