Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole, is virtually uninhabited with 98% of the land covered by an ice sheet averaging 1 mile thick and containing 70% of the world’s fresh water. It is one of the most remote places on the planet and I had the pleasure of taking in its immense beauty in November 2018 when I traveled there to celebrate my 50th birthday!
As I stepped my feet on the Antarctic Peninsula at Brown Bluff, I realized one of my life dreams of visiting all the earth’s continents. Of the seven, Antarctica is by far the most difficult and expensive to reach. About 7,500 people venture there each year, crossing the Drake Passage-one of the roughest waterways in the world- between South America’s Cap Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. We traveled there on an Ocean Endeavor/Quark Expedition ship that carried 216 other passengers.
If you love orca and humpback whales, penguins and seals, albatross and ice formations sculptured from nature, the Antarctic region is the place to go. I spent a day in South Georgia where I walked among 500,000 pairs of penguins. I couldn’t believe my eyes or explain the love in my heart. Had anyone asked me, prior to this trip, whether I would enjoy standing in a sea of king penguins, I would’ve said, “No way.” I had never felt an affinity for penguins or snow and ice prior to this journey. In fact, the idea of traveling to Antarctica frightened me a bit. However, the experiences on this journey changed my life and expanded my perspective. There’s something profound about being immersed in a colony of 1 million penguins that walk right up to you without fear that will change your perspective and your life.
Being immersed in nature, such that you experience and feel no separation from it, is transformative. That’s what the wilderness—and its profound peace, quiet and immeasurable beauty—will do for you. It will help relieve you of stress and change whatever is ailing you by transmuting it through a deeply profound connection to the landscape around you. The anxiety, pressure, and strain just falls off.
Prior to walking upon on the Antarctic Peninsula, I made stops in Chile, Argentina, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. I was gone nearly five weeks—and even that wasn’t enough time. The more time I spent in the wild, the more peaceful I became. Most people ask, “Is it cold down there?” The answer is, “yes.” It is cold, but not unbearable during the spring when I ventured there. I even donned snowshoes and took a one and a half hour hike around Half Moon Island, which is located in the South Shetland Islands within the Antarctic Peninsula region.
What are you yearning to experience? How do you want to feel? What will stretch and make you feel most alive? I ask myself these three questions before I embark on any new adventure. Vacations and holidays are great for resting and relaxing. They are also great opportunities for exploring the world and yourself.