Traveling to the Polar Regions with Heather Thorkelson

Hey friend 🥰

While talking to Heather I once again realized that tourism plays a crucial part in shaping people's worldviews - if it is combined with education. Heather Thorkelson is the owner of Twin Tracks Expeditions, a polar expedition agency, and a polar guide who has been in the Antarctic over 30 times.

Heather and I talked about

  • How Heather became a polar guide
  • What Twin Tracks Expeditions is
  • How Heather and her team handle concerns regarding climate change
  • Why a visit to the Arctic or Antarctic will change your view of the world
  • How tourism can be used for good
  • Why tourism shouldn't be condemned
  • What it's like to be a polar guide on a ship for months
  • How to travel to the polar regions

 

Transcript

Hello, dear listener, welcome to the Science of Travel Podcast, the podcast that combines all things Earth, landscapes and travel destinations with Earth science.

Today I’m sharing with you the conversation I had with Heather Thorkelson.

Heather Thorkelson is a coach, business consultant, entrepreneur and polar guide.

She’s been running her own coaching and consulting business since 2011.

She is the owner of Twin Tracks Expeditions, a polar expedition company, where she also is a polar guide who has been in the Antarctic over 30 times.

On top of that she co-owns a polar ship management company.

She is from White Rock, British Columbia in Canada but now lives in Sweden. She’s spent the majority of her life living abroad since her family moved to Costa Rica when she was 14.

Oh, and she also is a writer (her own book is called No Plan B) and she also happens to host an incredible podcast, the AntArctic Stories Podcast. A podcast that takes you behind the scenes of people who live, work and travel to the polar regions.

She wants to bring other people to the far ends of the earth in as sustainable a manner as possible, to create more ambassadors for this precious cold wilderness in the north and south of our planet.

I’m super honored and excited to have her own the show! But first let me tell you how I met Heather.

In today’s world, traveling has a bad taste to it, it doesn’t have that good reputation it used to have. Why? Because of climate change and the pollution of the oceans, the atmosphere and the environment in general. People who love to travel, see the world and use the plane are being shamed. Reckless and arrogant tourists who feel entitled and destroy the nature in the destination also contribute to this negative image of tourism.

I was on the hunt for podcast guests on Facebook and posted in two or three groups. I was searching for people who would like to speak to me about how we can inspire travelers to care more for their travel destination, whether travel shaming is a real thing, and how knowledge about a place changes the visitor’s perspective. Then Heather sent me an email and I couldn’t hold myself, I was so excited and so happy that she reached out. Every fiber of my body resonated with what she said to me and on top of that I absolutely love her work and what she’s accomplished. I could already see myself on an expedition ship with her, heading to the Antarctic. Here’s part of the message that Heather send to me:

The topic of "how we can inspire people to care more about the destination" is something I can definitely talk about. I have a polar expedition company and travel to Antarctica gets a lot of flak for its carbon footprint (talk about travel shaming!) BUT the flipside of that is that the way we take guests, and how we educate and involve them as part of the experience, creates ambassadors for the region and then they WANT to preserve Antarctica (and thusly care more about climate change).

During my conversation with Heather, I once again learned that traveling is important, because it takes people out of their daily lives and puts them into the real world. The emphasis is on good tourism, ethical tourism. Good tourism, tourism that is combined with education, is important because it has the power to change people’s views, broadens their horizons and educates them in a way documentaries, movies, or zoos can’t.

So, my friend, give it up for Heather!

Daniela:

Alright. Just first off, thank you again so much for being here. I'm honored to have you here and welcome the Science of Travel Podcast, Heather!

Heather:

Thank you so much. It's very exciting to be here.

Daniela:

Yes. So, I think, I will introduce you in the introduction, but I always love it if the people just introduce themselves a little bit.

Heather:

Sure. Yeah, I am Heather Thorkelson, obviously. And I run a company called Twin Tracks Expedition. I've been a polar guide for, gosh, 8 years now and I've been in the polar travel agency business for a decade. So, this is something that's been, like, a major part of my professional career.

My primary business is actually a little bit different. I'm a business coach, I'm an international business coach. And I had started that before I got into the travel agency world and before I got into polar guiding. But as I like to call myself, I'm an incurable entrepreneur. So, when I get a good idea for a business or when I see a great opportunity, I generally go for it.

