Antarctica: Water, Ice, and the Stars in the Sky

I love reading stories and comments from Grand Circle travelers, and I often find myself nodding in agreement with their insights and revelations. This month’s story from traveler Corine Freeman about her journey to Antarctica was no exception. The way she talked about the singular beauty of Antarctica, and how no other trip can compare … I’ve felt this way ever since I visited myself in 1993. I’ll never forget the feeling I’d get when we were out cruising in the rubber Zodiac boats late in the day, as it was just getting dark. There was not another soul around. It was just water, ice, the stars in the sky, and us. I’d say it was a magical experience, but it was more than that … it felt spiritual to me, and made me think about my place in the world, and our place in the world …

To call it a unique destination would be an understatement—and really, the journey feels more like an expedition than a vacation, particularly while crossing the Drake Passage (affectionately known as the “Drake Shake” due to its tendency to toss and churn). Like Corine, I’m prone to seasickness—but I would never let this keep me from fulfilling a travel dream. Corine shares her own tips for combating seasickness in her story, but here’s what worked for me, thanks to the ingenuity of the ship’s bartender: salted peanuts, and a shot of Jameson whiskey. He told me to drink the whiskey in one swallow, and then immediately eat the nuts. You have to understand how sick I was feeling, and I thought I was going to lose it. But I figured, hey, I’m going to be sick anyway, so what have I got to lose? So I downed the whiskey, and tossed a handful of peanuts in my mouth, and waited. Thirty minutes later, I was eating Thai food, feeling fine.

As Corine put it, the challenges of the Drake Passage “made the trip,” in a way, because the experience made her stronger … and while I’m not sure I’d go that far, it was worth every moment of shakiness. To be—quite literally—in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but white … to set foot on frozen land that really isn’t “land” at all, accompanied only by penguins and sea lions … to see an albatross soaring overhead with its huge wingspan … all of it was amazing to me.

Have you ever been somewhere that changed how you look at the rest of the world? I hope you’ll email me your story. Next month, we’ll be visiting Russia in Harriet’s Corner. I hope to see you there!