Saturday, September 19, 2009

Insights on travel while trying to get to the Antartica

From T+L:

At a time when the earth’s fragile environment is under siege, when ice shelves are famously collapsing, there was something reassuring, too, about the dwarfing scale of the whiteness. It is true that global warming will create cold as well as heat as it changes the weather patterns of the world, but at some level all of us had come here fearful of the greening of Antarctica, and what we found was implacable frozen serenity, in which we were only a new crew of insignificant trespassers. Hoping that we would stay the course and break through to the continent, we were still awestruck and humbled by the majesty around us, and while we prayed the thick ice would vanish out of our ship’s course, we hoped it would not vanish from the earth.

Spoiler: The group never made it to Shackleton's Hut or the Antartica because the ice was too thick.

It is true in general, but especially true of travel, that people are thrilled with anything extra and distraught about anything expected and missed. You may never have heard of the pudding-toed tree chameleon or the Cloister Court of St. Yvette, but when your guide tells you that you’ve been privileged with a rare sighting of the lizard, or that you are catching the cloister open at the whim of the nuns, you are elated. When the opposite happens, you feel not just disappointed but betrayed. You curse yourself for having spent so much money on an experience you’re not having; you imagine the missing experience as nirvana.

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