Reflections on Antarctica - a year later

The journey of a lifetime.

A year in the past.

What now?

Today it's a year since I stood at the South Pole.

A couple of weeks ago, I came upon a quote:

"You may believe that you are only going to Antarctica for one season. Though that may be true, it is not. Antarctica will pierce you in the heart, and even if you don't come back, you will think about it off and on, probably for the rest of your life."

So how much of this is true? Did I change?

Not that much. But then again...

Let's have the obvious stuff first. I was in Antarctica as a tourist, not as a researcher. I was on the continent for about ten days, not for a season. I was at the South Pole for a little more than three hours. So the quote doesn't really apply to me.

And outside of movies, TV stories and crackpot religions, psychology doesn't work that way anyway. 'Life changing moments' just aren't. So I didn't come back a better man, full of deep wisdom, less cynical and one with nature. I won't bring world peace, the cure for cancer or even a better coffee recipe.

But if nothing has changed, why am I writing this page at all?

Because some things are notable. Although they don't have much to do with Antarctica as such - more with going on "the journey of a lifetime", so much of it would have probably been the same if I went trekking through the Wadi desert or walking up Kilimanjaro.

The most important bit for me: I didn't regret the journey. Not for a minute. I had been wondering whether I should have used the inheritance to buy a car, a nice plasma TV, maybe move into a larger apartment, make some investment or get life insurance. Or make three great vacations instead of one incredible one. But there hasn't been a moment where I looked back at the trip and thought I should have done something else.

No regrets.

So the trip didn't have any negative effects. But what's on the plus side?

A different attitude to travelling.

Going to the South Pole was the main event in my life. Nothing will ever come close. Travelling will (probably always) be divided for me between 'pre-Pole' and 'post-Pole'. So after having been there, why travel again at all?

Because travel is fun. I like travelling. I love polar landscapes. And while I'll never have a trip as great as the one to the South Pole, even having one half as good will be worth a lot.

And while I thought that after that trip everything else would pale into insignificance, it actually feels more like I have reached my 'travel goal' and whatever may come now is an added bonus. (I know it sounds a bit 'old folk', but there is a strong sense of 'building completion' with everything else being 'shopping for decorations'.)

And I worry much less about travels.

Currently I'm planning for another trip and it's probably going to be harder (but less glamorous) than the trip for the South Pole. And I'm probably should be worried for dozens of reasons. From the fact that the main part of the trip isn't actually booked, with only two months to go. Or because I'll be out on the ice, in colder temperatures than in Patriot Hills, with no warm tent in the vicinity. Or one of the other little things that could go horribly wrong. With no experienced travel agency organizing the trip.

But I'm not worried. I think about the plans and preparations (and take them quite seriously), but that's on an abstract level. Emotionally, I'm not bothered at all. Even though I'm trying to scare myself a bit, mostly to avoid getting too careless.

Once again, I'm wondering what I think I'm doing. Once again, I ask myself whether I might be in way over my head. I'm not an explorer. I'm not an adventurer. I'm not even a traveller. I'm just a tourist.

But I'm looking forward to the trip and it's something that seems like an interesting thing to do. Even though it seems like not many people are doing that. There are not many tourist facilities in that area and I expected that they might be overbooked. (Eleven tourists would already be too many.) Especially with a recent National Geographic article and a movie about the area. But then, two years ago, I wouldn't even have considered to make such a trip. It's just for researchers, adventurers and photographers, isn't it?

But that's the point. I stopped caring about that. Who cares who it's supposed to be for?

I've been to the South Pole. It's not really for tourists, either. But they take tourists there. And that's enough.

Enough for going anywhere.

I recently noticed a flowchart somewhere. As far as I can make it out, it was drawn by someone called Charles Miller, based on a blog entry by someone else. It pretty much sums up my newfound attitude towards travelling:

Onwards to the penguins at Magdalena Island.

Back to other travels