Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS Divorce, etc… podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica.
T.H.: Welcome, everybody. We are thrilled to have Daniel Herrold here. He is one of the co-founders (or is it a tri-founder if there are three of you?) of Divorced over 40.
I have to say that we’ve been following Divorced over 40, and certainly Daniel, for a little while. Me in particular because (it’s not what you think) he climbed Kilimanjaro after his divorce. I too climbed Kilimanjaro soon after my divorce. So we’re part of a club within a club within a club. We are going to ask him a bunch of questions about that decision to make that big leap and climb and how he thinks about it afterward. Welcome to our show with the exEXPERTS.
Daniel: Well, thank you for having me on. We’ve been watching you from afar too. We love all the content that you guys are pushing out and what you’re doing. I’m happy to be here.
Jessica: So are we. Thank you so much. I feel some people listening might be thinking that listening to the conversation and the two of you talking about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro might somehow inspire something inside me to do it. I can tell you now, hell no. I have no idea how or why either of you guys did that. But I’m going to let T.H. jump in with the questions because I’m just totally taken aback by the courage and the strength and the inner fortitude that I know from T.H. that it took to do something like that.
T.H.: Well, to be completely honest, I had a friend who was determined to do it for her birthday. Then she mentioned it to me, and I’m kind of a go with it girl. Especially after my separation, I hardly was saying no to cool opportunities. So I’m like, yeah, whatever, I’ll climb a mountain. I’m an avid fitness, maybe a little addict, problem situation so a physical challenge wasn’t really going to be much for me to handle. That’s really how I looked at it. And I trained up the wazoo for it. But the truth is I trained physically for it, but that was kind of the wrong training. That wasn’t where I needed my strength. I kind of went with it because it sounded like something cool. I had been to Africa before. I love Africa so I was like, sure, I’ll go to Africa. That’s really how I ended up climbing Kilimanjaro. But how did this even come into your mind? Is this something you’ve always wanted to do, Daniel? Or it presented itself and you just went with it?
Daniel: You know, T.H., I don’t think six years ago I even knew what Kilimanjaro was if somebody said it. I went on this church mission trip with my daughter. She was like 12 at the time, and she was just pulling my chain to try to go on this trip. They kind of advertise to the church, and that we’re going to Kenya. Both her mom and I said, okay, well, if you raise your travel money, then we’ll go. Well, she called the grandparents, and within two calls raised the money. And so I find myself going to Kenya. We do all this stuff related to the church stuff, and then the last two days we did a safari. So, we’re going to Amboseli Park, and we check into the room and it’s two beds, my daughter and I. I walk out, and I think it was in the morning, we got there late. I walk out in the morning to grab a cup of coffee, and I look out, and I just see this mountain. It was so mysterious, yet majestic.
I was like what the heck is that? Because you can see the mountain borders of both Kenya and Tanzania. I started learning a lot about it. I was like, oh my gosh, this thing looks beautiful.
Now, did I ever say I was going to climb it at the time? No. But I was like, this is a cool mountain. That was like six years ago. Fast forward a couple of years, and one of my friends in Chicago chronicled his climb. He climbed it, and he chronicled it on Facebook. And so I’m like, oh, wow, so anybody can climb this mountain and started to do a little bit of research. Then I had another person two years after that climb it. And so it was always in the back of my mind, but I never was like I want to climb it.
So my divorce occurs and I’m trying to think of something that could be my official chapter turn, something that could be this momentous event where I’m like I’m healed. It’s the new Daniel. What would signify that? And I was like I’m going to go climb this stinking mountain. I didn’t have the money at the time. Once I did the research to figure out what it costs, I just was like screw it. I pulled the trigger, and the rest was history. And I did it two months ago. I just finished.
Jessica: I didn’t realize this was recent.
T.H.: Oh, yeah, like October, right?
Daniel: It was, yeah. It was right around 1st October. So I tried to map it out where I wasn’t in the rainy season, and October was the perfect time to go. And so the weather was absolutely beautiful the whole time. We didn’t really have too much issue with the weather at all.
