The Bromo sunrise was the most surreal and beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It hooked me into travel, the crazy wonder of the world, and this feeling that I have really no clue as to who I am and what the world has to offer me.
Travel writer, Andrew McCarthy says, “The further I go, the closer to me I get.”
I think that’s one of the major reasons I’ve continued to travel since that Bromo experience – so I can evolve into the best version of myself.
While adventure has always been a part of my travels, I’ve never really travelled for a quest or to achieve certain goals. I tend to just follow the wind and see what comes up. Although, you could possibly say our upcoming America Unplugged trip is one of those quests with our intention to visit all 50 US States with our kids – 24/7 travel with your family is quite the challenge!
There are plenty of adventurous people who thrive off these quests or expedition type travels. Our friend, Lee Abbamonte is one of those. We met him on our recent trip to Snowmass in Colorado and was fascinated by the life he’s lived.
Lee is the youngest American to visit every country in the world, plus the South and North Pole. He’s also attempting to visit all 324 countries and unique destinations in the world per the Travelers Century Club list.
Lee understands that venturing on quests and expeditions involves failure, which is part of what makes them so memorable and valuable. The challenges and the failures teach us more about our own courage, power, and strength than the final outcome ever will.
We can have lots of reasons as to why we can’t do something, but I resonate strongly with Lee when he says.
“In my life, if I’ve ever wanted something, I have gone out and taken it or worked really hard to achieve it, whatever I decide I want, I make it happen one way or another.”
I’d say that the majority of the time, no matter your limitations, knowing you have this power and acting on it will make your dreams happen.
If you’ve ever dreamed of travel to Antarctica, now may be the time to make it happen.
We’ve asked Lee to share with us a little about his expedition to the South Pole as well as an amazing Antarctica expedition deal he has for you down below!
What made you decide to go to the South Pole?
After visiting every country, visiting the South Pole seemed like the next logical step for me. So few people have been there and I was excited by the challenge especially after failing to make it my first time trying!
And, of course, once I visited the South Pole I had to visit the North Pole as well, and I did earlier this year!
How do you even make a trip to the South Pole possible?
There’s really only one way to do it. You pay the astronomical cost to get there. The current going rate is about 60,000 Euros and rising!
The only other way I know of is if you can somehow get stationed at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station by the United States but I have no idea how a non-scientist could pull that off.
Can you describe the experience?
It’s worth noting again that I tried to reach the South Pole once in 2013 and failed. I had a little interference from Prince Harry of England that cost my team the opportunity! That said, when I went back in 2014, it was a real rush and a great moment.
It’s hard to describe but the weather was such that there was a day or two I didn’t think we’d make it again. That was really disheartening. But, in the end, we made it to the South Pole by the skin of our teeth at the last possible chance. If not, I don’t think I would’ve gone back for a third try. It’s just too costly and too time-consuming.
Standing at the bottom of the world, where so few have been before me, was perhaps the ultimate thrill of my life.
What were some of the challenges and why were they worth overcoming?
The challenge once you’re in Antarctica is the weather and the elements. Shockingly it’s really cold down there and significantly colder at the pole itself. With the wind, it was around -60 degrees!
The weather is so important with clouds and visibility as well because the planes landing on the ice do so by eye, not instruments. So there needs to be a contrast or it’s unsafe to land and they won’t fly.
What makes travel to Antarctica a worthy and memorable experience?
Antarctica is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen – true story. It stays with you long after you leave and you long to return.
What were your highlights of your Antarctica trip?
Reaching the South Pole of course. Also, ice caving was amazing, mountain climbing, visiting several bases and talking to the scientists and just hiking around taking photos.
Oh yes…and the emperor penguins! They’re my favorite!
What did your expedition to the South Pole and Antarctica teach you about yourself?
It taught me that sometimes failure is the biggest motivator, to never give up and that I could achieve anything including going to the ends of the Earth. Not to mention that Antarctica truly is the most beautiful place on Earth!
How can someone prepare for an Antarctica trip?
The most important thing is to wear the proper gear because it’s really cold and the gear can be the difference between misery and enjoyment. You’re spending money to go, spend a little more for good gear.
How would you define an expedition?
I would define it as a trip that works and builds toward a goal such as getting to the South Pole, taking a boat to Antarctica would certainly count as well. Climbing a mountain to the summit, that type of thing.
An expedition is a trip that can fail.
What type of travellers are expeditions suited for?
Those who are patient, goal oriented and willing to put in some time, effort and money. Basically a little skin in the game.
“Need to put footstep of courage into stirrup of patience.” ― Ernest Shackleton
Best kind of expeditions or locations?
In my experience, it’s the polar regions whether Antarctic or Arctic. Also, long boat trips to remote islands or climbing tall mountains. The location is up to you based on what you want to do or achieve.
Any tips for taking an expedition?
Go with a reliable company that has great and remote destinations and a track record of success with good equipment and people, meaning ships, staff and guides etc.
One of the polar companies I work with is Oceanwide Expeditions; one of the leading Antarctic expedition companies of the world.
Ross Sea Antarctica Expeditions
The Ross Sea is a deep bay in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica and has been nicknamed “The Last Ocean.” It’s because researchers, in their investigations to map out human impacts on the oceans globally, found this to be the most pristine piece of ocean left on Earth.
It makes you feel kinda sad but also inspired to visit the Ross Sea Antarctica.
Because it’s the closest open waterway to the South Pole, the Ross Sea has become the launching spot of many exploration expeditions that ventured inland.
Check out this video!
Highlights of the Ross Sea Expedition to Antarctica
Campbell Island is a sub-Antarctic New Zealand Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a large and easily accessible colony of Albatrosses along with penguins and seals.
McMurdo Station, Scott Base and the Dry Valleys
Scott Base is New Zealand’s only Antarctic research station and McMurdo Station is the US equivalent. There is the option to use the helicopters to offer landings in one or more places if ice conditions don’t allow water landings.
A 10km hike to Castle Rock with views across the Ross Ice Shelf toward the South Pole may also be done from McMurdo Station.
Oceanwide Expeditions will also helicopter into Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys with conditions said to be the closest you get to the conditions on Mars anywhere on Earth.
Ross Ice Shelf
Sailing along the Ross Ice Shelf is a floating mass of land-ice. At roughly the size of Spain, it is the largest such shelf on Earth and soars anywhere between 15 and 60 metres high.
In the Bay of Whales, at the eastern side of the shelf close to Roosevelt Island, Roald Amundsen gained access to the Shelf and ventured to the South Pole, where he finally arrived on 14 December 1911.
Peter I Island
Peter I Island is an uninhabited volcanic island in the Bellingshausen Sea. It is claimed by Norway and considered a territory on its own. It is rarely visited by passenger vessels and is considered one of the toughest places to visit in the world.
If the weather conditions allow, Oceanwide Expeditions will attempt a helicopter landing on the glaciated northern part of the island.
Amazing Antarctica wildlife
Wildlife flourishes despite the harsh cold of the waters. Some of the fish found in the Ross Sea have antifreeze in their veins to keep them from freezing solid.
On the different excursions onto the Antarctic continent as well as around the Ross Sea, you’re likely to see penguins, seals, whales and a wide variety of bird life.
I can see why Lee says Antarctica is the most beautiful place he’s ever seen.
Combine that with the adventure of the journey and you have one memorable trip of a lifetime!
With helicopter and zodiac rides, stunning scenery and incredible wildlife it’s definitely something I’m more interested in experiencing in my quest to discover more of myself and what I’m capable of.