Wrapping up 2023, tourism is rebounding faster from the pandemic than most of us predicted. We weren’t’ supposed to see industry numbers like this until 2024 or even 2025, but the world has collectively decided to move on as if Covid never happened, and tourism has reflected this accordingly. Everything has definitely become more expensive, sometimes because of supply-chain issues, sometimes because it’s an opportunity for folks to maximize profits and take advantage of others. This is true for the tourism industry, and true for everything else too.
This year I really got stuck into my bi-weekly column for Canadian Geographic, chasing stories that are inspirational, worth knowing, and unique. It’s the cornerstone of my Bucket List brand: exploring destinations and activities that you can’t find anywhere else; are wholly memorable; practically attainable; and will make a great story you’ll want to share for the rest of your days.
I kicked off 2023 with a New Year’s Eve torchlight descent at Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia. After many years of snowboarding, I’m now transitioning to skis, and it was a fantastic confidence booster (and a little terrifying) to ski at night. A few weeks later I found myself on BC’s Powder Highway, back on skis in Fernie, Kimberly and at the Panorama Mountain Resort. I explored quirky roadside attractions in New Brunswick, unique statues around the world, high-speed F1 yacht racing in San Francisco, and the origins of craft beer in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes the story is about people too, like the Syrian refuges in Nova Scotia and their phenomenally successful chocolate business, or Scuba Diving Hall of Famer and cave diving legend Jill Heinerth.
The best travel is about the experiences you share, whether it means taking your kids medieval glamping in Alberta, or a parent on a bucket list hike in Newfoundland. Sometimes family travel lies on a spectrum between beluga whales in the north, the jungle in the south, and iconic theme-parks (I’m proud of this particularly honest review of Disneyland.)
I’m always on the lookout for unusual and memorable accommodation, from the world’s most northerly eco-lodge to surviving a night in Quebec City’s ice hotel. As for wildlife, I attempted to cage dive with saltwater crocodiles in Australia, hit the prairies to see the world’s largest concentration of snakes, and looked at places near and far to ethically volunteer with animals. The two back-to-back horse-riding expeditions I took to the Allenby Pass in Banff National Park showcased the Rockies at their finest, and was my inspiring debut as a Can Geo Adventures Travel Ambassador. Learning more about Indigenous experiences across the country shepherded me to prairies campfires and other inspiring locations around the country. Further afield, I researched upcoming stories about the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval in Brazil, a sustainable eco-lodge in Costa, and exploring French Polynesia with a small-ship Wind Star cruise.
I write a monthly blog for Great Canadian Trails too, where this year you can find stories about mountains, forests, whales and icebergs, cross-country skiing and great Canadian books. I celebrated Yukon for the territory’s 125th anniversary, took a curious look at Prince Edward Island, a ride along the beautiful Kettle Valley Heritage Trail, and explored Canadian wonders that double as international look-a-likes.
The Scenic Eclipse’s owner wanted non-billionaire friends to experience the billionaire luxury yacht experience. Count yourself in.
The chef presents a burrito cigar, filled with chicken, salsa and guacamole, resting on a thick glass ashtray you haven’t seen since 1978. Next up is a slice of marbled Jack’s Creek Australian steak sizzling on hot pebbles, blow-torched to order, medium rare. Now the glazed fois gras lollipop, served on candy floss which is melted with chili-infused vinegar spray. There will be ten of these courses, each accompanied by a crystal glass of fine wine from every major wine-producing region. Am I in one of Vancouver’s new Michelin-star fine dining restaurants? No, I’m a passenger on the world’s most luxurious passenger yacht cruising off the Pacific coast of South America, and this is not even the most memorable meal of the week.
In the wake of the pandemic, cruise ships appear to be sailing in two different directions. There are the massive floating resorts appealing to the masses (MSC’s new Wonder of the Seas can accommodate a record 6988 passengers). Then there are the small, extravagant vessels that promise comfort and decadence beyond imagination. With just 114 suites housing 228 guests across five decks, the 168-metre long Scenic Eclipse sails firmly into this harbour, billed as The World’s First Discovery Yacht. This means it can safely navigate Antarctica and the Northwest Passage just as easily as it can cruise the Mediterranean or South Pacific. It also means that each extra-large, sound-insulated cabin has its own butler, electronically customizable beds, Dyson hair-dryers, all-inclusive mini-bar, balcony, gourmet coffee maker, and oversized rain shower bathroom.