So that's kind of how the polar world opened up in a kind of a roundabout way, because I got invited to work on a ship in 2013, where I met my husband, or my, the guy who ended up being my husband. I met him and he's a Swedish polar expedition guide. And then after a couple of years of knowing him and doing some seasonal work on ships, I thought, okay, I think we need to start a business. So, it was kind of like an accident how I ended up owning a polar travel company. But yeah, that's essentially how we got to here.

So, our Twin Tracks Expeditions is now six and a half years old, and we've diversified quite a lot in that time.

Daniela:

That's amazing. And you also own a third company, or you co-run a third company, a polar management company, right?

Heather:

Yeah, exactly. So hence the incurable entrepreneurship. In the expedition world, between myself and my husband and he has a twin brother who's also a polar expedition guide, we have a huge network. And so we just got this really amazing opportunity via our network to help with a project to bring an older Russian research vessel that had been turned into an expedition ship and then retired. We got this opportunity to be involved in bringing it back from retirement and refurbishing it and bringing it back into the scene. And then we just pulled in some partners, and it was kind of a two-year long process, and we weren't totally sure what was going to happen. But then finally, last November, it all kind of came together. And we worked with the investors that bought the ship and brought it back to life to create our own Polar Pioneer Management, it's called, the ship management company.

So, it's kind of cool because on the one side, we have Twin Tracks, which is a polar agency, like if you want to go to Antarctica or the Arctic, you call us. We can help you find the perfect trip. We also run our own trips within Twin Tracks, we take people to the Arctic at this point, only the Arctic, on really small vessels, on 12 passenger ships. So, it's kind of a more, like, high end niche experience. If you're the kind of person that's, like, I hate cruise ships, I don't want to be around tons of people and eat at a buffet, you know. It's more like you got a little bit of extra cash. It's a lot of the baby boomers. And they want that more, like, unique experience. So, we do that with Twin Tracks.

And then the ship management company is not about running tours. That's literally about running the expedition side of the ship, which is the 53-passenger vessel. So, we get to do the background stuff. We get to hire the expedition teams. We get to focus on, like, really cool itineraries. And so it's really cool. It's really fun for me to have my feet in two totally different sides of the business, you know, and also just the really interesting people that I get to meet and all the opportunities that come up. It's a lot of fun. It's really, really cool.

Daniela:

You seem like a multi-passionate person with the coaching and the consulting and the polar guide and the ship management. That's incredible. I also, congratulations on what you've accomplished.

Heather: Thank you!

Daniela:

When I read your message and you told me that you work or that you own a polar expedition company, I was like, wow, where did this person come from? It's, like, heaven sent. Because myself, I love cold regions.

Heather: Yeah.

Daniela:

I also love Hawai’i, tropical regions, but I'm kind of drawn to the northern parts and the southern parts, where it’s cold and where other people usually don't want to go.

So, for example, I spent four months in Finland during my bachelor’s degree when I studied tourism, and people would ask me: “Why would you choose Finland in the winter?! And I said: “Exactly, that's why!” Because it's dark and because it's cold and because it's a totally new experience.

Heather: Yeah.

Daniela: So, what made you fall in love? What made you decide “I want to be a polar guide, and I want to establish this company with my husband”?

Heather:

Well, that's a very good question. It's funny, because prior to getting into this line of work, I was a business coach. And prior to that, I had a corporate job. And back when I had a corporate job in my 20s and early 30s, I spent every last penny I had on travel.

All of my colleagues in the corporate world were buying fancy houses, and they had, like, a flat screen TV in every room in their house.

And I was living in kind of a crappy little apartment in downtown Toronto and saving every penny to go on the biggest adventures I could find. And that was all over the world.

But during that time, I happened to go to the Arctic on an expedition ship in 2007, and I loved it. I went to the Norwegian Arctic, Svalbard. I was just like: “What is this place?”

Daniela: Oh my gosh, yeah.

Heather:

It was absolute magic. It was the most calm, peace, I felt so peaceful there, more than any other time in my life, because you're completely cut off from the world.

It's just, it's magical.