Jessica: So I have to ask, wait, because T.H., you kind of went around along with it because your friend was doing it. You’re like, yeah, sure, I’ll go, not really knowing everything that it entailed. But Daniel, you’re talking about the fact that you almost researched going there. You were looking a lot into the mountain, you knew two people that had already climbed, and you were looking intentionally for some kind of a momentous event that you’re using to mark all of this.
So do you feel you were fully prepared to actually climb?
Daniel: Oh, hell no. Like T.H. said, I did everything physically. I mean, I scoured every internet site. There’s not an authority website on how to climb Kilimanjaro. There’s like 15, and they’re all different. Just the fact of having to assemble all the gear just for it is a nightmare in itself, because you’re like, okay, I need socks. Well, what kind of socks? And then four different websites had four different socks. And so it creates a lot of anxiety trying to put together just the list. But once I felt I got everything, and I probably over-prepared and over-packed, I did all the training, which in Tulsa, there’s no elevation. So for me, it was just getting out. I put 50 pounds on my backpack, which is three times what you’re going to have, and just climbed a couple of hiking trails in the middle of the summer in Tulsa. I felt physically I’m in better shape than probably I had then. But it’s all mental and it really is just–T.H. you can attest to this, it’s really all mental, the last one to two days of the climb. I mean, it’s relatively a fairly, I’ll say, easy climb the first four, five, six days, assuming that you acclimate to the climate. Some people do and don’t–
T.H.: Did you take the meds by the way? Did you take the meds for altitude?
Daniel: Oh, I did. Oh, yeah. I was like I’m not going to risk my–
T.H.: Me too. There were people who didn’t take it, Jessica, and they didn’t summit. And if they did, they were so delirious that they don’t even remember summiting. Can you imagine preparing and spending all that money, and then getting to the peak and being like, I can’t do this. What!
Jessica: Why? What would be the reasoning for not taking–
T.H.: They didn’t want to take drugs. They didn’t want to take anything. They didn’t want to take any medication so they did not take the altitude sickness stuff, and they got sick.
Daniel: Yeah, and altitude doesn’t–it’s not like if you’re uber in shape that you’re not at risk of getting altitude sickness. You could come there and be in the best of shape and have hiked several mountains, and for some reason, your body just reacts differently. I think there are a lot of people that are like, well, I’ve hiked all these mountains and I don’t need this. I’ve done altitude. It just hits them and they’re in trouble. We didn’t have anybody that didn’t make it in our group, but a lot of people struggled on days 2, 3, and 4, right out of the gate with all the symptoms of altitude sickness. But I was like, I took them religiously. Plus, I took the ones that the guides gave me. I was probably doubled up on altitude medicine.
T.H.: You could have gone higher.
Jessica: Literally and figuratively.
Jessica: Did you have anyone in your group that you knew? Was this something that you felt really it was important that it needed to be a solo trip for you amongst the group? Or did you go with someone you knew?
Daniel: I had a buddy in Chicago that really wanted to go when I told him about it. And I was like, okay, great. But then the more I thought about it, I was like, this needs to be something I do myself. I want to be able to dictate my entire trip and not have to feel like I’m tied to someone. And so I kind of blew him off. Then when he saw me start posting about it, he was like, well, what about me? I’m like, sorry man, this one’s my trip. If I all of a sudden go do it again, I’ll invite you. But it meant a lot more. So I did. I went into a group with 12 people in my group, and I didn’t know anybody. The cool thing that came out of it is I wrote so many different things about what I learned along the way. It was part of the content that I provided on Divorced over 40 and my Instagram of all these things that I learned as I traversed the mountain.
Jessica: Can you share some of that with people who haven’t read that?