-Boarding the Eclipse in Lima on a 9-day sailing to the Chilean capital of Santiago, the lush expansive lounge, beaming staff and towering bar all look impeccable. Doting, attentive and highly trained international crew outnumber guests three to one. The Eclipse was inspired by the Australian owner’s desire to offer his non-billionaire friends the billionaire luxury yacht experience. Forget the tiresome nickel and dime cruise dance, because everything is included: all premium alcohol, wifi, offshore excursions, all nine dining options, entertainment, kayaking, paddle-boarding, even your crew and driver tips. You do however have to pay to ride the two on-board helicopters and comfy submarine, along with expansive spa services that include a range of massage, hair styling and nail services. Considering the pricey rack rates for this bucket list cruise experience, those costs might feel like a drop in the ocean.
“Honey, there’s a sperm whale chilling off our balcony!” My wife is enjoying her long hot shower (the ship desalinates up to 200 tonnes of seawater every day) and misses the unexpected wildlife moment. Gathered for their daily wildlife briefing in the lounge, the ship’s marine biologists, naturalists and guides are suitably impressed. A sense of discovery, immersion in nature, and taking advantage of the ship’s many toys are baked into the Scenic Eclipse experience. Our particular itinerary, an annual repositioning called Latin American Delights, offers mostly land-based cultural excursions as the Eclipse makes her way south for another busy Antarctica season. In Paracas, Peru, zodiacs take us to the Ballestas Islands, where pungent guano is mined for fertilizer and hundreds of thousands of seabirds nest in dramatic cliffs reminiscent of the Galapagos. The following day, flamingos and migrating birds await us in the protected Meija Lagoons, an hour’s drive from the historic town of Matarani. Relieved to welcome the first cruise ship to visit the port town in two and half years (Covid and political unrest battered regional tourism in Peru), locals pull out all the stops in appreciation. We dance, drink pisco, and smile for local media. Sailing into Arica, Chile, we leave the ship to explore the culture and alien landscapes of the Atacama. Life is in constant battle with the elements in the world’s driest desert. In a small desert village called Codpa, the resident shaman’s blessing over smoke, sweet wine and coca leaves feels deeply authentic. Each afternoon, we return by bus to the Eclipse’s decadent bubble of luxury, greeted with hot towels, spotlessly clean rooms, twinkling live piano music, courtly service, and a complementary cocktail bar of dreams. Whatever region of the planet you explore on this striking vessel, expect a jarring contrast onboard to the world you’ll discover onshore.
There are 135 different types of Scotch and whiskey at the bar, and recognizing the opportunity, I’m determined to taste as many as I can. Each dinner menu is a conversation starter, each dish over the top. Even at full passenger capacity, the Eclipse is designed to accentuate opulent space and comfort, hence her ten dining experiences when the outstanding Yacht Club buffet could easily suffice. Hell, the 24-hour room service menu would easily suffice. Smiling staff are eager to satisfy any guest request. Truffle fries at 1am in the morning? Yes sir! Changing one of the six types of available pillows before turning in? Yes sir!
Expect indulgent French cuisine in Lumiere, melt-in-the-mouth sushi at Kokos, grilled rib-eye steak and lobster in Elements, and expensive wine that just doesn’t stop flowing. My favourite meal is the Night Market, where a wonderful chef named Strawberry (yes, that’s her real name) exhibits her culinary creativity across eight courses of Indian, Middle-Eastern or Asian-inspired dishes that defy description. Her blueberry folded gelato served with curry-buttered popcorn and compote will haunt my tastebuds forever. Corporate Executive Chef Tom Götter’s commitment to sustainability and reducing food waste permeates everything: food scraps like vegetable peels and kitchen castaways are dehydrated and turned into fragrant ‘dusts’ and spices. All the gelato and baked goods are made onboard, while fresh herbs grow in specialized cabinets inside Epicure, which hosts cooking classes and beverage tastings. The Eclipse burns low sulphur diesel, and when liquid natural gas starts powering cruise ships, I expect Scenic – which operates luxury river cruises in Europe and has more ocean ships under construction - will be among the early adopters. Initiatives like digital labels updated daily in guest cabins might eliminate paper, although any readers seeking a sustainable vacation won’t find it on an engine-powered cruise ship, at least for now.
