Why I Was Nervous About Antarctica

Penguins Antarctica

I recently returned from a life affirming, bucket list trip to Antarctica aboard the Ocean Nova as the guest of Adventure Life, the small group adventure travel tour company. Before leaving for my trip the reality of traveling to one of the most remote and inaccessible spots on the map didn’t seem to sink in until a couple of weeks before the journey began. Then, suddenly, the reality of the trip finally dawned on me and that’s when I began to get nervous.

Most of my travel is predictable. I don’t mean that it’s boring, not even close. But I generally know what to expect. I know where I’m going, what I’m doing and what to bring with me. It’s not difficult for example to plan for a trip to France and I don’t need special equipment to visit. Antarctica is different though and preparing for the trip was one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in a while, although it really need not have been.


What really set my mind racing were the copious packets of information sent in advance of the trip. I know and understand why they’re sent and I really did appreciate them, but they sent my brain into overdrive with wild expectations. Did I really need a headlamp? How big is too big for a parka? I’ll write another post about everything I packed and wore, but suffice it to say I was overwhelmed with recommendations for things to pack, most of which I didn’t own.

Normally I visit places where if I forget something, I can just go out and buy it. You can’t do that in Antarctica and even worse, Antarctica is not a place where you want to be wanting and unprepared. Images of March of the Penguins and Shackleton and his crew raced through my mind and I was scared, nervous and worried. I think I had become so accustomed to complete control over a trip that when I lost part of that, I started to fall apart.

In the end I need not have been nervous and yes, I overpacked – massively. But this bout of nervous energy turned out to be a blessing. In a world where we are always connected and expect every modern convenience instantly, it was energizing to feel nervous. It felt good to know that I was still alive and that I could still feel that unbridled excitement that only travel and exploration can bring. It has taught me that I worry too much; the self-imposed stress was completely unnecessary and looking back at it I feel foolish. But more than seeing pretty things, travel truly is about these unique moments to grow personally and Antarctica is the perfect laboratory for this experiment in personal growth.

What trip had you really nervous before leaving and was it warranted?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

15 thoughts on “Why I Was Nervous About Antarctica”

  1. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip. I was very keen to go to Antarctica till I watched a TV documentary and saw how rough the seas were. I’m such a sicko on the water that it just seemed a step too far.

    1. Roxanne – That’s the great part about the trip I took, it was a fly-cruise. I’ll write more about it soon, but you fly directly to Antarctica and skip the Drake passage and with it the rough seas. It’s perfect for that reason

  2. When I left for my year+ traveling through Latin America, I was so nervous about packing. I was going light but also wanted to be prepared for everything. I eventually learned I could buy any real necessity on the road (not quite like Antarctica) and started getting rid of some stuff.

    No matter what the trip, that first step into the unknown will make anyone nervous.

  3. I returned from Antarctica December 30, 2012. I’ve been showing my slide presentation to so many seemingly interested people it actually boggles my mind. Most say that I’m the only one they know of that’s been there so the interest is immense.
    I, too, was over prepared, over clothed, and over medicated on the 2 1/2 days it took to get there. We were so blessed with good weather: blue skies, crystal clear waters, an over abundance of penguins, whales, seals, and birds, couldn’t have been better. One day there were between 50 and 80 Humpbacks, Minkas, and Orcas around our ship. Our guides were going nuts determining the numbers.
    I now smile smugly about my concerns beforehand, of course, knowing it could have gone the other way but didn’t.
    I would not go back but have these precious memories for the rest of my life and oh so precious they are.

  4. I could see how and why it would get you so nervous! I never made it to Antarctica but I was pretty darn close! I hung out in Ushuaia for a few days and even attended a “preparation talk” with a friend who was going (her ship sold out before I flew in so I couldn’t go), but hearing that talk was more than enough to get anyone nervous! I’m sure you had an amazing time in the end!

  5. I have never traveled to Antarctica but seeing your posts made me feel nervous and like what Antoinette said, there is lots of “prep talk” from friends.

    Hope you had an amazing time in the end and great to come across your blog! I will be subscribing!

  6. I can only imagine how nerve racking packing for a trip to a place like Antartica can be. I mean… there’s nothing to really compare it to at all! I’m guessing there was no Micky D’s out there either (definitely a good thing).

  7. I am heading to the white continent in 14 days! I am beyond excited and a bit nervous. Just can’t wait to take everything in!

  8. I was nervous about Cuba because we weren’t sure our ATM or credit cards would work and therefore went with all the cash we thought we’d need. We were fine, but it was strangely nerve-wracking not to have that safety blanket of the cards!

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