Wild Places, Wonderful People
Words by: Tahlia Wood
Photo by: Jeni Stembridge
Antarctica is an otherworldly place. Astonishing landscapes, unique wildlife, rich history and a healthy dose of true adventure make this continent an exotic destination or bucket list item for many, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
My first visit to Antarctica was life-changing. At the age of 20, I was fortunate enough to travel there because I worked with an expedition cruise operator in their shore office. Looking back now, it was naive of me to think that I was just going on a cool work trip where I’d be able to learn and grow in my job and become of more use to the company, which was my goal going down there. I did not expect the experience to shape me in such a significant way.
Every single person on board the ship - passengers, staff, and crew - had remarkable characteristics and qualities I admired. I met people from all over the world who were all on different journeys, and they came together to share the experience of the ice. I think some were looking to leave a little piece of themselves in Antarctica and bring a little piece of Antarctica back home with them.
After my first visit, all of my other trips to Antarctica and the Arctic just felt like going home.
The experiences I had with the magical wildlife were amazing, and the moments when I could be by myself to bask in the silence and admire glaciers untouched for thousands of years made me feel humble and small. I could write a novel on the wildlife encounters, landing sites, zodiac cruises, kayaking, and onboard adventures.
However, what really makes this place special are the people. Sharing those unique experiences together forms bonds like no other - lifelong friendships that I’ll always be grateful for. After my first visit, all of my other trips to Antarctica and the Arctic just felt like going home. It’s strange to feel at home in such an isolated, unforgiving, cold place at the bottom of the planet.
I’d define Antarctica as an overwhelming feeling of connectedness - with the Earth, with the people voyaging alongside you, with every fibre of your own being. This indescribable place lit a fire in me. It forced me to wake up, to become self-aware, and to really explore my belief system and the essentials of who I am.