As we approach our final port of Valparaiso, heavy wind and high waves pound the ship, so I head to the bridge to see how our affable captain is dealing with it. The technology and engineering inside the Eclipse is mind-boggling. Oversize six-metre-long stabilizers have been deployed on either side, large enough to keep passengers steady on much larger ships. There’s no rudder, as each prop can rotate 360-degrees, while the ship can maintain her position without dropping anchor thanks to GPS positioning. Bridge crew welcome guest visits from 8am to 8pm, patiently explaining to us how the ship works, and allowing the obligatory captain’s chair photo. I can’t stick around though, I’ve got a manicure booked, and want to iron out my back in the infra-red sauna before tackling a half-dozen fragrant Speysides at the bar.
“Who the hell lives like this?” I ask my wife, busy scrolling on-demand movie selection on our cabin’s wall-sized flat screen TV. We need a few hours to digest the 10-course Chef’s Table dinner, featuring that burrito cigar, as well as coconut ceviche, braised BBQ rib, smashed mango-curry lamb chop, and a literal homemade chocolate fudge explosion. In fact, we’ll need a few years to digest the overall Scenic Eclipse experience. Together we’ve come a long way from our first cruise onboard a typical floating hotel with packed pools and excessive buffets. Luxury small ships like the Scenic Eclipse cater to a different clientele chasing unique and exclusive experiences. Pricey it may be, but passengers will delight in that rare opportunity to get far more than what you pay for.
Visit www.scenic.ca for more information about Scenic Eclipse itineraries.
It’s difficult to describe the cultural whiplash, the immaculate jet set disorientation, that accompanies any traveller finding themselves in Bora Bora one day, and Sudbury Ontario a few days after that. As usual, I’m going to give it a go.
It was my first time in French Polynesia, although the coconut islands of Tahiti, Mo’orea and Bora Bora have long haunted my dreams, having featured in the pages of a paradise calendar that I cut out and plastered across my dorm room wall. I’d long heard about lagoons so clear you’d think the sea was an infinity pool, about beaches that squeak and opulent overwater villas. In truth, a week in the Maldives had made this nothing new. I’d also encountered Polynesian culture before through travels to New Zealand, Hawaii and the Cook Islands. I’d even explored the oddness of a French Overseas Territory before, on the island of New Caledonia in the Pacific and the Atlantic island of St Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland. Yet it’s the people you meet who create the paradise you find, and the people you travel with too.
Researching a story for an upcoming Islands and Wellness issue of Dreamscapes Magazine, I had set sail to capture the essence of multi-generational travel, how knowledge and attitude is transferred through experience. Joining me on this assignment was my mom and my daughter, completing a three-generation arc. We’d travelled together before, on a fantastic cruise around Atlantic Canada which resulted in a wonderful story for the Vancouver Sun, save for one critical detail: the cruise company went bankrupt shortly after our trip. Our days aboard One Ocean’s RCGS Resolute exploring Sable Island, Gros Morne National Park, St Pierre and the Magdalen Islands - and kitchen party nights in the ship lounge with the wonderful Barra MacNeils of Cape Breton - was truly a once-in-a-lifetime deal. On the other side of Covid, the time felt right to find a new ship, a different ocean, and see if magic can repeat itself.