And then right after I left the corporate world in 2010, I did the opposite, which is what people often do. I went down to Antarctica, and that was amazing as well. And the funny thing is that I've been on expedition ships a few times. I went down the Amazon on an expedition ship, all around 100 passengers. And every time…

And also, I'm a huge introvert. I should say that. I'm a huge introvert. I'm very social. I can be very gregarious and social and whatever. And I can talk to anybody about any anything, whatever. But I tend to prefer being alone.

And so, I remember when I was on these ships as a guest, I was like, these expedition teams are really cool, but I could never do that work.

I wouldn't want to be stuck working 24/7 with a bunch of other people that you can never escape from. Sounds like a nightmare, you know.

But then when I was in Antarctica in 2010, there's a place called Port Lockroy. And it's the location of the Antarctic post office. It's quite a famous location. Everyone wants to send their postcards from there.

And I remember standing at Port Lockroy, and I was standing next to the flagpole. And anyone who's been to Antarctica, listening to this will be like “I know exactly what you're talking about”, standing next to flagpole, and I was just, like, hit with this certainty that I was going to be back. I was just like, wow, I have this weird, weird, weird feeling that, like, I will be back here. There's no question. Whatever.

And so then I went back to the ship, and I was traveling with my boyfriend at the time. And I said, “I had the weirdest experience at Port Lockroy.”

It’s this, like, this inevitability thing. Like, I'm going to be here again. There's no question. But I was thinking “I'm not going to pay for another trip.” It's like 7 grand, you know, that cost me in 2010, it’s a ton of money. I'm not going to pay to come the second time. Nobody does that. Very few people do that.

And I said, I'm not going to come down here working. And so it doesn't make any sense. That intuition makes zero sense to me. How could I possibly end up back in Antarctica?

And then a couple of years later, in 2012, I was living in Peru, and a friend of mine that I met on an expedition ship in 2005 contacted me. And he was like: “Hey, what are you doing? You're working for yourself, right?”

And I said: “Yeah.” And he's like: “What do you say about coming down for 8 weeks to work on a ship in Antarctica? And I was like: “What?!”

Because, so first of all, I thought about that déjà vu feeling, right? And I'm like, you have got to be kidding me.

And second of all, I was in a stage of building my business, coaching business, where I desperately needed a break. And 8 weeks seemed to me, completely doable, I can do 8 weeks on a ship, whatever. That sounds fine. And I would love to go back to Antarctica. I'd love to be paid to go back to Antarctica. And, yeah, like, count me in. Amazing. And the position that they were hiring me for was a customer service one. So that's, like, perfect with my skill set.

So, I went off to Antarctica and 2013, and I loved it. And I met the guy who would become my husband. We met on that very first trip and fell in love very quickly. And then after that, the issue was that he was working full time on ships, on polar expedition ships. And so if I wanted to be with him or spend time with him, I had to be on ships with him, because he was out at sea all the time.

So I started sort of half and half doing business coaching when I was home with my clients and then going out to sea and working on expedition ships with him. And it just became a part of what I kind of needed to do in order to be with this guy. And I liked it.

But I also had sort of a time, like a point at which I was like, this is not my full-time work. Like, I want to be building businesses. I don't want to work on a ship, you know?

So by the time 2015, so two years in, I was like, I was looking at him and his twin brother. I mean, big Swedish twins, big red beards, like these guys, you can see them coming from a mile away. They're walking, talking marketing.

And I was like: “Guys, why don't we have a company?” We should have a company based on you. Like, you're walking, talking sales guys. And I can do, you know, polar agency sales, because I knew the industry inside and out by then. And so they were a little bit hesitant and whatever, but I just push them gently. We should do this. We should do this.

And we started Twin Tracks Expeditions. So it started out as a travel agency only. And then in 2018 is when we had the opportunity to start hiring these 12 passengers, these small ships in Svalbard to start running our own bespoke tours.

So it was a very unexpected journey. And if you had said to me in 2010, when I was a guest on an expedition ship, that one day I would own my own expedition company, and that one day I would be taking people or that I would be, like, a guide on ship, any of this stuff, I would have said, what are you smoking? Like, no chance. And yet here we are.

Daniela:

Yeah, that's incredible. It's also amazing how you had this intuitive feeling when you were at this post office, and then you got offered this 8-week job. It got me the chills and I wasn't even part of the story. But it's amazing.

So, you established Twin Tracks Expeditions, and what do you say to people regarding climate change? You know, it's a very prominent topic at the moment. How do you justify to them that that you love taking people to these places?

