As a young woman, I was involved in a dance community. Before dancing, we held each other’s arms in pairs and stared into each other’s eyes while taking deep breaths. We then touched each other’s foreheads with our fingers and together said “I trust you because I trust myself”.


In that moment I realised I had never considered whether I trusted myself. But I soon realised that in fact I did. As I pondered further, I came to believe that the amazing things that have happened in my life were because I trusted myself to be courageous, curious, compassionate and simply be me. In finding trust in myself, I was also able to trust in the people and situations around me. 


That trust was tested when I was asked to lead an oceanographic research project in the Antarctic. I was terrified of the responsibility and fear of failure almost prevented me moving forward. Yet I tolerated my fears and the project was a success. I developed a new-found trust in my abilities and my capacity for professional adaptability. My soul shifted and I couldn’t stop thinking about Antarctica. Six months later I was back on a ship and headed south to live and work.  


My new position working in the laboratories at Palmer Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula is where my Homeward Bound (HB) story begins. Words cannot describe how excited I was that a ship of women in science was coming to visit the station – and I was to be their tour guide. It was wonderful to connect with so many strong, intelligent and warmhearted women. 


Fast forward a year and I was again standing at the Palmer Station pier waiting for the HB 2 cohort to arrive. During that visit, someone put a HB bracelet on my wrist and told me that I absolutely had to apply for the program. I began researching HB and quickly discovered the caliber of the women participating. Again drawing on my courage and trust that I could be one of those women, I applied for HB. After submitting my application I trusted the HB selection committee would see my abilities and passion and select me – and they did!


Today I am sitting with 100 amazing women. We have crossed the Drake Passage and spotted our first icebergs and mountain peaks of Antarctica. Though this is my fourth trip south, this one is extra special. I find myself sitting alone, completely overwhelmed with gratitude for this experience. In a few days, we’ll visit Palmer Station, my home on the ice. Palmer is currently surrounded by impenetrable ice, so I am focusing all my heart beams to melt it away in time for our arrival. I am very much looking forward to these two worlds colliding once again. 


I have realized I’m here in Antarctica for two reasons: because I had a support system that trusted in me and I trusted in myself. I believe it is important that when an opportunity is presented, we can find trust in ourselves to say, “yes, I can do this!” Trust is something that must grow, and when it does, it comes with an intense feeling of freedom of spirit and balance in the soul. 


As I sit here today, I feel free, balanced and endlessly grateful to HB and myself for both saying “YES!” to this journey together.  


Carly Quisenberry (USA) is a lover of the natural world. This love drives her desire to further scientific research and conservation efforts for the preservation of our planet. Currently, Carly serves as the Conservation Science Project Manager at The Nature Conservancy’s Palmyra Atoll Program in Hawaii.

Have you ever filled out one of those online surveys that tells you what type of animal you are? Or describes your personality?


Do you instantly believe the results? Or do you question them a little? Or perhaps a lot?


I admit I tend to be skeptical about what these types of surveys say. I instantly want to do them again and see if I get the same result. To test the accuracy of the output. 


In the past year of Homeward Bound we’ve all completed diagnostic surveys about our learning styles and professional behavioral styles. We’ve used these to learn about ourselves, how we interact with others, and how they interact with us. It’s a lot to get your head around but also incredibly interesting and personally valuable. 


And I want to do them again and compare the results. 


Perhaps the truth is that I don’t quite trust what they are telling me, what those around me are telling me.


Following two long days of intense program content in Ushuaia – including revisiting our learning and professional behavior styles – we finally boarded our ship for Antarctica. To my great relief, we have experienced a blissful ‘Drake Lake’ crossing of the Drake Passage. Following waves have kept the seasickness (mostly) at bay, and allowed us time to get to know each other, reflect and bring together the different elements of the program to date.


I have found myself sharing the results of my diagnostic surveys with others in an attempt to understand and make sense of them. I’ve resolutely told my Homeward Bound team that I’m not convinced my core learning style is really what the output tells me it is. I can see myself in all of the learning styles. Thanks to our work in Ushuaia I now also have the added lens of my values, and ideas of what my personal strategy might be. 


Walking the decks of the ship gazing out to the vast ocean, my mind is trying to pull the different pieces together. One of my values is ‘balance’ and I wonder how I can bring this into what and how I am learning on the ship. 


And so, from here on, just as I trusted I would travel safely to Antarctica, I choose to trust in those around me. I trust that in accepting the diagnostic outputs as they are – regardless of how much I see myself in them – they have something to teach me.  


I choose to find the balance between skepticism and open-minded acceptance.  


I choose to be curious. 


But mostly, I choose to trust what I can learn from this experience. 

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Justine Smith has a background in applied ecological research and is driven by a desire to see science used to positively inform decision making and the management of our environment.