Cruising on a small ship is a world away from cruising on a big ship. I learned this on the Star Flyer in the Caribbean, on the Scenic Eclipse down the coast of South America, and onboard the Wind Spirit as we anchor in Mo’orea surrounded by the island’s sharp granite peaks. Unveiled in 1988 as one of Windstar’s original vessels, the old girl – as her affable captain referred to her – is a beautiful ship: four towering masts, a fantastic crew, plenty of water toys, and just the right mix of luxury and adventure. We shared a cabin on the lower deck, and as the only child on the ship, my daughter quickly stole the show, running about as if she owned the boat. We visited a vanilla plantation and pearl farm, hired a scooter to circle Bora Bora (twice), kayaked and stand-up paddle boarded, and took advantage of some of the best snorkelling on the planet. Chats with the kids about shark conservation bore fruit when I watched my daughter jump into the sea with dozens of black-tip reef sharks, the first passenger to do so. The next day, my mom was molested by lovable stingrays in search of a cuddle. We listened to local storytellers, devoured fresh tropical fruit, did the cha-cha on the pool deck, and conversed with a diversity of personalities from around the world.
A few days later - luggage successfully retrieved after being lost in-transit between Tahiti, Los Angeles and Vancouver - I took my second red-eye of the week to catch an early morning flight from Toronto to Sudbury. The last time I was in the Big Nickel was for a book tour in 2013, when I spoke at the local Chapters bookshop. This time I had arrived to deliver a closing keynote at the Travel Media Association of Canada’s Annual Conference, which gathered over 200 of the country’s top travel writers, PR pros, influ..content creators, destination marketing organizations, and other professionals that make the business of travel media tick. It’s one of the few opportunities my profession has for stories to be told and sold, for connections to be forged, and destinations to be discovered. Workshops and panels inspire professional and personal development, and this year’s host city of Sudbury put on a show for our travelling circus.
Still bombed from the red-eye, I could have fallen asleep on the bed of nails inside the excellent and interactive Science North centre (a few minutes in the gyroscope woke me up and turned me green). An outstanding meal at the highly-rated Kouzzina was the first time I’ve had my appetite for carpaccio truly satiated. The event was an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues I haven’t seen since the pandemic, all of us bearing a few scars of that fever dream. It was an opportunity to chat about our industry, to learn, to gossip, to grow, and to plan the adventures you’ll be hearing about in the future. It was also an opportunity to taste fine Irish Whiskey (courtesy Tourism Ireland) and participate in the best karaoke party this side of Osaka. Sabrina Robson of Destination BC belts a version of Amy Winehouse’s Valerie that kicked up a storm and left the veteran karaoke DJ speechless. I did my part with perhaps the best karaoke performance of my career: Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West was simply the right song, delivered at the right time, for the right crowd.
My closing keynote addressed the past, present and future of travel media. I told everyone that we’ve been at the crossroads of change for so long I’m surprised nobody’s opened up a hotel resort at the intersection to take advantage of it. I looked back to the remote and recent past, discussing the transformations of mediums, the growth of tourism, overtourism, and the challenges and opportunities awaiting us around the corner. Stitched throughout was my own journey, discovering how to travel as an awkward teenager (Lawless Rebel!), learning how the media works as a student, and how I used curiosity to recognize potential. My goal was to celebrate our unique profession, and celebrate our good fortune to live and work in Canada. Receiving a standing ovation from my peers, colleagues and friends was truly humbling, making Sudbury yet another trip I’ll remember for a lifetime. Proving yet again: a bucket list experience is only as special as the people you share it with.
I just returned from the most incredible research trip cruising the Northwest Passage in the High Arctic. I was sailing on One Ocean Expedition‘s Akademik Sergey Vavilov, a Finnish-built, Russian-flagged by Canadian chartered expedition ship that is ice-strengthened for wild polar trips. It felt great to return to the Vavilov, which I sailed on in Antarctica last December researching my Great Global Bucket List book. Flying from Ottawa to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, I’d be joining 88 other passengers from around the world. We boarded the ship and headed up the ragged coastline (80% of Greenland, the world’s largest island) is covered by a thick ice sheet), arriving in the town of Sisimiut. It was like stepping into Iceland, or Norway, or northern Sweden. From there we spent two days crossing the Baffin Strait to the Inuit community of Pond Inlet on Baffin Island. Quite a contrast between the communities of Nunavut and Greenland! In Pond Inlet I went to the cultural centre to see some demonstrations of throat singing, one-footed high kicks, drumming, dancing and other Inuit games. You can’t believe you’re in Canada, but the local Co-op takes Canadian dollars (of course) and remarkably, you can get fresh veggies every day. Everything fresh is flown in, and the prices reflect this accordingly.
