Antarctica. Dream Destination? Yes. Mine? No.

When Audrey and Daniel from Uncornered Market pulled the trigger and hopped 0n board a boat to Antarctica last year, I eagerly followed along. The penguin photos! The incredibly blue icebergs! The stomach-churning trip through the Drake Passage! Every morning I pulled up their page with high hopes for a new post. They brought Antarctica to North Carolina for me.

Now I’m eagerly awaiting posts from Pam at Nerd’s Eye View from her upcoming Antarctic adventure. In fact, when I’m browsing blogs, I rarely pass up a post about Antarctica. There’s something about its remoteness that gets me. Perhaps it’s also the simple fact that in this 24-hour news cycle world, Antarctica hasn’t yet been talked to death. It’s not everyone who has been there.

Yet, when I make lists—both on paper and in my mind—of places I just have to get to, Antarctica doesn’t make it anywhere near the top of the list. Sometimes this surprises me. It’s my brain and my list, so I know I shouldn’t by surprised, but I am. There is a section of my brain that champions Antarctica, chants its name over and over, and then, when I don’t listen to it, tries to reason with me.

My brain has a lot of good reasons.

1. I like penguins.

True. But then again, who doesn’t? If you can resist their ridiculousness, then I think you most likely have a relative named Ebeneezer.

2. It’s changing rapidly. Again true. And rapid change has always been a strong reason for me to visit places. When I decide where I want to travel, I try to weight my destinations toward places that I think will be dramatically different if I wait five or ten years to visit them. That’s why Mongolia is high atop my list, while Australia languishes away toward the bottom.

3. I love dramatic scenery.

Wow, my brain really knows me. Right, again. Patagonia brought me to my knees and not just because the hiking was hard. I swooned over the dark mountains capped with blazing white snow. I shot photo after photo of the rapidly changing sky. I spent hours and hours just staring at a glacier. I bet that Antarctica is all of that raised to the power of ten.

4. I am drawn to adventure.

Well, duh. I did choose to teach middle school students in Greece. I think that says it all, but for bonus points I also rafted the Nile, rappelled down a waterfall, took a microlight over Vic Falls, sank a kayak in Lake Malawi, and removed all of my own leeches in Malaysia. Antarctica is pretty hard to beat on the adventure scale.
And the negatives, well, really they’re not the reason. They’re just minor little things, things that don’t matter a bit if I really wanted to go Antarctica.

1. I don’t like cruises. Okay, I’m lying. The truth is I don’t really know if I like cruises or not, because I’ve never really been on a big boat cruise. I liked my catamaran cruise of the Galapagos. I am pretty darn positive I’d hate a Celebrity cruise around the Caribbean. But I’m also entirely certain that an Antarctica cruise is like neither of those. Has anyone ever been on an Antarctic cruise with karaoke? I’m simply curious.

2. I don’t like cold weather.

Well, that’s true, but I don’t hate it as much as I claim. What I hate is the inactivity of winter in all of the places I’ve ever lived, where so much as one snowflake will put life on hold for a good three days. I’ve had plenty of fun in cold climates, and hey, isn’t that Antarctica’s charm after all?

3. It’s expensive. Indubitably. There is no denying that a trip to Antarctica is expensive, but there are less expensive ways to do it if you really try. Plus, I’ve said before that some things are worth the price. The Galapagos certainly was. I bet Antarctica is too.

No, it’s not any of these silly things that are keeping me from planting Antarctica smack at the top of my list of places to visit. What makes me hesitate on Antarctica is the lack of people.

As much as I love penguins, unique places, dramatic scenery, and adventure, none of those have ever been the reason why I fell in love with a place. The one common denominator that ties together all of my favorite travel experiences is people. The stories that stick with me and the images I pull up time and again are of local people and the moments I shared with them.