T.H.: Well, hang on. What were your expectations going into it? So physically, and mentally, for me, I thought I was just climbing a mountain, right? And I actually was camping. I was in a tent by myself. My girlfriend was with someone else. Just the way it is, just so everybody knows, it’s a pretty intimate group of 12, maybe 15. We had four guides. One’s name was Polite, the other was God Love, and the other was Sunday. Sunday was a singer. And I keep in touch with all of them. This was over 12 years ago that I went. I keep in touch with them through social media, but it was not what I expected, in the best way possible. All the prep that Daniel’s talking about, I went to REI, and I’m like, outfit me. The most important thing isn’t even your shoes, it’s your backpack. If it’s not fitting you right, you’re going to be in trouble. And it’s just a day pack by the way. There are like 50 porters carrying food and 150 lb on their head, their back, and their front, by the way, in shoes without socks, that don’t fit. And fun side note, I’m a huge Kid Rock fan, but the reason that’s funny is because my assigned porter was wearing a Made in Detroit t-shirt all the way at Kilimanjaro. He’s my guy taking me up 19,000+ ft. So you can prepare, you can buy whatever you want. My biggest challenge at the beginning was you take baby steps up this mountain. There’s no running. There’s not even any walking. You can’t even really take a full stride. It’s pole pole, a little, little, little. I’m like don’t you ever want to just run for the hill? And no. So as you can already tell through this podcast, I am not a slow anything person. To be forced to slow down was one of the best lessons that I learned on this trip for everything. Slowing down when you eat – you can’t eat too quickly. You have to eat slowly. You have to take it in so you don’t get sick. What’s your biggest surprise lesson from climbing Kilimanjaro?
Daniel: Oh, man. I mean, there’s so many things that I learned. But probably the biggest one is that we can overcome almost anything.
And so I kind of applied it to the divorce process, because obviously, I’m part of this community and it’s like how can I tie what I learned into divorce? And for me, when you’re going through a divorce, you’re right in the middle of a storm. I always use this analogy of you’re on this little rowboat in the middle of these crashing waves and all you can do is just hold on. That’s your storm, right? But the waves settle and the sun rises. And what I learned and probably what I articulated is, to your point T.H., it’s just one step at a time. When you’re in the middle of your storm, you just have to take one step at a time. You can’t be looking out on the horizon, because you’re not going to see anything that’s going to encourage you. It’s just taking the next step after the next. And I remember the last day killed me. They do these tests every day to check your oxygen levels, and I had the highest percentage of oxygen in my blood of anybody in my group. So I’m starting to get cocky thinking, ah, I’m the best in shape. And the last day you have to get up at 10 o’clock at night. So you get to your camp at two or three, and they want you to immediately go to sleep, which I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t. So I was up from three till 10. You get up and you eat a light dinner, and then you’re usually starting your final ascent around midnight. And it’s brutal. It’s absolutely brutal. That was the mental test. We were probably about three hours in and about every 10 steps, I had to tell the whole group I’ve got to stop, I’ve got to stop. I just could not catch my breath. I was definitely feeling the effects of the altitude. A lot of people that were feeling great were starting to get annoyed with me. There’s a guy up from Germany and he was like, why can’t we just keep going? Every time we stop, I just feel like we’re losing momentum. And I’m back there just like, all of a sudden all the mental piece of it comes. Okay, I might have to turn around. I might not be able to make this because literally every 10 steps I’m having to stop. Finally, after about two hours of doing that, one of the guides pulled me aside and he said, let’s just let the group go ahead. I’ll take you. We slow down to the pace that I can do. He’s saying it the entire way up the mountain. It was pitch dark–
Jessica: Oh my god.
Daniel: It was 10 pm when we went out–
T.H.: It’s the coolest thing.
Daniel: And it was just magical. But it made me think of the divorce journey. Everybody has their own pace. It’s not like certain people have–we’re all going to recover and heal just like one of your friends did, or get back into the game and start dating like another friend. I mean, we all work at our own pace. We have to be comfortable with that because I was starting to feel anxious about letting the other group down because I kept pulling them back. Finally, I realized this is my trip. This isn’t theirs. And so the guide nudged me to say, let’s just slow it down. I was able to make it because of it. Just slowing things down and taking it at my own pace.
Jessica: I literally just got chills when you used that as the analogy for the pacing of people’s divorce and life. I literally just got chills. I’m wondering to what T.H. was asking before, what were your expectations before you went? And was what happened totally different? And do you feel like you really came back with a different perspective on your whole divorce process? I don’t know beforehand was it super amicable? What was it more difficult? Did you feel that trip just settled things for you in a weird way?
