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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Milton

I Found Myself on the Trails: An Inspiring Interview with Saray Khumalo

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Saray Khumalo on behalf of the South African Adventure Industry Association (SA AIA). The more I read about Saray in preparation for the interview, the more inspired I felt, and I couldn't believe I hadn't already heard about her.


Saray is the Executive Director of Summits with a Purpose and was the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest in 2019. When she successfully completes the last degree to the North Pole next year (God willing), she will become one of about 70 people worldwide to have completed the Explorer’s Grand Slam – and the first black woman to do so.


A mountaineer sitting at the top of a snowy mountain holding a South African flag

What I enjoyed about interviewing Saray was how openly and authentically she shared about her journey from growing up in a semi-rural community in Zambia to climbing the world's highest mountains. Her passion for adventure, education and the empowerment of Africa's youth and her strength come through in every conversation; yet, there's a humility about her that probably explains why she isn't more widely known.


She was always a bit of a tomboy and I can identify with that. She told me a delightful story about how, after hearing her grandfather discussing an abattoir with a friend, she snuck out to go and find the place because she wanted to see it. She was nine years old.


Another story from her childhood involved being taught to stand up to bullies. After a pep talk from her favourite uncle, she faced a boy who'd slapped her previously and when he tried to intimidate her yet again, she punched him. The bully fell down and started crying.


But what resonated with me the most was her admission that she 'found herself on the trails'. The place I feel most content and alive is out on an adventure in the middle of the wilderness. My soul can breathe out there and without all the noise, distractions and (often manufactured) busyness of civilisation, I'm more in touch with the real me and with God.


If you're feeling worn down at all – whether it be due to the constant bustle of the city, repetitive health challenges or a big decision hanging over your head – you might need a 'time-out' in nature. Go for a walk. Brave a cold-water swim. Find a campsite with no electricity and no signal. Climb a mountain. Paddle a river.


You may just find yourself out on the trails.

 

If you need inspiration,

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