Exactly a month ago today, we were on the last leg of our Expedition heading back to the mainland world from Antarctica, literally and figuratively. Since back, I’ve been asked many times, “How was it?”. The truth is I still haven’t found the right words to answer that question yet. How do you describe a place as unique as Antarctica? It was like being in a lucid dream. It was like not being on earth. It has this sense of other-worldliness to it. It makes you feel things you have never felt before through experiences right out of a fantasy. It was calm and pristine one second, then totally unpredictable and challenging the very next. It was cold. Very very cold.
With the backdrop of such an extremely stimulating environment, I met with people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. My very first introduction on day one at the breakfast table was with a Scientist from NASA, followed by a lawyer from Yale. I think that quite sets the tone for the kind of incredible people on the team. We also had the very first women from Afganistan to go to Antarctica on our Expedition, all at the age of 21. It was incredible to not just connect with such inspiring people and build strong networks but also to build lasting friendships.
We were constantly hustling between sessions on Leadership, shore landings, whale spotting on zodiacs, sessions on topics like Glaciology, Whales, Polar History, impactful startups, pitching elevator pitches to a panel of judges and learning about the different kinds of knots to tie for survival and when not doing any of that we were engaged in passionate discussions on Climate Change and life, with a whole lot of people who cared. It seriously was like an icy-classroom as they say; like being in an Ivy league on a ship in Antarctica.
In terms of tangibles that have come out of this experience for me personally; I spent most of time shooting for an MTV production that showcased the youth of today who are redefining the norms. I also made a photo series, in the little time that I could find, as my personal pet project called “The future of Antarctica” where the expedition members shared their reason as to why we should save Antarctica. And the biggest one of all: in my one-on-one conversation with Rob he offered to write me a recommendation letter to fulfil my Graduate School dream because he said he “likes my spirit and believes in me”. Robert Swan often says, adding credibility to someone is the best thing you can do for someone. And I don’t know what my sponsors saw in me in our very first conversation, but they did the same for me by funding me for this expedition for which I feel eternal gratitude.