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Why I Chose To Visit The Inhospitable Antarctica

Maria Olsen February 2023

Positive Aging Thought Leader: Maria Olsen

This January, I was lucky enough to travel to Antarctica, my seventh continent.

It did not disappoint. The world’s largest wilderness, it is claimed by no sovereignty. Some countries have laid claim to parts of it, but the vast majority of its land is free and ungoverned.

“One way is to take a last-minute deal, which is how I got to go on an Antarctic cruise for nearly half price.”

The Ice Of Antartica:

Antarctica is starkly beautiful. Because there is so little color present, the blue of the sea reflected in the ice is stunning. Even the wildlife lacks color. The penguins are black, gray and/or white, as are the birds and seals. There is no visible plant life. It is rather inhospitable and unpredictably dangerous, but perhaps that makes it exciting and enticing.

It feels rather lunar and vast. Only about 100,000 people per year get to visit Antarctica. This is about the number of travelers who pass through Heathrow Airport on a single day. During the summer months, there is almost 24 hours of daylight, which can be somewhat unstabilizing.

I took a cruise to Antarctica, which had an expedition component, i.e., one was able actually to venture onto the ice of the continent. Some cruises only allow you to view Antarctica. As Antarctic cruises are quite expensive, I researched ways of obtaining discounts. One way is to take a last-minute deal, which is how I got to go on an Antarctic cruise for nearly half price.

Travel Is My Passion:

I was lucky also to have the opportunity to camp on the ice. Some may call this lunacy. I knew I was not going to sleep well on the ice, but I awoke to a gorgeous landscape and a small penguin staring curiously at me.

Travel is my passion. I have traveled to 55 countries to day, and plan to reach 65 by the end of my 65th year. I have no doubt that I will attain this goal.

Moreover, I believe travel is the only thing one buys that makes you richer. I strive when I travel to learn about the local culture and eschew touristy venues. There is much to be learned from how others approach life. Travel infuses me with wonder and gratitude. Simply by virtue of being born in a developed nation, I have been granted great privileges, like education, health care and clean water.

“I prefer experiences over things now, and travel provides me with unparalleled joy.”

These are luxuries I have taken for granted in other times of my life. Now that I have seen how many live in developing nations, I no longer take such things for granted.

Comfort Of Knowing:

While no one lives on Antarctica except for scientists and researchers, my conversations with ship crew members provided insight as well. I came away grateful for the skills of others that keep me and other passengers safe and promote the well-being of the planet, as well as the comfort of knowing I had a warm home to return to at any time. Post-pandemic, however, my wanderlust has become magnified and I will again hit the road next month. 

My children are launched and I have the luxury of being able to travel and work remotely. I prefer experiences over things now, and travel provides me with unparalleled joy. At 59 years of age, I know I have lived more life than I have ahead of me, and do not wish to waste a single moment. I strive to drink fully from the cup of life for however much time I have left in this life.

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Maria Olsen

About the Author:

Maria Leonard Olsen is an attorney, author, radio show and podcast host in the Washington, D.C., area. For more information about her work, see www.MariaLeonardOlsen.com and follow her on social media at @fiftyafter50. Her latest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life, which has served as a vehicle for helping thousands of women reinvigorate their lives, is offered for sale on this website.