Every journey begins with a dream or longing for somewhere else on Earth. Antarctica has always loomed heavy in my travel fantasies, and yet for much of my life, the frozen continent proved elusive. So, I made a plan to get there. (Photo by Sisse Brimberg)
My dream was to leave my office in Washington, DC and hop buses all the way to Antarctica. My editor chuckled and gave me the assignment. Luckily, it worked: 9 states, 14 countries, and 12,000 miles later, I arrived at the bottom of the world. My perspective of the earth is forever changed, because I know the true size of our planet. Given the chance, I always prefer traveling overland. This was the very first digital story for National Geographic Traveler, which I rewrote as a feature for the magazine.
Slow travel is the best way to know the world, and so I accepted whatever ride came next. In Guatemala, that ride was a reincarnated American school bus, doused in orange paint and inscribed with the words, "Guide Me Lord". I remember sitting in the back of this bus and riding for hours with chickens at my feet. To cross the whole of Guatemala cost me less than six dollars.
Less than 10% of the roads in Bolivia are paved and I experienced more break downs there than anywhere else on my journey. While crossing the altiplano, two of our back tires popped due to the reduced air pressure at 14,000 feet. It took us hours to get moving again, but with the blue Andes all around us, the dawn was so beautiful and I was glad for the break halfway between Lima and La Paz.
After 40 days and 40 nights spent on 40 different buses (plus two more days aboard a ship) I landed on the Antarctic continent, at Marguerite Bay. The foggy air hovered just above freezing, and the granite beach was covered with sleepy, unimpressed penguins. It was an emotional moment for me, reaching a destination that until that point, had only existed in my imagination. To know that a faraway place on a map is real—that is the greatest feeling of all. (Photo by Sisse Brimberg)