The overhead morning waking up call sounded, followed by the soothing, sweet voice of Lucho, our expedition leader, giving us a gentle wake up call and telling us about the plans for the day. Being in front of the ship and on a lower level, I’ve been hearing the scrapping of icebergs along the hull all night, which meant it wasn’t really a restful night for me. But once I heard that we luckily encountered a massive piece of pack ice that the ship has docked on, and that we have the opportunity to actually get off the ship and walk on it. I jumped out of bed, looked out the window to see where we were at, and then promptly started getting ready.
There’s no way I was going to miss this experience!
Because it was summer in January, typically the massive pieces of pack ice are melted or broke down into smaller chunks by then. Another point for us being super lucky and experiencing a wide variety of locations and activities on this particular trip!
Another bonus is that there were humpback whales swimming around our ship! They were playfully coming up to the surface in slow motion, and then disappear. Once we got onto the ice, there was a couple of them so close that it seemed like we could’ve touched them if we tried. It was like they were as curious about us as we were of them!
Looking at the ice out the window couldn’t even compare to how massive it was stepping foot on it. It felt like a part of a landmass versus just a floating piece of pack ice. And it was snowing! Because there was snow, if you looked closely on the ice, you would see all these tiny little penguin footprints and tail marks as they waddled across the ice.
The staff had been prepping a path for us to safely walk on that went around in this massive circle. Because it was summer, some of it was a little slushy, so we had to watch our step, too. I’ve seen other guests dip their foot, calves, and almost a whole leg into one of the softer spots. Luckily, there was a group of us that was able to pull him out safely without falling in with him.
As a solo traveler, I chose to be on my own for this walk.
Lucho mentioned enjoying the white silence of Antarctica, and that’s what I wanted to do versus being a part of another group. (And I really had to watch my step and slid carefully as I walked, just in case no one else was around to pull me up.)
It started snowing even more. The flurry of snow blurred our vision. Everywhere you looked it was just white and grey with the spots of orange from our parkas and our ship at a distance. I just stood there. Listened. Waited. It was silent. The nothingness in the sound made the thoughts in my head sound so much louder. I can see the wind as the snow started moving sideways, but I couldn’t hear anything. My face and hands were getting cold, but I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to continue to experience this silence.
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The silence. The quiet. How often do you really get to experience that nowadays?
We’re constantly being bombarded with sounds of traffic, talking, and the busyness of day to day lives. Earplugs couldn’t even give us this sort of silence. The closest thing for me was being in a sensory deprivation tank, but even that is artificially created. (Funny how those were invented to help us detox for our overloaded senses.)
The silence was almost meditative. A soothing sense of calm, groundedness, and ease filling my mind. I felt my body just relax. All the tension was gone from my muscles.
I felt the time ticking down to when our landing group needed to get back to the meeting point to hop on the zodiacs and check out the surrounding areas to see more whales and maybe get our rare sights on the lone and juvenile emperor penguin lying on the edge of the pack ice. Another point for rarity — it’s a bit early for them to head to the ocean to feed.
I felt my feet moving… while my body just wanted to stay still and savor every last bit of this serene moment.
I wish I could replicate that feeling again, especially being back resuming the urban lifestyle. The overwhelm of everything — our senses, our thoughts, our stress, our worries, and our long list of responsibilities and what we should do. That silence felt like a luxury.
Even though I haven’t been at a job, my workaholic side is still heavily ingrained in me — my desire to just do things and get things done and the tendency to overcommit. But through my various travel journeys in the past year, I learned to that I need to take better care of myself and create the space for relaxation and rest. Let go of the busyness every now and recharge myself. Not surprisingly, when I take the time out for myself to do what’s enjoyable for me, I can feel all these creative juices flowing, and it energizes me with new ideas or perspectives on whatever I’m working on.
Writing this is such a great reminder that some personal self care is long overdue. (Tsk, tsk, Kat! I should know better…) How about you? What’s one thing you can do for yourself, and take good care of you?