For about 2 months now I have been preparing for my upcoming excursion to Antarctica. Since then I have been thinking a lot about travel and shifting lenses and experiencing places fully.
How do we make sense of places that are familiar and places that are new? When does a place feel familiar? What makes a place a home? What makes a place interesting? Supportive? Challenging? Boring ? Inspiring? Engaging? How are you thinking about a place?
Growing up with parents who were displaced by war and moving every 4 to 5 years, travel was built into my life. The definition of home was not even discussed. It was denied and we spoke about the adventure of the new and exciting and how we were different from anybody around us. Different was good, not fitting in was something to be proud of. The loneliness and exposure that came along with this was to be dealt with internally and toughened out. In order to survive physically and emotionally I figured out strategies to understand new places and communities quickly. Kinetic strategy became my survival tool. Being the new kid in elementary school, middle school and again in high school makes you figure out these things quickly, especially when it's in foreign cultures with an unknown language. That's how I early on learned to rely on body language. I learned to read the landscape -scenery as well as the cultural human landscape.
Survival tools became skills, skills became habit. At the same time I never was able to engage in, nor understand the concept of tourism. Relaxing on a beach, capturing interesting photos while strolling around famous yet unfamiliar streets make me queasy and overwhelmed at the same time. I start to be able to engage with a place when it challenges me, when it grabs me. Bleak landscapes, grey weather, ideally some snow, that's when I can come out of hibernation.
Wether it's the dark underbelly of the local Moran Powerplant, where I recently choreographed and performed a multisensory /interdisciplinary performance piece ,or a small fishing island in the Arctic Circle, I understand how to engage with places like that. I become alive, inspired, energized. In fact, I get so inspired and engaged that I forget to take photos or write about it or make sketches. I then leave the place and when people at home (I did find a place that I call my home after living in the same place for 20 years) ask me how my trip was all I can do is talk. No visuals, no structure. I often get eye rolling or head tilting when I tell people about the places I prefer to travel to and engage with. Why would you give up the little time of summer here in Vermont for more winter and more cold?
The rough outline of my travels to Antarctica are like this: I will be traveling and living on a boat to then get on a smaller boat to then climb icy mountains on skis and ski back to the small boat to get back to the larger, yet not large, boat and repeat -14 days - including 3 days (twice 1 1/2 days) roller coaster ride to cross the Drake passage)
This time I am determined to document the heck out of this trip. I am also determined to not let the camera come between me and the experience. How can I accomplish this?
Until I figure this out I will continue to collect the items listed on the packing list: ice-ax, avalanche probe, shovel, harness, 4 carabiner hooks, crampons, skis, skins, bathing suit (actually not listed on the official list and always on my personal one), motion sickness medicine, aromatherapy oils against seasickness, passport, thermos, water-bottle, waterproof bags, mittens, hat, helmet, warm waterproof boots... just the usual for a trip to the ocean in spring :)