Heather:

Yeah. It's such a good question. And it definitely comes up a lot with people who travel with us and people who book through us. It's a huge issue. The thing is that right now, the technology that we have in order to get to these places, like flying on airplanes, going on chips and whatever, is only advanced to a certain degree. There's lots of stuff going on in the background to make that better, to improve how we interact with the environment, to improve the way that we travel and the impact that we have.

But right now, it is what it is. Right.

So first of all, we have to accept reality.

Daniela: Yeah.

Heather:

Second of all, we don't tend to care about things unless we have a personal experience with them, right?

Daniela: Yeah.

Heather: A good non-travel example of this is something like a disease. Like, okay, cancer is really bad, very sad, horrible. But you don't care passionately about somebody or combating cancer until someone that you love is dealing with it. Right? Generally speaking.

The same goes for fragile environments and animals. You know, you can read about polar bears, you can look at them on the TV, whatever. Great. And you're worried about them: Are they can be okay. Are they going to survive with global warming?

And then you go to the zoo, and you see a polar bear in the zoo, and you see how huge they are and how powerful. And then you're like: “Wow. Oh, my god.” The emotions that you get, you start to care more. You're like: “I don't want these things to disappear. They're so special.”

And then for those people who go to the Arctic and see them in their natural environment, it's like the zoo times a thousand, you know, suddenly you're like: “Holy jump in. This is incredible. This exists out there.”

And these guys are out there in the Arctic roaming around on this, you see the sea ice in front of you. You have guides on board that are educated naturalists that are telling you: “Here's what we're looking at. Here's where the sea ice was last year in comparison to this year, here are the trends that we're seeing. Here's, how it affects the animals.

Sometimes you see a bear that looks like it hasn't eaten in a while. Right. And it’s on shore, it’s not on the ice. And then so the naturalist can share with the guests, like, well, this is the situation that's happening. And he probably hasn't been able to find food for a while.

Not only do you care a lot more because you have this personal experience, but you're better educated in a very, a very specific way, because you've been there yourself and you've seen it with your own eyes, right?

Daniela: Yeah.

Heather: So for me, the big thing about worrying about climate change is that, yes, you will have an impact by traveling to these places. But the greater impact that you'll have is by learning about how important and how beautiful and how worth saving these regions are and then going home and using your voice to advocate for it.

Daniela: Yes. Exactly. So you're making ambassadors out of them?

Heather: Yeah.

Daniela: That's amazing. I think the knowledge about the place is really what transforms it, plus the experience. I think both is important.

And that's why travel has such a power to promote climate protection and environment protection. It's not only bad.

So, I think it's extremely important what you do. Yeah. I just second everything you say, because it's also what I want to do.

I'm studying to be an Earth scientist, as is also your husband's brother, right? He’s an Earth scientist, right?

Heather:

That's true. Yep. He studied in Greenland, like the geology in Greenland and the melting of the ice caps in Greenland.

Daniela:

That's amazing. I think this knowledge that we can provide, all educated people, and those people who can take us to those places is invaluable.

Heather: Yeah, it really is. And I'll give you another example that I think really hits

home with people. You may have seen in the news, especially because your field of interest is Earth Sciences, that in the last couple of years, we've seen massive icebergs break off of the Antarctic ice shelves. Just absolutely huge, like the size of whole countries or whole US States and just sail off into the distance.

And again, you see it on TV. And you're like: “Oh, that looks bad. That looks really big.”

But when you go down there, I had an experience, I think it must have been about 3-4 years ago, one of these massive, massive icebergs had broken off in the Weddell Sea. And we were sailing from South Georgia down to the Antarctic Peninsula. And we saw one of these icebergs, these tabular icebergs. This piece of an ice shelf of Antarctica, right. And so we see it in the distance and the captain goes closer to it, not too close, but closer, so we can check it out. And it's like, you know, the height of a many, many stories building. It's absolutely massive. And we start sailing along it in the morning. And we're going at a good clip. We're going at, like, 13 nautical miles, you know, 13 knots, I should say. We're going at a good clip.

And we're sailing, sailing, sailing, sailing. And then afternoon comes. We're still sailing along it. And the evening comes. And we're still sailing, and the guests are like: “When does it end? How big is this thing?”

