Wild in Antarctica: my trip to the end of the world and back
I am an introvert. I love being by myself, listening to music, singing at the top of my lungs in my own apartment on the outskirts of New York City. Being by myself is one of the ways I recharge. When I travel I enjoy going with a close friend or as a solo traveler. Recently, one of my best friends told me about a trip she was taking to Antarctica, which would fulfill her goal of travelling to all seven continents. She sent me the information about the trip and the group she would be travelling with, Oceanwide Expeditions. The trip offered mountaineering, kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, camping and a lot more. I thought to myself, “There is no way someone like me would volunteer to do these activities in the United States, let alone in another country—and at subzero temperatures.” After all, I am an introvert. When I’m outdoors I prefer to be on a warm beach with the sun shining, giving me a soft sun kissed glow to my skin. The idea of travelling to Antarctica and exploring the coldest, driest, and windiest place on earth was way outside of my comfort zone. But, it intrigued me. I thought to myself, “When would I ever think to travel to Antarctica? What‘s it like there? What kind of animals would I see?” I realized that I was faced with the opportunity of a lifetime to explore what is known as ‘end of the world’ with a friend of mine. Before I could talk myself out of it, I found myself sending in my down payment to reserve my spot on a two-week trip to the Antarctica Peninsula.
Meanwhile, my friend had reminded me to pack my bikini because we had signed up to run into the frigid waters of Antarctica as one of our “fun” activities. I seriously began to doubt my decision. I’m not sure why volunteering to potentially experience hypothermia would be fun, but it was something I was intent on doing.
The day to head out on my adventure had finally arrived. I left my apartment at 3:00 in the morning. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. I was thrilled to see what this new adventure would do to an introvert like me stepping outside of her comfort zone. I took three flights to Ushuaia, Argentina, and then boarded a ship bound for Antarctica via the Drake Passage, a notoriously rough passage. In fact, it’s often said that you either experience the “Drake Shake” or, if you’re lucky, the “Drake Lake.”
My first day on the ship, I clung to the hand railings that lined the walls on each floor waiting to see if I was going to fall prey to being seasick. Thankfully I never I did! Eventually, I found my sea legs after making my way from the second floor to the outer top deck of the vessel. I stepped out from the bridge and filled my lungs with the cold fresh air as I took in the horizon. As I breathed in the wonderful air, I was also breathing in new life. I felt like I was on a roller coaster—thrilled to be on an adventure, but nervous at the same time, not being able to spot a single speck of land. But my nervousness soon faded and became a distant memory, as we travelled closer and closer to the Antarctica Peninsula.
I had so many great experiences in Antarctica it’s hard to pick one thing about the trip I liked the best. I definitely loved the people I met from around the world. I still talk with many of them on a daily basis and keep up with their ongoing adventures. My new-found friends Jeremy and Anna have been travelling through Brazil. There’s ‘Hot Chocolate Johnny’ who’s making his way to Hong Kong before returning home to his wife and kid in Australia. Entrepreneur Scott returned to the United States to visit friends and family in Florida, Wisconsin, and places in between.
And how can I forget the night of camping in Antarctica with these same friends? We dug holes in the snow to block the wind and huddled down into layers of sleeping bags. As we settled in, we realized sleep would be limited because a little penguin joined our camp and proceeded to cry all night looking for his family. Luckily, when we all awoke in the morning we watched Mr. Penguin as he was reunited with his family.
One of my absolute favorite experiences occurred on the last day. I stood on a rocky beach, stripped down to my hot pink bikini, grabbed my friend’s hand and ran straight into the ocean. My legs collapsed from the shock of the coldness and I was instantly enveloped in ice cold water. I quickly ran back to shore desperately looking for the warm towels offered.
This entire trip is not one that I ever expected to take, nor is it one I will ever forget. Now I am home and I am back in the more predictable groove of day-to-day life. Will this introvert ever choose to step out of her comfort zone to travel to Antarctica or any other exotic location again? In a heartbeat.