January 24th, 2010

It’s too expensive. The opportunity cost to too great. For $4,000 I could be in India for half a year. For $4,000 I could fly around the world with 16 stops. For $4,000 I could spend 2 months in Borneo training to become a professional SCUBA Diver. For $4,000 I could also become a Professional Sky Diver. For $4,000 I could fire 16 bazookas! Now that I’ve been traveling for so long, I don’t think of numbers as abstract place holders. I think of them as experiential opportunities. I now know too much about what life has to offer. It’s not that I didn’t have the money. It’s that I didn’t see the value.

Antarctica is known as the 7th continent. A box ticker’s dream. Would we all be going so nuts if it was simply an island? Would so many backpackers gladly go home several months early just to have been to somewhere that so few have seen? It’s all about scarcity right? If you are diving with a thousand fish in the sea, you will surely ignore them once a turtle swims bye. God forbid a deer prances past a pack of puppies. The crowd would drop the poor dogs on their heads to catch a glimpse of something that you can’t actually do anything with. This is scarcity at it’s best. If dogs were scarce, there would be $50,000 expeditions to see them. “One came right up to the car for a whole hour!!!!” “We pet it and it barked at us!!!” “One even jumped into my lap and licked my face!!!” “I would have paid twice as much in a heart beat!!!” “Out of this world, the most amazing creature I have ever seen!!!”

These would be the true quotes slathered on the walls at the tour agency if dogs were scarce. But they aren’t. In fact, in South America, they are left in the streets to die. But a bunch of penguins, that you can’t touch, and don’t even interact with you some seals, and a few whales? Ya, lets jump on a boat at the rate of almost half a thousand dollars a day to see those things.

I’ve got to tell you, spending loads of cash on things that I can do in my 60’s is not my idea of a smart idea. Now is the time I should be trekking through jungles. Now is the time I should be jumping out of planes, eating spaghetti 6 days in a row, sitting on a bus for 36 hours, snowboarding down a volcano, tearing shit up, jumping off of cliffs, and leaving as big of a mark on this planet as humanly possible! Antarctica is something that I could do at anytime. Sometime when $4K is not a big deal. Let’s save the easy travel for when I have bad knees and take pills to keep my cock looking like an ironing board. (Wow, I’m a little carried away at the moment. Please excuse me on MY BLOG. I’m just saying….)

Ya, it’s prudent decisions that got me here in the first place. I saved like a squirrel. But that’s not entirely true. The reason I am here is because I took a chance. If you just save all your life, you have a number. Something abstract, and utterly worthless if never “cashed in”.

I chatted with Tomer. “Hey if you want, I can fill this room with ice and penguins. I’ll do it for a tenth of the price. It’s stupid. It’s a boat, a bunch of ice, some animals that you can see right here in Ushuaia, and the pride that you have been to the 7th.”

We went on this rant of justification for a few days as people in our hostel departed and returned on various boats bound for the 7th. People who came back all said “You should do it.” “It was the highlight of my 1 year trip.” “The most amazing thing I have ever done.” “If I had any money left, I would go again tomorrow!!!!” Sure, they are saying that. No one in their right mind is going to admit that it was “Ok”. It’s like bragging about how much better your herpes are, now that you have switched medications. It’s just not something you want to admit in the first place.

I had a heart to heart with myself and realized that it was more of a bragging point. I wanted to be able to say that I’ve been to every continent in one year. Ya, I was a box ticker. I wanted to stick a flag in it, and call it a day. If it were just another island, I wouldn’t be considering it. I will do it, but not this time…..

A few days pass and I feel at peace. Then Paul gets back from his trip there and shares his pictures. Paul, a 38 year old English ex lawyer, turned commercial pilot, is as enthusiastic a person as I have ever met. I would not trust his endorsement of something in a million years. He would be a great sales man. But his pictures just can’t lie. In an instant, my 2% sureness that I would go on the trip, turned into 55%. Right across the street from my hostel was where you can book the last minute trips to Antarctica.

I took that 55% and walked across the narrow street. In the course of about 15 pases the following dawned on me: The whole reason I am at the furthest south town in the world in the first place is from having the Nike attitude of “Just Do IT”. Decisions don’t always have to be prudent or even efficient. I’ve been living hard for the past year now and this is the only excursion that has stunned me. For once, something comes along and has me declaring “too big” “not in the budget”. But that’s not what I came out here to do. And maybe there won’t be any Antarctica left by the time I am 60. Maybe I’ll be hit by a bus the day I get back from my big bad “almost everything I wanted to see” trip around the world. I’ve been preaching on a blog for an entire year about how the word “can’t” is really code for “I’m afraid” or “I don’t want to take the chance”. It’s time that I practice what I preach. It’s time to stick to what I’ve become. It isn’t an issue of scarcity, it’s an issue of principle. There is value out there on that big ball of ice. An extra $4,000 can do a lot of things, sure, but if repacked, it might remain a number forever. But most of all, I’m simply not the “should have” type of person anymore.

I shove open the door to the shop in a posture similar to an animal disputing territory. Walk up the the agent’s desk and slam my fist on the table “Dates! Lets see them!” I blurted out, as my veins surged with adrenaline.

Moments later I walked back into the hostel with both firsts raised victoriously. I stopped in the large common room and roared “I’m fucking going to Antarctica!!!!!!!!!!” People mostly looked shocked at my volume selection, but they were not aware of the symbolism at hand.

On January 28th, I will board “The Antarctic Dream” (an ice breaker bound for Antarctica for 11 days). This is the EXACT one year anniversary of when I left home to embark on a journey whose impact on my life I could never preemptively fathom. This represented everything that I had learned. All the leaps of growth and the new me. You don’t go to the end of the world just to turn around, go home, and wait another 40 years to see what comes next. I’m starting MY New Year off right.

Fuck it, I’m going to Antarctica :)