And I'm like: “Yeah, you don't understand until you're here.” This is a piece of ice that has broken off the continent and there is no end in sight.

It's like 27 miles long or something ridiculous. And when you experience it just, like below your mind. And it also makes you much more deeply concerned than if you watch a David Attenborough special.

Daniela:  No, because it makes it so real suddenly.

Heather: Yeah.

Daniela: It's actually happening on this planet. It's true. It's not just the scene or clip from a movie. It's actually, your planet is concerned. It's the place you're inhabiting. It's endangered. So, you better learn. You better connect, you better acquire knowledge. So you understand how also your actions impact thousands of miles away, the life and the nature there.

Heather: Totally. And the nature, like sea levels and things like that, you know, like, sea levels are greatly affected by what's happening with the climate change. And the nice thing as well, and I think the important thing about traveling to the polar regions is that often you'll be traveling with guides who have been going for minimum 10 years, some up to 30 years.

Daniela: Wow.

Heather: And you can ask these people: “Hey, as a person who has been coming to this remote, remote place as a scientist or a naturalist, what are the changes that you've seen?”

And so forget about the science, forget about the news. Forget about whatever thing doesn't feel real to you. If you ask an actual human being, what have you seen with your own eyes, what's changed? That is a real eye opener.

Daniela: Yeah. Also a person that you trust, because as a traveler, you're with that person on expedition, and you totally trust them with their [your] lives actually in this. So I think, and you really look up to them and you really trust them. So, your educators have a really, really important role.

Heather: Yes. A critical part.

Daniela: Another question: Do you remember when travelers on your expeditions came up to you and said: “Hey, you changed my view, or this experience changed my view.” Or do you have a story yourself that you want to share?

Heather:

I mean, people often say that. There isn't something that really stands out.

People often say: “Wow. Like, this really hit home for me.” Especially after we do educational lectures that put things into context for people. So, yeah, we do.

And often there's a lot of people who are, you know, have pretty high net worth that go down there as well, like some pretty wealthy people.

And so I think that what's been most compelling is not that emotional reaction of like: “Oh, my gosh, this is such a special place. I really care now. I want to protect it. I want to tell all my friends. I want to tell my friends to come here so that they can care, and they can see how beautiful and fragile and important it is to our ecosystem” That's the standard. If you're not moved, if you're not changed, then something's wrong, something's not right with you. Like, maybe you were sleeping. I don't know.

But the things that really stand out to me are when we've had people who actually have some financial or political power that have then said: “I'm going to go back and I'm going to work to change this. My foundation is going to donate to this science or we're going to partner with this oceanographic society or whatever. That kind of stuff. I'm like, amazing. That's so exciting to me, because that means that there's going to be some real change.

And another thing as well that I think is really worth mentioning is that especially in Antarctica, we do a lot of citizen science. And so what it means is that you, as a guest on an expedition ship, you have an opportunity to collect seawater, to read clouds, to look at the animal populations, to look at the underside of whale tales, which is the same as a human fingerprint, and collect data.

And most companies now that are going down have a citizen science program that once you get on board, you can just sign up and say “Yeah, I want to do science.” And then the person, the guide that's in charge of that will let you know: “Okay, Tuesday at 2 PM, we're going to do, like, we're going to collect some water, some seawater, and we're going to do some analysis.”

So, that's really exciting, too, because then you are contributing to the knowledge that we have of climate change, because everything that's collected on ships, it's not just collected for fun. It's not like going down to the local pond and looking at what critters live in it.

This stuff is collected. All that data is sent back to partner universities or partner organizations, scientific organizations in the US and Europe that use that data to track change over time, because, as you know, especially if, you know you're in your education now, educational organizations, scientific research organizations, they only have so much money, right.

And they have to be really particular about where that budget goes. And it's really expensive to send a scientific team down to collect saltwater samples in Antarctica, especially if you want the samples in the same day at the same time, every month, month over month, to see what's going on.

But to leverage tourism ships that are down there all the time and get them to collect your data for you and send it back. I mean, that's just it's the coolest thing ever. It's such a smart way to use tourism for good, right. And even better that the guests get to take part in that and know, like I did something that matters.