From Pond Inlet Captain Beluga (yes, that’s his real name) steered the ship north into the Lancaster Sound, and the start of the Northwest Passage. Now we were firmly on the trial of the doomed Franklin Expedition. With the discovery last year of the Erebus, the flagship of the 1845 expedition that vanished, there’s been a lot of news and interest into the fate of Franklin and his men. Forensic scientists recently confirmed signs of cannibalism on recovered human remains found scattered along the coast of King William Island. The Erebus and sister ship Terror didn’t get very far before sea-ice boxed them in for two years in a bleak, desolate place called Beechey Island. We visited the grave markers of three of Franklin’s men, lucky enough to have died of natural causes and not starvation. John Torrington, a 20-year-old sailor, was exhumed in the 1980′s and he’s been basically mummified by the permafrost. It was a bone chilling place, all the layers I was wearing didn’t stop the chill running down my spine. The stark landscape of the islands was contrasted by the lively crew and passengers, delicious hot meals, stocked Scotch bar and hot tub on board the Vavilov.
Hiking the tundra at Dundas Harbour on Devon Island, life in the Arctic was distinctly more colourful. Arctic cotton, poppies, willow and lichen practically glows under a bright sun. The colours on a clear day are unusually pure, as you can see in the images above. It took a while to find the famously scarce Arctic wildlife, but it was worth it when we did. Two large polar bears feasting on belugas on the shore of Conningham Bay. Hundreds of thousands of sea birds nesting on the dramatic cliffs of Prince Leopold Island. Some of the kayakers managed to spot some narwhals. I was more swept up in the history of the Franklin Expedition. How early explorers into the Northwest Passage suffered is beyond comprehension. In solidarity, I fell down a flight of stairs on my way from the hot tub to the sauna. How we suffer for our quests!
I’ll be writing more about this trip in the coming months, and it’s a terrific chapter in my upcoming book, The Great Northern Canada Bucket List (on shelves in February) as well as being featured in The Great Global Bucket List (on shelves in Fall 2016). Check out some of these incredible images taken by my talented photographer, shipmate and buddy Jeff Topham. Thanks to all my fellow passengers, One Ocean Expeditions, and the fabulous crew of the Akademik Sergey Vavilov!
My Great Global Bucket List summer kicked off with a truly remarkable sailing down the Amazon river. I've skirted the Amazon a couple times, but I wanted a deep jungle experience, and I wanted it in style. That's how I found Aqua Expeditions, and their Aria luxury riverboat. It's like a floating five star hotel in one of the world's most hostile environments.
King size beds, rainshowers, air conditioning, stocked bar, a Jacuzzi, sundeck, viewing lounge, dining room and all with floor to ceiling windows. There are 16 luxury suites catering for up to 32 guests, with 24 crew catering to your every need. The whole time I'm thinking: This is the Amazon?
Before I get to the jungle I have to get to the food. The menu was created by one of Peru's rock star chefs, and executed to perfection. All local Amazonian fare like catfish and plantain and chili marshmallows and fruits you've never heard of. Every meal is a tasty adventure, served with complimentary (and well selected) wines from Chile.
There are two to three excursions a day, the passengers split into one of four skiffs, heading into the tributaries in search of wildlife. We saw sloth, monkeys, unbelievable varieties of birdlife, river dolphins, and also the many communities of people that call this part of the world their home.
Below was taken from a short walk on terra firma (land that does not flood) where I had a poison dart frog crawl up my leg, watched a local hold a huge hairy tarantula, dodged bullet ants, and felt the intense jungle heat and humidity. Although Brazil gets most of the attention (it holds 60% of the Amazon basin) the Peruvian Amazon is the size of Spain.