Daniel: I think what it did is it made me feel like a man. It made me feel, okay, this was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, and I accomplished it.
And so I’ve had a pretty well-off life and really, I’ve worked hard. I worked hard on my career. I raised three kids. I’m not afraid of hard work, but this was almost like the true test of do you have the guts to do it. And so coming back, it gave me that confidence that I can go accomplish anything now. Now, do I want to go climb the mountain again? Hell no.
T.H.: I would never do it again.
Daniel: Right. All of us on day three were like, what are all the seven summits? We’re starting to list all the other mountains. What if we did this and this? The day afterward, we’re like, forget that. We’re not climbing another mountain.
T.H.: So done.
Daniel: So you have to have a passion for it, right? And that wasn’t me. But at least I was like, okay, it was something that’s super tough, that was super mentally tough, and I was able to overcome it. I can overcome anything.
T.H.: We’re so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for because we don’t challenge ourselves in this way. We usually stay in a safe zone in our lives. Then if something’s interesting, so my bone was that my friend Karen was going and Debbie was going to be there. I would not have gone alone. But in the end, I was alone. I was alone, because when you’re done with dinner, Jess, we went to our tent. You don’t come out again until you wash your hands in the morning. I mean, you could have gone out to go the bathroom, but I had stuff figured out.
Jessica: But you’re forced to really reflect inside and–
T.H.: Picture this. Hot water bottles between your legs so you don’t get cold, in your clothing, in a liner, in a sleeping bag, with your hat and your headlamp. By the way, I just found my hat, and I can’t throw it out–and your headlamp. I did keep a journal every day. I did have a satellite phone because my kids were at home with my parents, but I only used it after I summited. But you’re alone in your head. By the way, you do get a little quirky at that altitude no matter what medication you’re on. My girlfriend had said something at dinner, oh, did you see those cute little white mice? I’m not a fan of any color mouse. I went into my tent, but then that night I’m like, well, what if the mice get into my tent? And then what if they eat all of my snacks that I need to bring with me? And then what if I scream and then everyone’s going to think I’m a freakin’ loser and baby because I’m screaming and there’s nothing really wrong except I’m thinking that the mice are going to eat my Kind bars. And then it feels like two minutes later they’re like [knocking sound] wash hands, let’s go!
T.H.: So the last two nights I also totally did not sleep. I was also fixated on keeping my fingernails clean because we were trekking for 11 days, no shower, and no washing hair. But for whatever reason, I decided my fingernails had to be clean. I brought a nail brush with me and a lot of deodorant. I fixated on that. So those are some surprising things for me that were so random. Then when we did summit, we did not sleep at 18,000. We went to 18,000, went back down to 13, and then left at four o’clock in the morning to go to the summit. And it had snowed. But we woke up so early, and I kept hitting my head. By the way, Jessica, you can’t stand in your tent. You are lying down in your tent, and then you can crawl in your tent. But I couldn’t even get my head up to wake up. I’m like, holy shit, it snowed! My whole tent is caved in with snow.
Jessica: Oh my god.
Daniel: Oh wow.
T.H.: But when you’re talking about an angelic experience, the sun was rising and there was snow on the ground as we summitted to the top of this unbelievable mountain. My only rule was that my feet had to be on the ground. I’m not traversing. I’m not cramponing. I’m wearing shoes, and the feet have to be on the ground. So what was your quirkiest moment that you’re like, what am I doing, like my fingernails? You definitely had an experience like that.
Daniel: Oh, gosh. I mean, there’s so much that you’re like living in the rough, and you’re right, everybody’s getting giddy because you start to just progressively get more and more tired. You’re taking all those meds. I don’t know if there’s anything crazy that I did. But it’s amazing how quickly you can bond with people too that you don’t know. That was also kind of the fun piece of it is getting to know. We just had people, I had mostly Americans in my group, but just all walks of life, all ages from 25 to I think, 60. Oh no, we had a 70-year-old woman that climbed it, which was crazy.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, she was tough.
T.H.: She was determined.
