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Anticipating Antarctica by Jodie O'Kelly

Posted December 11, 2013 @ 12:28pm | by TravelWild Expeditions

On Sunday I leave for my first visit to Antarctica since working there 14 years ago. During the 1990s, I was a part of the support personnel team for the US Antarctic Program (USAP) on contracts that added up to 3-1/2 years "on Ice." This time, however, I will see Antarctica from a very different vantage point, the way our TravelWild clients experience it—on an Antarctic expedition cruise. To say I am excited is an understatement!

In my current position as TravelWild's Tour Registrar, I help clients prepare for their Antarctic—and Arctic—cruise. This covers everything from helping them plan what clothing and gear to pack to making sure all their travel-related paperwork is in order. I also follow up with clients when they return home to get their feedback, impressions and personal stories. Until now, I've lived vicariously through these interactions. Now, after many months in my new position, I will experience an Antarctic cruise myself!

My work experience in Antarctica surely helped me prepare for my trip. I remember how to layer clothing and which fabrics are best. I'm fully aware the weather can change on a dime and you need to be ready for anything. I've experienced Antarctica's cold, dry air and sunny days, so I will pack plenty of lotion, sunscreen and a good, strong pair of sunglasses. But the experience of traveling in Antarctica on board an expedition cruise ship is new, so in many ways, I am similar to our clients who are first-time travelers to the continent. My mind is racing with questions about what to expect. Luckily, I can tap into a seemingly bottomless resource—Dennis Mense.

Dennis is TravelWild Expeditions' Sales Director—and he has led more than 100 expedition cruises to Antarctica. He has been around since the very beginning of the polar cruise industry when voyages to Antarctica first became available to intrepid travelers. Today, there are only a handful of people with as much firsthand experience and knowledge as Dennis. TravelWild clients rely on Dennis to answer questions about everything from the animals they'll encounter to the number of socks they should pack. While I certainly don't expect to know as much about polar cruising as Dennis on my return, this trip will help me understand more of the specific details our clients need to prepare for their own cruises.

In anticipation I've been gathering gear, reading books and current news about Antarctica, and scouring maps of the Antarctic Peninsula area. In addition to signing up for the camping and snowshoeing adventure options available during the cruise, I've been getting ready for another of the amazing options, one that requires experience—kayaking. The accompanying photo is of me with friend and kayaking instructor, Erin Kieper. You can never be too prepared!

I am both excited and extremely fortunate to be seeing Antarctica as it is first seen by our clients. Throughout my trip I will take copious notes and photos to track my travels and provide you with a window into the experience. When I return, I look forward to sharing all I've learned with future TravelWild Expedition travelers!

TravelWild registrar Jodie O'Kelly practicing her kayaing skills

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