A boa constrictor doing it's thing during the jungle walk. Life is abundant and everywhere but you could walk right past it.
Mimosas at sunset, shortly before a night excursion to look for (and successfully grab hold of) caimans. There were 24 guests on my sailing from the USA, UK, Australia, Austria and Japan. Everyone got a long splendidly.
My wife joined me for this trip (we left our two year old with her grandparents) which made it an extra special assignment. This is the view of the Amazon from our cabin. At night, we watched the stars, during siestas, we watched the world float by.
You'll be able to read all about my adventures on the Aria and in the Amazon in my opus, The Great Global Bucket List, which will be on bookshelves in fall 2016. Special thanks to Aqua Expeditions and LAN Airlines for helping me tick this one off the list!
Next up: The Galapagos and the Arctic!
Credit: Flickr CC: Richard Rydge
Rio de Janeiro / Sydney / Cape Town
Come December, these are the world’s three most beautiful cities, the cool kids at the back of Planet Earth’s bus. They all have pristine beaches basking in the glow of a gorgeous summer, fuelled by an urban population all shook up and ready to pop, not to mention thousands of foreign invaders with no other purpose than to party their tans off. In Rio, it is traditional to wear all white on the Copacabana, where around two million people gather to watch the fireworks. Cape Town has its own smaller carnival, as thousands flock to the streets and beaches for outdoor parties, raves, and live music. I’ve witnessed the fireworks spectacle in Sydney on New Years Eve, duplicated at various points along the inlet, observing how locals excitedly judge the annual theme and pyro performance. Hold on to your purse and wallets, take a deep breath, and dive right in.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
It’s New Years Eve, and I find myself at a traditional ceremony, in which I become the subject of a tribal mating dance. It’s awkward enough for me being at a club and watching girls do the bump and grind, but tonight, the intensity and eroticism of the ritual gives me the clear impression that if I react in the wrong manner, I might wake up with a wife, a chicken, and three goats. It was approaching midnight by the time I left the compound, shaken but not stirred, and I found myself walking alongside a thick iron gate. Making sure the coast was clear, my friends and I climbed over it, and walked quietly amongst the giant marble columns of this former Sultan’s palace. Coconut trees ushered in the warm sea breeze, the clock struck 12, and we toasted to health, peace and safe travel, on the stairway of the House of Wonders.
Credit: Flickr CC: Bill Larkin
Times Square (New York) / Trafalgar Square (London)
Millions will gather on this frigid, bone chilling night, celebrating the end of yet another year in which humanity somehow avoided destroying itself. It all looks very fun on television at home, where you can gather with your friends in comfort, refuel your eggnog from the kitchen, and use a bathroom without strategies and maps. My own memories of Trafalgar Square on New Years Eve recall extreme cold, overwhelming crowds, belligerent Scandinavians, and tons of garbage. Sure, it’s great to be in the world’s most hip and happening cities on New Years Eve, but as with all the suggestions on this list, your immediate company makes all the difference when the ball drops. Unlike the summer beach cities, it’s a more tense in the northern hemisphere, so dress warm, smile lots, and be sure to empty your bladder whenever you get the chance.
All the amenities and attractions that make cruise ships such a luscious holiday option double on New Years Eve. Together with the guests (and crew), it’s a massive floating house party, where every detail has been thought of, and every whim catered to. The food buffet, enough to feed a mid-sized town in Botswana, is stocked with festive treats, as are the various bars around the ship. For the crew in charge of entertainment, they’ve no doubt planned something special – confetti, balloons, bad 80’s music. Everyone’s dressed up, couples in their love bubble, singles relaxed by the fact they can always blame their behaviour on New Years shenanigans. Tropical skies and strobe-light stars are just a few feet away, and the best part of the whole lot: you don’t have to drive anywhere. In fact, in stark contrast to navigating the immense crowds and traffic of a major city, when it comes to a cruise ship on New Years Eve, you don’t have to worry about much at all.
