Guest post by Richard Thomas
It's true. As excited as I am to embark on Antarctic Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent on 9 Dec 2016, I almost didn't book the trip. When my colleague Miranda Miller suggested it back in August, my first inclination was to say no. OK, that's not completely true. I laughed, and then I said no.
It took quite a bit of convincing, not on her part but all on my own. After all, as she told me, she was going whether or not I joined her. But me? It's an incredible opportunity for a writer and videographer, don't get me wrong. I've been dreaming for months about the footage I'll get.
Still, I really didn't think it was in the cards for me to travel to Antarctica. My mind was throwing up roadblocks like you wouldn't believe, but underneath it all was this nagging feeling that if I didn't work through my fears and seize the opportunity, I'd regret it for the rest of my life. So what was I afraid of?
1. My Kids Are Going to Burn Down the House
I have 2 teenagers (occasionally 3) at home. Just imagine the fears that come along with that. Will they eat their vegetables? Will they trash the house? Will my wife survive? Will she be speaking to me when I get back?
I don't know, but I think I need to go to find out.
We loved going to a cottage as a family and spent a lot of time at the beach when the kids were younger, playing in the sand, having campfires and making great memories. I've come to terms with the fact that those days are now over (at least until one of them makes me a grandfather), but I realized as I was mulling over this trip in my mind that I haven't planned a vacation out of the country by myself in 25 years.
It's time. And it was liberating getting over the fear that their world won't turn without me, and finally deciding to have this adventure on my own.
2. My Clients Are Going to Leave Me
I've been self-employed for 17 years. It's the second major reason I just haven't thought that extended vacations were for me for quite some time now.
Can I really afford to leave my business for 2 weeks?
I had to turn this question on its head: Can I afford not to go?
Who knows what could happen on an Antarctic expedition? I could find a new passion that changes the trajectory of my career. I could be inspired to write my eighth novel. I like to think that my loyal clients are going to appreciate my fresh perspective and heightened focus when I get back, and planning has helped me get ahead of my workload.
3. I'm Terrified of Flying
This is a real thing, you guys. I am that white-knuckling, trembling, jumpy, sweaty-brow guy until we're well in the air and on our way. Best-case scenario: I stay asleep while we start the descent, and wake up, wheels down, without enough time to realize we're plummeting toward the ground.
I'm originally from British Columbia, Canada, and now live several provinces (and a couple of thousand miles) east, in Ontario, so I've had to conquer this fear of flying before, to visit friends. Even so, flying isn't something I choose to do without serious motivation. It surprised me when I realized this chance to cruise Antarctica was worth it for me, since it wasn't somewhere I'd ever considered going!
4. I'm Intimidated by the Journey to Our Embarkation Point
As we looked into different itineraries ranging from December of this year to late next year and searched for flights for each one, I started to get a sense of just how far we're going. There are no direct flights from Toronto (where my nearest airport is) to Ushuaia, Argentina, where we'll meet the Quark Expeditions® team.
And it's no wonder: the trip is 6,901 miles (11,107 km) door to door. That's right, I Google-mapped it.
And in those 6,901 miles, there were all kinds of hub-airport options and various airlines offering service, stopovers, overnighters – options from about 23 to 46 hours or more.
My head was spinning.
Thankfully, my colleague and travel partner finds flight planning far more exciting than anxiety inducing, so she took over that part. We considered using a travel agent, but ultimately plotted out a route that would allow us a bit more rest, a less manic pace and maybe even some sightseeing in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. Once we'd narrowed down our options, we called a Polar Travel Adviser to make sure we were on the right track.
5. I'm Going to Forget Something – All the Somethings
You know that feeling when you head to work and think, “Oh no. Did I shut off the stove?”
It's kind of like that. Except you're not at work – you're thousands of miles away. And you didn't forget to shut off the stove; rather, you forgot a medication that keeps you alive.
See? These are the types of fears that can take over your thoughts as you prepare for a journey this far outside of your comfort zone.
Our Polar Travel Adviser assured me that we would have access to all of the resources we need to get ready for our departure, and Quark delivered. I've been reading up on what photography equipment to bring, going over the Expedition Packing List and weeding out things I'm not going to need, and reviewing the customized itinerary information we've received since booking.
I still don't feel ready, but then, can you ever feel fully prepared to travel to Antarctica? At this point, my fears have given way to anticipation and I'm counting the days to departure.
If you're uncertain of whether an Antarctic adventure is right for you, I'd encourage you to call a Polar Travel Adviser and talk it out with them. They've all visited the Polar Regions on their own, and I found them to be a great resource as I talked myself through my reservations!