What’s Antarctica going to offer me in that regard? Sure, there are some crazy scientists freezing their patooties off down there, and I’m sure they’re nothing if not interesting , but it’s not a strong sale for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. If someone approached me and said they’d like to send me to Antarctica for free, I would hug them (and if you know me, you know I’m not a hugger), do the world’s most ridiculous looking happy dance, share the news with everyone I know, and then immediately start searching for a down parka (and one of those furry Russian hats with ear flaps). And who knows, down the road, I may even pay to go. I have no doubt that Antarctica incredible. None, whatsoever. But for now, with my limited travel budget, I’m content to flip open my laptop, point my browser to an Antarctica blog post, and enjoy someone else’s account of the frozen continent while planning my own trips elsewhere. Isn’t the travel blog world awesome?

13 Replies to “Antarctica. Dream Destination? Yes. Mine? No.”

  1. Thanks Theresa–great post and pics. We’ve been traveling on a boat for a few years with our kids and managed to get to the Mediterranean for a couple of years. One place I’ve never been keen to take our boat is Antarctica…but after seeing these pics! hmmmm….

  2. I have the same ambivalent feelings about a trip to Antarctica as you do and I can’t put my finger on the definitive reason. One of my favourite books was Endurance about Shackleton and Sara Wheeler’s book Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica made me more interested but still the burning desire isn’t there.
    Apart from the financial aspect, I think another part of my reticence stems from the fact that you’re on a boat most of the time. And the cruising life was fine in the Galapagos but not so sure about 2 weeks at the bottom of the world.
    Interesting & thought provoking post.

  3. I’ve actually turned down a couple assignments to Antarctica due to scheduling conflict, and it pained me terribly to do so! But! It’s something I don’t think I could experience without Scott, both because I like to save the super cool for us to do together and also because I get dreadfully motion sick and need him there to hold my hair 😉

  4. Like you I am both fascinated by the Antarctic, yet would be hesitant to go there. I just think of that film of Scott of the Antarctic trudging through the endless nightmarish white… the Antarctic scares me. Great post, I’m going for a walk… I may be some time….

  5. @Therea: I’d go to Antarctica and even pay for the trip if I could find someone who knows how to survive there and keep me safe until we get home 🙂 I am very sure I won’t survive on my own there, not even 1 day..

  6. Antartica wouldn’t be my dream destination either, it’d be too cold for me! I can understand why some people would love to go there though, the animal life must be amazing to watch, if you can stand the cold!!!

  7. Really enjoyed this post Theresa!

    People definitely have varying reasons for being drawn to certain places. I still have friends who laugh out loud when I tell them that I want to go to the North Pole so badly. And then fall silent when they realize I’m serious.

    Why? !

    Some of my favorite memories have definitely come from encounters with people while traveling, and other favorite memories have also come when I’m silent and alone (hiking stretches of the Inca trail alone), meditating while surrounded by grandeur, and reflecting just how small we are in this mysteriously beautiful world.

  8. I’m really chuffed that you followed along as we went on our trip! Internet was super slow, so it was tough to get things posted but it was so fun when we managed.

    I never had Antarctica high on my list because of many of the reasons you mentioned – I really don’t like the cold (and am a complete wimp in it), almost all my best travel experiences have been with lots of interaction with people and the thought of being stuck on a boat for over a week didn’t sound like a fun (I was ready to get off the boat after 7 days in Galapagos). But, when Dan got it into his head about Antarctica and I started researching I got really excited myself. It turned out one of our best experiences. Perhaps this is because it was SO different from our normal travels and Mother Nature blew me away even more than I could have imagined. Although the local people element was missing, I found that talking with the scientists and experts on our boat (I love talking with scientists because of their passion for their specific topic) combined with the historical context filled that void for me.

    Like Lola, I’d also love to get up to the North Pole – there is something so peaceful about complete quiet and solitude. But, I couldn’t stay too long without wanting interaction again!

  9. If you want another Antarctica Post to read, check out Ali’s. Ok, there are three posts.

    My biggest reason to not be interested is the remoteness. I love cruises (done the Atlantic crossing 3 times), but I also love cities and civilization. A plaza of marble with a cafe watching people is my idea of fun. Umm.. penguins don’t cut it.

    Love the article and the back and forth thinking.

    1. One day … but even if I won some $300 million + lottery, I wouldn’t be catching the first boat to Antarctica. The cold isn’t what’s keeping me from going (though I’d definitely be investing in some serious polar gear); it’s really a lack of desire. So many other places are more appealing to at this moment in my life.

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