People keep asking me why I want to go to Antaractica. Because I’ve dreamt of going to Antarctica for a very long time this question always catches me by surprise. Long before the term “Bucket List” became a part of the lexicon I had my own list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit. Antarctica’s always been on the list. For many different reasons.
Reason #1: I like to set goals for “finishing things”. The year after my youngest son – Motti – turned 13 and had his Bar Mitzvah I drove to the Arctic Circle with my friend Esther and her son Mark … another place that had been on my dream list. A couple of years later I travelled to Newfoundland with my good friend Nancy; that was a fabulous trip which not only let me “in” on one of Canada’s best-kept secrets (how totally terrific Newfoundland is) but enabled me to check off “Done all the provinces/territories in Canada” (that would be 10 provinces and 2 territories at the time). Much to my dismay – and delight – an additional territory – Nunavut – was established in 1999 so I guess I’m not quite “done” with Canada yet.
Reason #2 – I love to journey to far-away, remote, interesting places and understand how lives are lived differently all over the world. Growing up in London, Ont I often passed time dreaming about the world beyond this small city (actually small town pretending to be a city). Maybe that was partly because my dreams of life seemed to be so much larger than my actual experience of life at that time. Maybe it’s just part of my thirst to understand the world; this, too, may come from my early experiences which left me quite muddled about the meaning of life and the ways of the world. Maybe it’s just a part of my natural curiorsity.
Which brings me to Reason #3: I love a good adventure. We didn’t take one of the Princess Cruises to the Arctic when we went there in 1993. Instead we drove from Toronto to Seattle and boarded a ship that was part of the Alaska Marine Highway, pitching our tent on the top deck and without any of the usual amenities (no stateroom, no beds, no private bathroom) and simply enjoyinig the magnificence of the cruise. I didn’t take a luxury cruise to celebrate turning 50 although my cousin/friend Pearl certainly did her best to convince me that this was the reasonable thing to do; instead I did a full-participation-camping safari in Tanzania (which meant I had to climb up on the roof of a truck each day, toss my sleeping bag to the ground, set it up, and watch out for lethally-dangerous snakes when I made my way to the outhouse) and then I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. David and I spend quite a lot of time hiking; our first major hike was to the Lake Agnes Teahouse high above Lake Louise just outside of Banff, Alberta. It was David’s first big hike; 4 hours uphill with much of it still on snow-covered trails. It was June 1st and the first day that the teahouse was open so, not having unloaded all of their supplies yet, they were good enough to let us sit inside and warm up as we ate our sandwiches. We’ve had many other hiking adventures together; in a number of different places. Adventure is definitely one of the things I seek out in life.
Reason #4: I have a great desire to see things before they’re gone. In the mid 1990’s Motti and I went to Cuba for March break. At that time it seemed to me that it was inevitable that one day Cuba would again be a major holiday destination for Americans as well as Canadians and Europeans and I wanted to see it before it became McCuba. When I climbed Kili the top was still mostly glacier; it’s estimated that in the last century there’s been an over 80% retreat/disappearance of the glacier and it’s anticipated that the glacier will be entirely gone within another 30 or 40 years at best. Even now – only 15 years later – conditions in the Arctic are quite different than they were when we were there. On and on these changes go. The temperature in Antaractica has risen over 4 degrees Fahrenheit in my lifetime, and the changing and disappearing of the glaciers continues at a frightening pace. If I want to see what Antaractica is – or at least what it is today – time’s definitely a’wastin’.
Reason #5: I think that momentous occasions in life should be well marked. I’ve just ended a 30 year career as an educator. For the first time in my life – since I was 12 years old – I am now completely unemployed. I’m going to turn 60 next year. I’m embarking on new – and unchartered – life territory. Something “big” enough and “dramatic” enough to mark these changes is important to me … so Antarctica it will be.
Reason #6: My soul and spirit need fairly regular feeding of beauty and wonder. I’m thinking that spending time on the Antarctic Peninsula will leave me feeling well sated.
Initially I was going to make this journey alone. Over time David came around to thinking that perhaps it was one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities that he shouldn’t pass up. Being able to share this journey with him adds that final element – that “je ne sais quois” which, I’m guessing, will make it an amazing memory that we’ll share. When you marry already in your 50s you need to focus on building a shared memory bank; we do quite a good job of that I think! We talked a lot about this opportunity to really retreat from our worldly responsibilities; going to Antarctica means truly being incommunicado for the 10 days we’ll be sailing and fairly out-of-reach on the other 8 days we’ll in transit. Sure, there are ways around this. I considered taking my laptop along and posting blogs as we travelled. Not going to happen! Instead I’ve opted for a few little notebooks and some pens and will revisit that old-world way of writing down – on paper – my thoughts and impressions.
There will continue to be twice-a-week postings while I’m away – we leave on December 5th and return on December 22nd. Talking to you – and getting your comments – has become far too important in my life to just “sign off” for a month. Since I’ll be incommunicado most of the time we’re away, Molly will make sure you’re kept up to date and that your comments are posted; I really look forward to reading your comments when I have chances to drop into internet cafes and when I get home; your words will undoubtedly help keep me rooted in the wonderful reality of the community that’s formed through this blog. Not sure if I’ve told you this, but I am grateful to have met the wonderful new women who have become a part of my e-life. It’s going to be hard for me not to virtually visit with you for such a long time. As the gentoo penguins say: “see you soon!”