One of our favourite travel trends for 2022 is that ‘celebration travel‘ is on the rise. We’re seeing more passengers join our expeditions to Antarctica, the Arctic and Beyond who want to make their special dates or milestones truly unforgettable.
Christopher Gawronski visited Antarctica in early 2022 as part of a photography group, as a present to himself for his 50th birthday.
We caught up with him to ask him some questions about his once-in-a-lifetime trip, the decision-making process that led to him booking, and to offer advice for people considering doing something BIG to mark an upcoming special occasion.
But first, check out some of Chris' incredible shots!
Where did the inspiration to travel to Antarctica come from?
I have traveled pretty extensively and tend to prefer the places less traveled. The more unusual places prompt interesting conversations and typically provide intriguing photographic subjects. Antarctica is one of those unusual places where relatively few people have traveled, and it provides a stark landscape that I imagined would provide good photographic subjects.
How long were you planning the trip before you booked?
I have casually thought about Antarctica as a destination for many years; however, the cost of a cruise to Antartica was always a barrier.
Was there a deciding factor or moment that prompted you to take the plunge and book?
There was a convergence of factors that led to my finally booking an Antarctic expedition. First, I was following a YouTube photographer in 2020 who mentioned he was organizing a photography trip to Antarctica. I’ve taken other photography tours and always enjoyed the way they provide plenty of time for picture-taking without holding up non-photographers. Second, the trip was planned for two years out (for early 2022), which both provided time to save for the cost of the trip. Finally, the trip timing was close to a landmark birthday of mine (50th birthday). I always like to travel someplace new for my birthday, if possible. And what better way to celebrate a big birthday than a big travel destination? So, this combination of a focus on photography, time to plan, and having it coincide with my birthday led me to decide it was finally time to make a booking.
What was the most memorable moment of your voyage and why?
It is really difficult to pick a single most memorable moment. One of the aspects of Antarctica that struck me most was how quiet it could be. Only the sound of water, wind, and possibly some wildlife. The human noise was very minimal – no airplanes, no vehicular traffic, and very few people. During periods of calm weather, one could imagine being alone on Earth. And when the weather turned severe, the raw power and beauty of this lonely continent was awesome to behold.
Any other highlights you would care to share?
Aside from the photography group, I also participated in the snorkeling activity. The snorkelers were a small, fun group that came to enjoy a camaraderie that made each excursion even more delightful. I was also very impressed with the food quality and variety; and the service staff did a fantastic job taking care of the passengers.
Did the Expedition Team and onboard crew make you feel special on your birthday?
My birthday did not fall during the trip, it was a couple of weeks after my return. This was part of what I liked about the timing: I got to treat myself to a fantastic experience for my landmark birthday, and I got to celebrate with friends and family back home on my actual birthday and share my Antarctic experience with them.
How did it compare to previous birthdays?
I have traveled to some other great places for previous birthdays. But, for a landmark event like a 50th birthday, Antarctica (and AE Expeditions) was an excellent choice that was truly unique in my experience. The trip has prompted so much interest that I have created and given several photo presentations for family, friends, and co-workers.
What advice do you have for anyone considering doing something special to mark a milestone birthday, anniversary or other significant date?
Two pieces of advice. First, have an experience that truly fits you. There is nothing wrong with seeing popular sites or going to touristy places – they are usually popular for a reason. However, be wary of going places and doing things just because they are popular. I have found that doing things I feel I should do are not as satisfying as following my gut and taking a chance on destinations or activities that are lesser-known. Second, be flexible. A milestone trip or activity can have a lot of expectations placed on it. Where there are high expectations, there is the risk of serious disappointment if things don’t turn out just right. Travel is inherently unpredictable, especially when traveling to unusual places. My years of travel have taught me it is important to go with the flow and make the most of every moment, even if it wasn’t quite what was planned. For me, the global pandemic meant a host of travel complications from mountains of health documentation to seemingly endless COVID testing. Regardless, I set aside my annoyances and did what was needed in order to truly enjoy my Antarctic experience.
What advice do you have for anyone planning an expedition with us?
I would say Aurora makes its expeditions very easy for travelers. However, pay attention to packing and clothing advice, especially when traveling to remote places. Also, Aurora tries to provide as many excursions and activities as possible. Pace yourself! If you plan to take advantage of every excursion offered, be prepared for a very full schedule. I found I needed, once or twice, to forgo an extra zodiac cruise in order to take the time to slow down and truly experience and appreciate where I was. Although it was difficult for me to say no to something, I definitely enjoyed the extra time and reduced pressure that resulted from not trying to do everything.
What’s the next bucket-list destination you would like to tick off?
I would love to see the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands and the stark landscape of the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia.
Have you started thinking ahead to your next milestone getaway?
My fiancée and I have been talking about possible trips for a honeymoon.
Anything else you would like to add?
I enjoy traveling. Over the years, though, I have found myself at times less interested in going somewhere just to see a new place. I’ve discovered that, for myself, travel needs to be intentional, to satisfy a meaningful purpose to be fulfilling. The purpose could be to spend time with friends, to truly sample a new culture, or to be inspired by the awesome natural features and forces of our planet. Traveling with a purpose connects me to our world. In every case, travel should feed the soul, not just fill a passport.
Last chance to book Antarctica for 22-23!
Spring in Antarctica and the start of our Antarctic season is fast approaching! In Antarctica, spring means fresh fresh snowscapes, lingering sea ice and the return of wildlife to the white continent, as as courting and mating rituals begin.
Not only do the pristine conditions make it a photographer’s dream, spring is also the best time of the year to do unique activities like camping on the ice, snowshoeing and even skiing, adding to the popularity of our early season itineraries.
Until 31 August, 2022, you can save up to 20%* off the cost of a cruise to Antarctica on select 2022-23 expeditions in our Antarctica Sale.