Daniel: Right, and maybe the final ascent, she was probably eight hours behind us because she went so slow. She had two porters with her the entire way, but she made it. I don’t know if there’s anything quirky, but it is fun getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people that you don’t know. I tagged on a trip afterward to Zanzibar, which is this tropical island, for about five days. That was just as–
Jessica: Well deserved.
T.H.: Oh! That’s nice!
Jessica: What would you say was your hardest mental moment or experience during all of that? And did you feel while you were there, I mean, the purpose of your trip was to have this closure for your divorce process, were you thinking about that a lot while you were there?
Daniel: Not really. The hardest moment was like I mentioned when I kept trailing back. I remember because it was pitch dark, and I kept looking straight up. I thought that what I saw were stars. I asked the guide because they’re so far in the distance and they were so high, I was like, are those stars? He was like, no, those are hikers. And I’m like, holy crap, that’s the elevation that we’re climbing?
T.H.: That’s where you’re going.
Daniel: And about an hour later, I look up, and the stars aren’t any closer. They’re just as far. I’m like, oh my gosh, this is going to be brutal. Then it starts messing with your mind like, I can’t make it that high. I mean, it was literally like this that last day. It was 45 degrees at least until you got to the very top. That was definitely the hardest part was just dealing with the mind games of your head saying you can’t do it, or you’re falling behind and you need to turn around, you’re going to start getting altitude sickness, and all the things that went in my head.
Jessica: So what’s next?
Daniel: Well, I’m not climbing another mountain. It was interesting because I’m in a relationship, and so the fact that I didn’t travel with my girlfriend created all this little stirring amongst people about the fact, oh, are you guys broken up? I ended up writing about solo travel and how I felt you can still travel solo even when you’re in a relationship.
Daniel: And it actually resonated with a large portion of my community that really was like, that makes sense. And so there’s definitely things that I’d like to do, certain places that I’d like to go, that maybe my girlfriend isn’t all that interested in going to. I love traveling. I love Africa. So there are lots of other parts of Africa that I want to go see. The people are just incredible in Tanzania.
T.H.: They are.
Daniel: I mean they’re just kind-hearted. They have nothing. I think it’s one of the bottom 20% poorest countries in the world, and they’re all happy and have smiles on their faces. I think it’s always good to go travel and see the disparity of wealth between what we’re used to and what we expect, and what the real world is. And so I want to do more of that, whether it’s Africa or Asia, South America. I definitely have a lot of other spots that I want to hit. But as far as some big, audacious goal, I think I’ve done that, Jessica. I think I’m done.
T.H.: I think you get a few years before you have to think about it again. It probably won’t look anything like Kilimanjaro, but it’ll be challenging in a different way. I think that–
Daniel: Yeah, swimming with the sharks is something that’s interested me because I’ve been scared of sharks since Jaws. I’m the one that was traumatized by Jaws.
T.H.: You believe Jaws still?
Daniel: I mean I was so traumatized by it. If I’m in a pool, I think there’s a shark in the pool. And I was a swimmer–
Jessica: If you saw Jaws again today, you would literally laugh at what it looks like.
Daniel: I had my kids watching and they’re like, dad, this is stupid. I’m like, no, this is incredibly frightening. It traumatized me. So no, I don’t think I’d swim outside of a cage, but that might be something that I might do to just overcome that fear. But I don’t know…that’s way out there.
Jessica: Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro, obviously, is not for everyone. But now that you did what you did with the intention with which you did it, would you tell most people who are getting divorced that it’s worth it to try to find some kind of a mental, physical, emotional challenge to be able to have that sense of closure that you were looking for?
Daniel: Yes. The beautiful thing about coming out of a divorce, and it may only be for a little window before you jump into say another relationship, is you have this little season in your life where virtually outside of the obligations that you have maybe to your work and your kids, you have all the autonomy in the world to do whatever the hell you want, any night of the week. Once you get into a relationship again, then you have a partner that has a mutual say, and that’s just part of the relationship. And so it’s like, seize that opportunity. Once you get through your healing process and you’ve got this little window of being autonomous, go do something crazy. Go do something that’s fulfilling to you. It may not be to hike a mountain, but it could be to travel or do something that makes you uncomfortable. But yeah, I think you’ve got to seize that moment because you don’t get too many of those, I think.
