When I signed up to produce a travel video of my hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro—followed by a luxury safari and a beach vacation—I had no idea how much people pay for this kind of adventure…and how truly life-changing it is.
I climbed Kilimanjaro via the Rongai route, so we had six days to get to the peak. The porters—who were in incredible shape—carried most of our luggage, and still it was a challenge to conquer the altitude sickness. I had been mostly looking forward to the luxury safari in neighboring Kenya. But the challenge of hiking up this majestic mountain and being surrounded by the African savannah was one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had the privilege to experience. (Cost to other travelers: $2,000. My hike: Free.)
After descending the White Mountain, I took a six-seater plane to one of three safari camps where we stayed in luxurious mobile tents. We were greeted by traditional Maasai warriors who showed us their ritual dances. For four days, we ate, drank, slept, and lived the safari life with animal spottings at dawn and dusk, and campfire tales each evening. (Cost to other travellers: $3,000 per person. My meals, transport, and accommodations: All free.)
Of course, we got to see all of the big five (rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo, lion, and leopard) but my personal highlight was catching a leopard climbing a tree because they are so incredibly elusive and rare to film.
After visiting two more safari camps, and receiving a private Jeep tour (valued at about $500 a day), I calculated that I had received about $10,000 in free perks—for climbing Kilimanjaro, travel costs, and three safari camp stays. But I still hadn’t come to the end of my trip.
On Mafia Island, a virgin paradise off the coast of Tanzania, I spent my first night in a tree house. These weren’t your average backyard playhouses, though. These were luxurious tree houses with running water, open to the elements, with a king-sized bed at the throne-like centerpiece. My stay on the island included a trip to a private beach on a sandbank that disappeared beneath the rising tide every afternoon, followed by a romantic dinner in a candle-lit ruin surrounded by palm trees.
The next day, I moved to a more traditional luxury cabin on the beach, where I spent another three days lying in a hammock under the palm trees…and occasionally doing some filming. The total cost of the island stay was valued at $5,000. The cost to me was zilch.
But the best was yet to come. I took a ferry to Zanzibar where I stayed at an exclusive resort with an infinity pool and view of the nearby white-sand beach. The next day we went on a food and spice tour before I moved to Chole Island where I filmed myself getting a massage (thank god for tripods). All of this was worth another $5,000, bringing my total for the trip to $20,000 worth of travel perks.
At the time, I was only earning about $500 per video—these days I can command up to $8,000 for a video—but with eight short videos (just two minutes each), I managed to pull in $4,000.
So in total, I enjoyed a $20,000 vacation of a lifetime, some unforgettable experiences, and all on top of a paycheck of $4,000. Not a bad way to “work,” right?
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