How A Women's Trip To Antartica Is Making Change
Think of that exploding feeling you get in your chest when you see something so beautiful and perfect – a loved one sleeping, that perfect view from the edge of a cliff or the top of a mountain, reflections off the ocean on a fine day. Can you explain it? What words truly capture that experience? Have you ever shared a profoundly life-altering experience with a group of strangers. Starting high school or university. Moving in to your first share house or with your first romantic partner. Your first Women Want Adventure trip. What did those forged connections feel like? Can you begin to describe the strength and depth of those bonds, the feelings that remembering that experience engenders?
I, like you, am a woman constantly longing for adventure. I have looked at what we are doing to our planet, and despaired. I have been lost and confused, wondering where the time has gone and how exactly I ended up here. Wondered whether I’m good enough – good enough at my job, a good enough friend, a good enough person.
Enter Homeward Bound. Homeward Bound is a global women’s leadership, personal strategy, and science initiative set against the backdrop of Antarctica that aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet. Over the course of a year participants explore topics including the science of climate change, personal strategy and values, personal and professional visibility in order to influence change, learning and behavioural styles in the context of team dynamics, gender equality, and emotional wellbeing, all with a focus on enhancing our ability to lead to make better decisions for a more sustainable future. The program culminates in a three-week intensive voyage to Antarctica, where participants from all around the world meet face-to-face for the first time in an almost completely isolated environment to explore these topics deeply and removed from the distractions of everyday life.
I travelled to Antarctica in January as part of the third cohort of the Homeward Bound program. Leading up to the voyage I was excited to visit Antarctica (that’s an understatement!), apprehensive about being confined to a boat for three weeks with 79 near strangers away from my regular support networks, and eager to explore in detail the course content that we had been working on for the previous year. Little did I realise how truly transformational this journey would be for me.
Antarctica was… incredible. Every moment of every day was filled with breathtaking scenery. Every experience was absolutely magical. The wildlife was amazing. But it was also shocking. Shocking to see exposed rock where only a few years before there had been a glacier, which was retreating almost on a yearly basis. Shocking that the coldest it got was -1°C during our 19-day voyage, because the choices that we make in our daily lives are impacting our planet globally. Shocking to see firsthand an Adelie penguin colony, knowing that populations may decline by up to 60% by the end of the 21st century due to changes in food availability caused by warming ocean temperatures. I have always cared deeply for nature and our planet but seeing these impacts for myself really brought home that despite everything, we’re not doing enough.
Happily, I was with a boatload of inspiring, strong women who felt the same way. Do you know that feeling when you find your village? For me, this was it. From these incredible women I learnt about climate science and the actions that I could take both individually and within my community to combat climate change. I also learnt about courage and vulnerability; that I am enough and I have enough. I learnt that the way that I see myself is completely different to the way that others see me, and that I have been shaped by my past experiences to think the way I do – I don’t have to think this way. Rather than dwelling on my perceived weaknesses I can put my energy into being a more constructive, effective, supportive mentor and leader and be more satisfied and fulfilled as a result.
So how will Homeward Bound make me a better leader and advocate for our planet? If I can encourage just one more girl into science or environmental policy, the world will be changed for the better. If I can convince someone, anyone, that climate change is dramatically altering the world we live in right now so that they make more sustainable choices in their daily lives, the world will be changed for the better. If each Homeward Bound participant has this impact and can inspire others to do the same in a global wave, the world will be changed for the better. What if you were able to do that too? So be stubbornly optimistic, make green choices, be there for the women in your lives, and always remember that you are enough.