Six months ago, I finally acknowledged a deep, scary, enormous dream that had been in taking up real estate at the back of my mind for seven years. I really wanted to pursue polar travel guiding.
Slowly this realization dawned on me while crossing the infamous Drake Passage on the Ocean Endeavour on the way back from visiting Antarctica. I was with twenty cool people who took a chance and decided to join me on this adventure, my first group tour to the Antarctic and my seventh polar expedition. I will never stop thanking Chimu Adventures, who believed in me and gave me this opportunity.
Bumping up and down with the swells as albatross sliced cleanly through the clouds, I was so deliriously happy.
[/infobox]Click here to sign up to learn more about coming to Antarctica with me[/infobox]
When I’m onboard expedition ships, exploring some of the most remote places on earth, in the company of other like-minded folk and a shit ton of wildlife, I’m happiest.
I love sliding around on the deck as huge swells roll beneath my feet. I sleep like a baby snug in a tiny little bunk. My knowledge of where we are bubbles out of me, and I become an extrovert talking to people all the time. I, like, START conversations sometimes with strangers! (My fellow introverts will understand).
But every minute that we inched closer towards “real life,” towards 5G, and all of the responsibilities of running two businesses, I felt an uncomfortable weight sink deeper into the pit of my stomach. Whenever I thought about what awaited me back on land, I wanted to vomit.
And I don’t get seasick.
The past three years have taught me so much. From the losing a parent to a failed long-term relationship to starting a physical business (NODE) to writing a book, I found strength I didn’t know I was capable of. Looking back, I’ve done some really hard things. I’m still in the middle of doing hard things.
But the biggest lesson of all? Letting things go. Quiet acceptance. Slowing down.
These collective experiences put things into perspective, about focusing on what really matters and makes me happy. And what doesn’t.
Somewhere around 60° south, I finally acknowledged a few key truths I was very good at burying:
- I’m happiest at sea in the most wild parts of the world. That polar travel fulfills me in ways that are hard to explain.
- I want to be an expedition guide. I love sharing my knowledge and passion for this with others. I put my guest’s experiences ahead of mine, ensuring they felt how special it all was.
- Finally, life is too short to put off your dreams.
On all my trips to the Arctic and Antarctic, I traveled as media/press. I wasn’t a guest, but I wasn’t crew either. While I absolutely loved this role, in some small way, I always felt a little left out, like I didn’t belong anywhere. I was hungry for more.
Looking back, I think I’ve known this all along since my first expedition trip to Svalbard in 2016. Watching polar bears cross the pack ice and being offline in the wilderness fulfilled me. It prompted my subsequent polar travel expeditions since. This is the life I want, spending a chunk of every year on these ships.
But like so many of us, particularly women, I put it off. Why? I am so mean to myself. I told myself I wasn’t good enough or qualified and didn’t have the experience. I wasn’t a scientist or hardcore adventurer. For over ten years, I’ve been undervalued, and belittled for my work as a blogger and influencer, even though I know I’ve achieved so much. But no matter how far I flew, imposter syndrome always kept me company. Fucker.
But it was time to change this. We can do hard things.
The ship I take guests down to Antarctica as a host with Chimu Adventures is called the Ocean Endeavour. It also runs in partnership with my old friends Intrepid Travel.
During the southern hemisphere summer, the Endeavour hangs out around the Antarctic, so November to March-ish. Then it voyages north to spend the northern summer in the Arctic with Adventure Canada.
Now, I can finally share that after months and months of hard work, my polar travel dreams are coming true.
For the first time ever, I’m skipping the kiwi winter and heading north to work on the Endeavour in the Arctic with Adventure Canada. I’ll be away from New Zealand for four months, working onboard from Scotland, Iceland, the Faroes, and Greenland to remote Canada. Part of the expedition team, I’ll be working mostly with photography and writing, guiding, and sharing stories from this part of the world.
I’ll finish and return to New Zealand in the spring before returning to Antarctica with Chimu and Intrepid next season. I’ll be fully guiding and hosting trips. Sign up here to learn more.
I couldn’t be more excited. Literally, every single thing excites me about this opportunity.
I’m excited to be a rookie again. To be at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up through hard work. And I know it’s going to be really hard. I can’t wait to spend less time online and more time working with my hands in my favorite places. I’ve been slowly chipping away at qualifications like getting a powerboat license to drive zodiacs, undergoing maritime security courses, doing first aid courses, and more.
I love learning new things; I’m a sponge.
It’s easy to carry on with familiar work and life patterns. What’s truly hard is to find the strength to shove them aside and jump at something new. Turning 35 a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Life is too short to fuck around and not do what you really love.
Filling out the paperwork for these trips (omfg, so much paperwork), they ask questions I haven’t been asked for a long time, like what are my hobbies and what I do for fun. Um, crickets.
I work, work, and then do more work. A lot of the stuff I do in nature is for work. My photography and writing technically count as work. Travel is usually work. I go to the gym – does that count? I read, like going for walks, and I watch TV at night to try to turn my work brain off, but that’s about it. Fuck. When did this happen to me? I feel like I don’t know how to have fun anymore. I force myself to schedule time to spend with friends.
A friend told me recently that I light up when I talk about my upcoming time onboard. Not many things light me up anymore, which I was sad to realize. I feel like with all of the shit I’ve endured over the past two years, my spark is gone, snuffed out.
But now I know I want it back. Desperately.
One of the biggest things I hope to achieve with this new polar travel chapter is that it’ll give me the freedom to have good chunks of time off. I’m hoping it’ll teach me balance. I’ll work my ass off for a few months on board, then have a few months off to do whatever I want. I will still be here sharing stories, but hopefully from a new lens.
It’s time to stop messing around with things that don’t mark your heart sing. Our dreams are real and valid; if we don’t chase them, someone else will.