Daniela:

Oh, Wow. So important, because I know one of my professors, he's actually going on to, no, he's been to Antarctica and to the Arctic. And those expeditions are immense management work. It's expensive. It's time consuming. Citizen science is an amazing project.

Heather:

Yeah. It's a really smart use of resources, and it makes people care. It plugs them into caring about climate change and caring about protecting the environment.

Daniela:

So, how is it for you this year? Do you have any expeditions planned?

Heather: We have them planned, but it doesn't look like they're going to go. We had to cancel 2020. And 2021 has pretty much been a wash, which is really unfortunate, but we have low overhead in our business. So we've been able to just sort of weather the storm, and we're waiting for things to pick up again. We're not running any of our own expeditions in Svalbard that we normally would do. We had four scheduled, but they've all been canceled. And so, yeah, we're looking forward to basically next year. And already, because people have been on lockdown in this pandemic and people who are really big travelers, they've been dying to get out again. Now, finally, the past two months or so, I've started to

see a lot of inquiries on the agency side of our business, of people saying: “I really am desperate to book a trip to Antarctica. Can you help? I'm desperate to get up to the polar bears, like, when are things going to open, can we book a trip?”

So we're really starting to see the booking start to come in again, which is really exciting because again, myself, and I have one coworker who works with me on the sales side of things, we both have many years of experience as polar guides. And then there's my husband and his brother and our entire network of friends. And so when people contact us to book a trip, it's super fun, because it's basically like, I get to talk about, nerd out on the stuff that I love talking about it.

And I get to geek out on the different ships and the different things that they're offering. And if I'm not sure about something on a certain ship, rather than, like, a regular agent who's like, well, let me contact the company, I WhatsApp a friend. And I'm like: “Hey, you worked on the Ocean Nova, right? Do they have a gift shop on board?” I ask the people that I know.

And so that's really fun, too, because I get to talk about the stuff that I like. I get to network with my friends. I get to learn more. I get to get excited about travel again. So that's sort of what's keeping us going right now in terms of the polar expedition stuff.

Daniela:

And you usually go to the polar regions in the summertime, right?

Heather:

Well, the Arctic season is between May and September. That's when you have basically 24-hour daylight. So that's when we're up in the Arctic.

And then the Antarctic season is the opposite because of the changing season. The Antarctic season is end of October to mid-March, roughly.

So that's why you get this sort of, polar guides are called polar guides, because they're not just Antarctic guides. You work in the south during the northern winter, and you work in the north during the northern summer, kind of thing.

Daniela:

It's kind of convenient.

Hether:

Yeah. And then you have, like, a month or two often between where you can go home and sort of be like a land-based person. But it's very funny, actually, because when you work on a ship, you never have to buy anything. And you never have to think about, like, your wallet or what you would take when you leave the house, your car keys.

And so if you've been working on the ship for, like, 3, 4 months, and then suddenly you go home just like going to the store to buy food, you're like: “Oh, I need money.” And then you're like: “Oh, god, I got to cook for myself.” Because you're fed when you're working on a ship. You suddenly have to cook your own food. It's a very funny thing to go back to regular and then going back to the ship. It's just such different worlds.

Daniela:

It must be such a great feeling to be so cut off from the usual day to day life.

Heather:

It is! It's kind of like living in stop time, I would say, because your, yeah, like, you don't, you're not really connected with what's going on back home. I mean, in the past 2 or 3 years, we've seen a lot more WiFi availability on vessels, even when you're in Antarctica.

But when I started in 2013 and before that, when I was just a traveler from 2005 onwards on expedition ships, there was no internet, like, not even close. So you are really completely cut off from the world.

And it's, it sounds like that would mean for people addicted to social media, which is all of us, it sounds like it would be horrible, but it is amazing.

It is so great to not know what's going on and just be in the present and be out in nature every day. And when you don't have this 24/7 news cycle or Facebook feed in your face, you start to dream, like really rich dreams and stuff. It's really awesome.

Daniela: Wow. So how long is one expedition for a traveler?

Heather:

Usually. So, in Antarctica, what we call the “Antarctic Classic” is about 10 to 11 days long. That's the standard Antarctica trip. You can do longer trips. There are on occasion trips that will take you across the Antarctic Circle. So this is more like 14, 13, 14 days. And then if you want to go to South Georgia, which is a sub-Antarctic Island that has King Penguins and Elephant Seals, which is just like, probably one of the most beautiful places on the planet, you need more time and you need more money. It's about 20 to 22 days, and it's about double the price of a regular trip to the Antarctic Peninsula. And those are also not as common.

