Frequently Asked Questions: The Return

Friends, family, co-workers, tweeters and facebookers have all asked me lots of questions about my experience since I've returned. Here are the ones that have been coming up the most.

1. So… How was it?!
Legendary! EPIC! Amazing. Better than I expected. Far beyond what I could have imagined. I didn’t quite expect to be so moved! So touched. But, when you’re surrounded by incredible, remote wilderness, it’s impossible not to be affected by it in some profound way. I’d like to bring the spirit of Antarctica and the connection I had to it into my everyday life. Not sure what that means quite yet, but it was too special and too important for me to overlook. It’s hard to explain exactly what about it was so life-changing or why… it just was. 

Since I’ve returned, I’ve already looked into several ways of going back, donated to many organizations dedicated to its preservation (more on that in a future post), and researched like-minded people, companies and organizations whose lives are focused on Antarctica.

Needless to say, it was that good.

2. What did you do every day?
On the Drake (2 days in both directions), I spent most of the time going to educational lectures presented by the Expedition Guides. We had ornithologists, marine biologists, historians, geologists - all teaching us about their expertise in Antarctica. 

On the peninsula, we visited two locations per day each with activities including kayaking (if you signed up for it), zodiac cruising, or going ashore. In many cases, I got to do all three. On land, we hiked and watched the penguins (so many curious penguins, they got so close!) and other wildlife. The zodiac cruises got us up-close to the icebergs and glaciers. In between each location, we were aboard the ship, watching wildlife (whales!) from the deck, having meals, listening to more lectures or getting in a quick nap until it was time to do something amazing again. Since it was always light... there was always something to see. I didn't sleep much!

3. What were you most surprised by?
I was surprised by how different each day and each landing was. Every place we visited was remarkably different from the next. The morning was different than the afternoon and each location offered something different and magical than the time before it. Even the times we were sailing in between were out of this world. We all became accustomed to saying “this is amazing, it can’t get any better!” And miraculously, the next experience delivered the same reaction.

I was also surprised by how incredible our Expedition Team was. We went to several spots that many of our team had never been. It was amazing to watch and participate in the newness of the landing WITH them. They see these places time and time again so to experience their continued wonder in new places was so inspiring. I never expected to have an experience like that.

4. How was the Drake Passage?
The Drake Passage... It was interesting! I thought it was pretty mild, definitely wild swells and lots of rocking and rolling, but I kind of liked it. Many, many people suffered from seasickness, though. I was actually hoping for more of a wild Drake experience. There were times that things spilled all over the place during meals and there was a slight lift of my body in bed while I slept. But all in all, I was too excited to think about anything negative. Perhaps my spirit helped me get through it with flying colors? I also wore the wrist bands and took Gravol, just in case.

5. What was the ship like? How was the food?
The M/V Sea Adventurer was wonderful! It (She?) had a ton of character and amenities without feeling too much like a traditional cruise ship. It was particularly awesome that we had access to the bridge (I spent a lot of time there) and were generally able to hang out with the Expedition Team and Crew. There was so much outdoor deck space to take in all the breathtaking sights, and a good amount of comfort when you wanted to be indoors. 

The rooms were small and cozy (I had a double berth) with a nice bathroom and closet space. My room was at the bottom of the ship, making the Drake milder. Our meals were great and there was always tea and coffee and cookies for us to snack on. Meals in the dining room and cocktails in the lounge were always a blast, every day I met new people and heard new, incredible stories. I totally bonded with ship and will look for it on future expeditions.

5. Did you bring / use / need a tripod?
I did bring a tripod, but I didn’t end up using it. I was much too excited 100% of the time to settle down, set things up and hangout with my tripod. If (When) I return, I’ll bring it again and be more mindful of my compositions. As a first-timer it was important to take pictures, but it was more important to experience this place to the fullest. If you’re on the fence, I say bring it. You never know.

6. Is kayaking worth it?
Absolutely! It’s an extra expense that is 100% worth it. Our Expedition Leader has a background as a kayak guide, so he did an amazing job taking us to locations that were particularly well suited for kayaking. I imagine that’s not the same on every ship. In any case, kayaking allowed me to do everything. We went out on the kayaks as a small group (15), then did the same things as everyone else. It was nice to bond with a smaller, tight group. If you're considering it, DO IT.


7. Did it ever feel dangerous? Were you ever worried?
Nah. Despite the aura of danger that comes with Antarctica, it’s a very safe place to visit. It’s a different story during the winter at the bases, but there aren’t tourists there then. 

8. Did you ever feel bad about being a tourist there? 
Yes. And no. And yes. I’m conflicted. It’s insanely important to protect and conserve Antarctica as the alternative is a frightening. But, tourism brings awareness and money and with those things, greater consciousness in saving our planet.  Our Expedition Team did a phenomenal job educating us on how to conduct ourselves and that our visit was a part of larger effort to create advocates for Antarctica. So... no. But yes. But no.

9. So you would actually go back? Before anywhere else?
Yes! Yes, yes yes. There’s something about Antarctica that just has me hooked! I realize it seems crazy to want to continue going back to the same place when there’s just so much world to see (and I do want to see it!), but I’m drawn to this place in a way I can’t explain. Like no other place. It’s the ice. It’s how far away it is. It's that life can survive here. It’s how empty, powerful, pristine it is. And how vital it is for our planet. Given the opportunity, I would go back every year. All the time. Yes. Without any hesitation. Yes!

10. Can you give me advice for my trip / tell me more / answer my questions?
I am super happy to discuss Antarctica every single day. Seriously! Please email me (link in the footer) or write your questions in the comments. I will very enthusiastically answer any questions, further share my experience, or just plain engage in conversation around anything and everything Antarctica. If you’ve been fortunate to have visited and experienced the magic that I keep talking about, by all means get in touch! Say hi! I’d absolutely love to hear your stories and share in the post-trip glow that you know all about.