In just a few days it’ll be Christmas, but less than 10 days after that, I’ll be jumping on a plane—OK, a series of planes—to Argentina, the starting point of the Penn State Alumni Association’s “Expedition to Antarctica.” I think I have the Christmas to-do list pretty much under control, but the Antarctic to-do list? Not so much.
Getting ready for any trip always seems to be a mixture of equal parts sweet anticipation and pure panic, doesn’t it? On the one hand, there’s a non-negotiable deadline—that plane out of State College is leaving with me or without me. And there’s so much to do between now and then: Round up my camera gear, run errands, pack, clean the house for the house-sitter, write my column for the next issue, back up and erase my camera memory cards, pay bills, find my passport, lose 20 pounds….
I’ve also given myself an extra set of to-do items, or, as a wise friend of mine calls it, self-inflicted stress: In addition to being host to the Penn State travelers, I’ve volunteered to be one of the lecturers on the ship. There are eight lecturers altogether, most of them people with Ph.D.s in fields like biology and geography and astrophysics, and then there’s little ol’ me, who’s going to talk about taking better pictures. I’m going to take the PowerPoint I’ve used in teaching “Travel Photography 101” in OLLI classes at Penn State, and rework it to be specific to Antarctica. In other words, “Here’s how you can take better photos on this very trip.” I’ll offer tips for photographing penguins, and seals, and icebergs, and Antarctic sunsets. I’ve got all kinds of images collected, to serve as examples of what to do and what not to do. So sometime in the next week, I need to work that up.
(I just hope that my lecture slots aren’t scheduled during the Drake Passage crossing, when all 200 of the ship’s passengers will be back in their cabins, sprawled on their beds and feeling miserable from seasickness.)
But while there’s a huge to-do list I need to whack through between now and the trip, getting ready is also just pure fun. Putting together my lectures will be fun. Reading online articles about photographing in the Antarctic (to help inform my lectures as well as improve my own chances photographically down there) is fun. Fielding questions that the passengers email me ahead of the trip is fun. Watching my friend Don Dries’ video of his trip with Penn State to Antarctica was fun, and today I’ve been enjoying watching a DVD that my friends Elaine and Jim Keller sent me from the Penn State trip to Antarctica that we did back in 2002.
That’s part of the joy of traveling: The anticipation of the experience is, in some ways, as sweet as the experience itself.