T.H.: I think you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable so that you can grow. I mean, look, we don’t know about your divorce details, but between us, I was uncomfortable a lot. I was challenged in ways that I never expected. I was elated over things that I didn’t realize I was going to be so thrilled about. But all of those challenges allowed us to grow to be where we are today. You don’t have to go all the way to Africa. You can incorporate something in your weekly routine that’s outside of your comfort zone. I mean, Jessica’s playing poker now, and that’s definitely outside of her comfort zone.
Jessica: Trying. I’m trying to play poker.
T.H.: But challenge yourself.
Daniel: I’ve got someone that could teach you.
T.H.: Challenge yourself. Open yourself up. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Jessica: I’m learning because I’m in a bi-weekly girls’ Zoom that we started during COVID. I just have the kind of mind like, it’s great. Then it’s like two weeks pass, and then I start again, and I’m like, wait, what?
Daniel: But here’s the thing, Jess, you have this season where you can go do all these things that you’ve either dusted off or you put on the shelf because you got married. All these dreams or hobbies or things that you’re passionate about, you have an opportunity to dust a lot of that stuff off and go pursue them. Make sure that that’s it’s an expectation in your next relationship, that these are things that are important to me, and I’m not going to give them away for the sake of a relationship. And so that’s been an opportunity for me, certainly, to be able to just go do things that I’ve never done before. Go be super social. I didn’t invest in my friendships during my marriage. So being intentional with friends, traveling, and being able to dictate where my dollar goes, I mean, all those things can be very empowering if you take advantage of them.
Jessica: You’re 100% right, totally. I mean, listen, that’s the upside of divorce. For everyone who’s out there and is going through it, and it’s dark and overwhelming, and scary, and you totally can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, the light at the end of the tunnel is everything that you guys are saying, being able to recognize who you are, what is important to you, and stretching and doing the things that you may have thought were fucking crazy before, but now you’re like there’s nothing holding me back. There’s no reason not to do it. So I love what it all meant for both of you. It is very inspiring. I will never, I mean, never say never, but I will never hike Mt Kilimanjaro.
T.H.: You won’t say never.
Jessica: But it is very inspiring. It’s very inspiring to hear what both of you have to say about it.
Daniel: We’re going to have an exEXPERTS climb Kilimanjaro. Both of you are going to go, as well as your community–
Jessica: It’ll be virtual!
T.H.: I think you can do it on Amazon now.
Jessica: It’ll be my background on Zoom.
T.H.: I think you can. I think you can do it virtually with Amazon. You go can go to Kilimanjaro.
Jessica: Exactly. That’ll be me. Well, thank you so much Daniel for taking the time and sharing that experience. I feel it’s so profound. As many people around the world that have done it, I mean, obviously, it’s not so common, T.H. was so excited when she had found out that you did it. I mean, I would imagine that’s like a really specific bond for two people to have had that experience, and also for it having been a post-divorce thing and then meet someone else who did it for the same reason. I don’t know…I feel like you guys are bonded for life. That’s a nice–
Daniel: We’re in a club. We’re in a very unique club.
T.H.: It’s a cool club.
Jessica: That’s right.
Daniel: So we have a handshake and everything.
T.H.: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Daniel: I bought this…it’s just a little Kilimanjaro band. It’s funny because I have that and I have the Tanzanian colors, but over here I’ve got–I bought this when I was in Kenya. They’re just reminders. They’re more reminders of–I know a lot of people are like, you’re a 48-year-old man wearing bands, but I’m like–
Daniel: They’re reminders of what I’ve accomplished, but also reminders of the experiences that I’ve had and that I’m proud of.
T.H.: You should be.
Daniel: And so yeah, it’s a very special club, Jess. We might let you in.
Jessica: I’ll never make it in. I’ll never make it in.
T.H.: She’ll be in other clubs.
Daniel: Yeah, the poker club.
T.H.: Thank you so much, Daniel. This was a pleasure.
Daniel: It is my pleasure. Thank you, guys.
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