Monday, March 1, 2010

And so it begins ...

I'm off!

On Tuesday, March 9th ... I head down south to the very tip of South America, for a couple of days in Ushuaia, Argentina before cruising to Antarctica the following Saturday. Getting there WON'T be half the fun this time, as I am pinballing around the continent 3 or 4 times before I finally get to my destination after 24 hours of travel. But then ... I'm footloose and fancy-free, so does it really matter how long it takes me to get anywhere?

Ushuaia is, almost literally, the end of the world, and apparently very beautiful (if you happen to like snow-capped mountains and fjords, anyway). There is also a language school that I am going to check out before my cruise, with a view to studying Spanish for a bit when I get back from Antarctica.

(Wow, how gloating does THAT sounds? "When I get back from Antarctica ...")

Beyond a lot of penguins and a lot of ice, I have no real picture of what it will be like to go to Antarctica. I know that I have to spend a few days in a small cabin on a boat to get there ... but I can't envison the actual experience of stepping on Antarctic ice. I promise to try to describe it once I've been there and done that.

After Ushuaia, I'm going to work my way up the continent, ultimately ending up in Quito, Ecuador on or about the end of June, with a short hope over to Panama before I head home to Toronto the beginning of July. I have lots of ideas of where I'd like to go and what I'd like to do, but I haven't booked anything yet ... I want to make it up as I go along. My life while at work was always overly-planned and overly-scheduled, so I'm looking forward to just going where I feel like, when I feel like it. And NOT deciding everything right now, ahead of time ... just letting it unfold as I go.

(I realize this will distress some of my more planning-happy friends, who would probably be a lot happier if I had an exact itinerary mapped out with every port of call and number of days in each place. Rest assured I will book ahead of time where I have to -- like the Inca Trail -- but for the rest, you're just going to have to accept that I DON'T WANT TO PLAN.)

Now begins the fun of packing: it is always a challenge to find the perfect balance between a backpack that is lightly-enough packed (so as to be able to carry it readily and swing it on and off buses) without being so lightly-packed as to not actually have anything useful with me. One thing I do love about travel, though -- at least, the backpacking kind of travel -- is that you re-learn very quickly how to strip your life down to just the essentials. And how little really counts as "essential" ... really, if you've got a passport, and a credit card, everything else is a bonus. (I don't plan to travel QUITE that light, though!)

But I'll figure it out, and in about two weeks I'll be stepping on the ice of Antarctica to say hello to a few friendly penguins. A friend of mine had always wanted to go to Antarctica, so I'm taking along "Mia Bear" in her memory -- she passed away before Christmas, and this travelling toy bear is going all the places on her "top 10" list that she never got to go. So far Mia Bear has been to Bali, and I'm sure will rack up a lot more travel miles as Mia's friends continue to trot around the globe.

So Mia ... this one's for you :)

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