The most common trip is your standard 10 to 11 day “Antarctic Classic” trip. And different companies have different names for it. It's like the “Spirit of Antarctica” or what, but it's all the same thing, basically.

And then in the Arctic –

In the Antarctic, you have to cross the Drake Passage, right. So you step on in Ushuaia in South America, and then it's a roughly 2-day crossing. Then you have, like 5 ½ - 6 days on a classic trip, and then two days back.

In the Arctic, there's no crossing. You arrive, if you're going to the Arctic Svalbard, which is the place where everyone goes for polar bears for the most part, you arrive in Longyearbyen.

You step on your ship, and the next morning you're doing landings, you're in Zodiac cruises, like you're looking for polar bears immediately.

There are a lot of 10-day trips that's pretty common as well, but it's 10 full days. There's no sea crossing, you know. And then for people who don't have as much time, there are shorter trips, like 7-day trips. And those are still amazing, you know, like really, really amazing, because 7 days with looking for polar bears and [unintelligible] and reindeers and whales. It's very cool.

Daniela:

Oh, my gosh. I'm already dreaming of joining you one day. It's amazing.

Heather:

Yeah, we hope you do. It's just such a magical region.

Daniela:

So, thank you again so much. I, the last question I want to ask is where can people find you? How can they contact you? And yes, go ahead.

Heather:

Yeah. Twintracksexpeditions.com is our website. You can find all kinds of information there. It's mostly an agency website. So, you'll see it listed, like our expertise in helping people book trips on larger, like 100 passengers plus vessels. There's also information about our smaller bespoke 12 passenger ships on there. And then we have on there a polar quiz, which is really helpful, if you don't know what kind of trip you want to go on, I really recommend that go to our website, check out the polar quiz and the quiz will lead you to getting in touch with me. And then I can give you some advice and just point you in the right direction kind of thing or help you book a trip, if that's the case.

And then of course, we are on Instagram because we have lots of amazing pictures and video from the polar regions from all the years we've been working

Daniela: I’m already double tapping.

Heather: Nice. Definitely follow us on Instagram. We spend most of our time over there. We're on Facebook as well, but Instagram is really kind of our jam, and I think that's it. And also we have a podcast. So, if you want to hear the stories, more stories from our cold regions, it's called “AntArctic Stories” and it's a play on words. It's “Ant” and then capital “A” Arctic, because we cover both regions. So, I'm the host, and my focus is interviewing people who live, work and adventure in both the Antarctic and the Arctic, and I get to talk to some pretty cool people.

Daniela:

Thank you so much for sharing everything. It was a really interesting conversation. I loved it. My chills are on fire.

Heather: Oh, great. Well, thank you so much for having me I could talk about this ‘til I’m blue in the face, so I appreciate the invite.

Daniela: I have a hundred other additional questions I want to ask, but I want to respect your time, of course. Maybe we'll talk another time.

Heather: That would be great.

Daniela: Thank you so much, Heather. And have a beautiful day.

Heather: Thank you, you too.

Daniela: Thank you. Goodbye.

Heather: Bye.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to board an expedition ship now! It’s still my dream to go to both the Arctic and Antarctic regions in my life and this conversation definitely has reignited the fire!

The links to the sites and podcast that Heather mentioned are in the show notes. I think Heather’s job is important and what she had to share is fundamental. The travel industry needs more people like Heather and her team who know about the power that education paired with in-depth, honest, authentic experiences has.

Travel is neither good nor bad. It’s how we, the people who offer travel services as well as the people who travel, use travel.

If you liked this episode, then you’ll love everything else that I put out. Hop on my mailing list to receive the Stories of Earth newsletter, where I send out stories of landscapes, photos, travel inspiration and podcast notifications on a weekly basis.

 

Be kind and love nature,

Bye,

Daniela!

 

Show notes

 

Be kind and love nature.

Bye!

Daniela


Be kind and love nature, 
Daniela


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[Image Credit: Chinstrap penguins on Two Hummock Island off the Antarctic Peninsula, photo by Derek Oyen on Unsplash]

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