Like many of you I dream about identifying my passion in life and finding a career that lets me apply it in a fun and amazing way. For me this is the meaning of life and happiness and once you get on the quest you seem to seek it endlessly.
There were a number of reasons we wanted to go to Antarctica – adventure, wildlife, beauty. However, inspiration from the tour staff was completley unexpected.During our recent trip to Antarctica we met 12 people that have done just that and they have inspired me that this exploration is more than just a dream. This group was the Expedition team from Gap Adventures who work the polar cruises (Antarctic and Arctic). Each person brings a unique set of skills and experience to the job, but without fail they each have one thing in common: Passion.
It is rare to meet someone that knows what their passion in life is. It is rarer still to find someone that has chosen to live this passion to its fullest each day, blending work and play into a lifestyle. This group meant the difference between a great trip to Antarctica (frankly it is a place where simply sitting and looking is beyond words) to an experience that changes how I perceive my life. Watching the team engage passengers and make us excited about history, geology, birds, etc., it was shocking. While it would be easy to write pages on each person, I will stick to 3 individuals that really stand out to me:
Scott is the historian, and he has been coming to the Antarctic for 13 years. In fact, we figured up his time just crossing the Drake Passage at over 600 days. No wonder he didn’t get seasick in Force 12 weather conditions! When Scott tells you a story about the great explorers – Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott, or Ross – he brings the story to life. It makes you feel like a kid listening to your favorite uncle tell a story and hanging on to his every word. It is pretty obvious that Scott is a huge fan of the great explorers & mariners, and he knows details you won’t find in a travel brochure. He also has his own opinions about why things went right and how they went wrong based on his own experience, and we found his talks riveting as a result. This is a guy who truly loves this subject, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Colin is from Vancouver, which is near the home of 3 pods of Orcas (aka killer whales). We have seen these pods before while vacationing on the San Juan Islands, so it was a treat to hear him talk about growing up and “getting to know” these whales from a very early age. When you are onboard a ship for two weeks you can easily get to know the crew. Like many of the staff, he works in both the Arctic and Antarctic, which puts him away from home much of the year. I asked him what he liked to do in his spare time when he was not telling us all about whales and other marine mammals and taking us out in Zodiac boats to see them. His answer? “Go out and look for whales.” Colin was perhaps the most ferocious defender of the “3-meter rule” in which we were supposed to always stay away from the animals (unless they approached us). He is devoted to keeping the wildlife wild and using these tours as a way to expose people to the grandeur and fragility of the polar regions so we can be advocates for it when we return to our regular lives.
Kevin was our naturalist and was perhaps the most demonstrative team member. He will rarely be seen without his camera and binoculars, and he was often the first to make a whale sighting or to identify a bird. Kevin is a birder, and far more than just showing us what markings indicate what type of bird, he showed us how birds exist in the polar ecosystem, introduced us to birds that never land, and almost bubbled over with excitement when we saw rare sightings (in this area) of an Emperor penguin and a Macaroni penguin. Plus, his late night skills on the dance floor are worth the price of admission.
These are people who embrace their passion and have learned how to make a living with it. How many of us can say that? For them, it means the difference between having a job to pay the bills and getting paid for doing something they love. That distinction shows up in everything they do and how it translates for the rest of us as passengers. That passion also translates into a pretty good picture of one of these guys dancing very late at night in the Polar Bear Lounge, but we’ve decided not to show it.Passion equals enthusiasm, but it doesn’t always equal taste. 😉
Thanks to all of you for making our cruise to the Antarctic unforgettable and for teaching us a few lessons about living your passion at the same time.