Participant Monica Araya writes an ode to Antarctica as she reflects on the end of Homeward Bound’s maiden voyage and looks to what’s next

By the time you read this we will be in Ushuaia so I want to record the sentiment that has invaded the ship in the last hours. I will not attempt to find the right words to portray the arresting beauty of what we left behind. But one word does justice to our sentiments for Antarctica: love. Yes, we are officially and helplessly in love with this continent: its radical isolation, those frozen colours, the clear skies, as well as the deep blue waters that are home to the most enchanting animals.

We have gone through the Drake Passage now. The crew tells us that we are fortunate because on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the worst), we are at number 2 in terms of the calmness of the waters. That did not prevent us from having one quiet day on the ship. Some people have been bedridden, others are fine and most of us have been either seasick for a few hours or drowsy from the pills we are taking to avoid seasickness. Many people fell asleep in the middle of group conversations and I felt asleep so profoundly on the sofas in the common area that by the time I woke up it was 4am and the worst of the Drake Passage had passed. Waking up alone in the social room was a nearly magical experience. Because the room was so empty and unusually quiet I managed to have my first and only private moment to say goodbye in front of the sea, reaffirming my conviction to work even harder on climate issues.

Later today there have been many reflections with others, on smaller grounds. We had a very productive morning that was framed around questions related to Homeward Bound’s program: What has worked? What hasn’t? And how to improve it? Very constructive ideas came out because we want Homeward Bound to continue and to thrive.

Underpinning the pragmatic impulse to sharpen the program and to explore bilateral opportunities for collaboration is our melancholy because we know we will have to pack and get ready leave the boat in a few hours. Given that for nearly 20 days we have been together on a life-changing journey in Antarctica that is unlikely to happen again, it is normal that we go through such a strange mix of sentiments full of gratitude and sadness.

So what comes next? In my case, I will take some time to write and reflect on this experience because the point of coming here is to bring about the best version of ourselves, to become as effective leaders as we can possibly be in our fields, and to reconnect with nature. The reconnection has been so powerful because the ship is practically offline. This is the first time that I have ever signed off email, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and one of the most concrete changes I will embrace going forward is limiting the hours spent with these technologies so I can focus on my writing. The tasks for 2017 are also concrete and mostly relate to a public campaign I plan to launch around fossil-free mobility.

Now we must go back to our rooms and get ready for the Captain’s farewell drinks. We are almost out of the Drake passage and slowly our team is recovering from the seasickness and getting ready for a joyful evening of wonderful stories. There will be tears but also big hugs that will signal the start of new friendships and collaborations. We will leave knowing that now more than ever we will be stronger together.

Read more about Monica on our Participants page.

(Featured image by Kess Broekman-Dattner)

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