Summitting Mt. Kilimanjaro affected me in a different way than other mountains, primarily because while on there I was surrounded by the gracious people who make their living as guides and porters. More than any other trip, I felt incredibly privileged, and not in a good way. Being in Tanzania made me realize that there are things in this world that really don't matter at all and that there are things that deeply do, like humility and honesty. I know that Mt. Kilimanjaro's impact on me will fade over time, but I hope that my priorities will remain slightly shifted and that the next time I'm about to scream because my favorite pair of jeans is wrinkled I will take a minute to realize what's really important.
As for the hike itself, I think that I slightly underestimated the temperature on summit day, this wasn't a big deal, but I wish that I'd had warmer gloves. I greatly, greatly appreciated having trail shoes for the trek to high camp. Being able to walk the for to nine miles every day in comfortable shoes made a huge difference for me.
In order to receive a permit to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, you must employ a local guide company. For this reason, western guide companies hire local guide services and act as a middleman. In order to save some money, I did considerable research to find a reputable Tanzanian guide service and was very impressed with the level of service, guide knowledge and attention to safety that I experienced. I don't regret saving some cash and working directly with a local company.
It probably goes without saying ... but take some Cipro with you when you go to Africa. I don't like to discourage others from experiencing local food and drink, and I don't regret my adventurous eating habits on this trip, but somewhere along the way - most likely after I was off the mountain - I picked up giardia and various intestinal bacteria that were tough to eradicate after I got home.
I highly recommended taking a less traveled route to the summit. Hiking the northern circuit gave me the opportunity to see more of the mountain and to take in its flora and fauna, it also avoided the crowds, which I appreciate. I also believe that it's important to get to know your guides and porters. Most of them speak remarkable English and have remarkable stories to tell about their families, their education and the path that led them to work on Mt. Kilimanjaro. These strong men - and a few women - work tirelessly to support western climbers, most of which would not be able to summit safely without them.