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For years, I’ve experienced a crazy phenomenon where if you write an event on the calendar, it’ll happen. Before that, it’s just talk (even if you talk a big game).
But the minute there’s a date attached to something — a deadline, if you will — it transforms into something real. Knowing it’s real begets actual, tangible effort and that energy propels it from an idea to reality…something I jokingly refer to as “the calendar effect”.
So, without futher ado, this makes it official: I’m going to Antarctica. I’m writing it down on my calendar for December 2023. I’m making it real.
Antarctica is a place I’ve wanted to go for a decade, but the pricetag scared me off. The amount of effort, dedication, and sacrifice it takes to save for a trip like this feels unattainable. I live comfortably, but I’m by no means rich and I don’t have wads of cash waiting to be spent on a random trip to Antarctica. Until now, I hadn’t been ready to make sacrifices in pursuit of this goal.
Now is the season of resolutions and now this trip is on my radar. It’s written down and officially on my calendar. It’s in my budget. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s how to make do with less and delay gratification. It’ll take awhile, but it’ll happen.
How to Visit Antarctica
For those of you who don’t know, nearly all Antarctic visitors arrive by cruiseship. Flying to the continent is absurdly expensive and logistically challenging. Because of this, the only option I’m looking at is cruising.
Cruising on a mass market line — Celebrity, for example — is the cheapest option but it’s not the experience I’m looking for. Their “visit” includes a scenic sail for a day or two. You’ll see icebergs and hopefully wildlife, but you won’t step foot on Antarctica.
Instead, the type of cruise I want falls into the category of expedition sailing. These are much smaller ships (200 passengers or less) that make multiple outings by zodiac to get up close to things. If conditions allow, you can also kayak, paddleboard, and walk on solid land. A personal goal of mine is to spend a night on the continent, so I’m specifically looking for a departure that includes optional camping.
How Much Do I Need to Save?
For the type of expedition I want, a basic itinerary starts around $6,000 for quad occupancy, with prices varying by operator and time of year.
More than likely, I’ll be paying up for double occupancy. I also expect to pay extra to avoid the first or last sailings of the season, when conditions might not be as favorable. Once you add in international airfare, a hotel night or two in South America, gear, gratuities, and add-ons like paddling in Antarctic waters…I’m estimating it’ll be in the neighborhood of $12,000. Longer trips, that go farther south, creep the price up higher.
(I’m crying a little).
For over a decade, I assumed I’d never be able to afford a trip like this. Life has taught me that I’m stubborn and that it’s possible with enough determination (and time). I’ll think creatively, save what I can, and watch it add up. The first step toward success is treating it like it can actually happen.
Technically, I Started in July
You guys, I finally did it. I officially started saving for a future trip to Antarctica. It still feels far out of reach given how expensive it is, but I think with baby steps I’ll get there. pic.twitter.com/TPizBQ3c8a— Becky Pokora (@sightDOING) July 2, 2020
Although I threw some cash in a savings account in July, I didn’t really start working toward this goal then. I didn’t have a timeline, a plan, or anything other than a hope and a dream.
My Game Plan
Sadly, going to Antarctica will come at the expense of other travel. I only have so much disposable income available (as I’m sure you can identify with) and there’s no magic button to find another $12,000 lying around. I can’t give up manicures or new shoes or nights out partying because I wasn’t spending on those things to begin with. Practically every spare penny I have already gets funneled into travel.
What that means is I’ll have to trade one trip for another. More realistically, I’ll have to trade multiple trips for one to Antarctica. That stings! I have to remind myself what a privilege it is to even be able to chat about having to not travel now so I can travel to the seventh continent later.
Under a “slow and steady” policy, I’ll add to my savings as much as I can. Most will come from my ordinary travel savings, something I’ve been disciplined with since I got my first real paycheck. I expect a little extra from birthdays and holidays and perhaps a few bucks here or there if household expenses remain depressed while COVID keeps me homebound.
So far, putting all my free money toward Antarctica doesn’t feel hard. I’m not tempted to spend on experiences at home (because I can’t anyway) and I’m not tempted to put it toward travel anywhere else (because I can’t anyway). At some point, we’ll start spending on date nights and gym memberships and going out with friends and I’ll have to make tougher choices.
I’m forecasting I’ll have enough saved up for a trip in the 2023-2024 winter season. Three years is far enough to feel like a long wait, but soon enough that it feels real.
Would I like to make this happen sooner? Yes, of course! But I know myself and I know deprivation has never worked for me — I need balance and it’s easier to cut my habits in half than to go cold turkey. There’s no way I could give up travel entirely to save for this trip, so I expect that eventually my savings will be split in two. Half for near-term travel and half for Antarctica.
I’m trying to set myself up for success and that means patience unless I find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
This will be a challenge.
Saving this amount of cash is daunting. All of the other major things I’ve saved for in life — a car, downpayment on a home, the retirement I hope to have someday — have fallen in the column of life’s necessities. Going to Antarctica is obviously discretionary (and dare I say a downright luxury). I don’t know yet if that will make it more or less motivating to save every spare penny I find.
In the past, my New Year’s Resolutions have fizzled out. Hopefully this one won’t do the same.