This is a true story. It’s New Years Eve, I’m backpacking alone, with a horrific case of flu. Woe is the traveller who feels sorry for himself, so I haul my sorry butt over to Temple Bar, Dublin’s rocking entertainment district. Like many other bars, Eamonn Dorans has an incredible Irish band burning the roof, raising my spirits, confirming that it’s no accident U2 come from these parts. At midnight, a cute girl approaches and tells me that it is tradition for girls to ask guys to kiss them on New Years Eve. Then another. Then another. This is why Dublin has found its place on my list, even if I did wake up in a strange bed with a stranger woman, hours outside of Dublin, a demolition crew wrecking havoc in my skull, and no recollection of how I ended up there. Bless me leprechauns!
Your Friend’s Place / In the Lounge with Your Family
Much like our other commoditized joys for celebration, the spirit of New Years Eve has been waning in recent years. It is a time to come together with friends, reflect on the joys, sorrows, triumphs and highlights of the previous year, and make blessings for the year to come. You can find an excuse to go clubbing (or party to excess) on any night of the year, but tonight, as the 08 rolls into the 09, we have a closet to hang all we that have to be grateful for. We have an opportunity to share our thoughts and dreams with those who matter most. Take it from me: If you are with the people you love, you are not missing anything, anywhere on New Years Eve. Wherever you are is exactly where you’re meant to be.
Here's to another inspiring, fun and safe year of travel.
That time legendary polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and I escaped certain death on the pack ice. Man, that was hilarious.
The story of how continents became continents is quite a fascinating one, and I'll let one of my favourite Youtubers CGP Grey explain it, because he explains things better than just about anybody else out there.
But the fact remains that I've never been to Antarctica, and to miss a country is one thing, but to miss a whole continent, well really, that's just annoying. I mean, what did that continent ever do to you? Besides being the most hostile, desolate, unforgiving, unwelcome and dangerous place on Earth?
To be fair, Antarctica isn't like that anymore, at least not for the vast majority of the people who visit each summer. Instead of fabric tents been torn to shreds, pack ice crushing ships and everyone eating the sled dogs, modern expedition vessels bring thousands of tourists into the peninsular each summer season - in safety and comfort.
I've wanted to go to Antarctica since forever, and now that I'm researching my new book, The Great Global Bucket List, I could not dare leave it out. This is why I'm packing for a 10-night journey on One Ocean Expedition's Russian-flagged Akademik Sergey Vavilov. I'll be flying to Buenos Aires, and onwards to Ushuaia, the most southern tip of South America, catching the boat there. British Columbia-based One Ocean Expeditions are the cream of the crop when it comes to Antarctic adventures. Their 117m boat has a bar, library, sauna, plunge pool, and presentation room for talks about penguins, and the great age of polar exploration. When men didn't complain even if frostbite had bitten off half their face.
Last week, I read Alfred Lansing's classic book about the story of Shackleton's incredible adventure on the ice in 1916. I couldn't put it down...what these men went through over 18 months stranded on the ice is a testament to survival, instinct and endurance. Refreshingly, nobody had to be eaten. But you're probably wondering why visiting Antarctica belongs on the Global Bucket List? Me too. I know the wildlife encounters are supposed to be incredible. There are icebergs the likes I've never seen before, and coastlines that defy description. Sailing the world's roughest crossing - The Drake Passage - is going to be an adventure in itself. However, the activity I can't stop thinking about is that, weather permitting, we will be spending a night sleeping on the pack itself. It's approaching summer solstice down there so stars are not the draw, nor the southern lights. It's the fact that I'll be spending a night on the elusive seventh continent, the one very few people get to see. With little access to the internet, my next post will be post-trip. If you don't hear from me in a month, send a rescue party. And I mean party...with hats and booze and confetti and cups to play beer pong with. I'll invite the penguins.
Ever wondered just how much food gets consumed in one week on a cruise ship? I got these stats from the Carnival Freedom, a behemoth that holds over 4000 people, and hosted my first cruise experience.
That's replenished every week, for just one of the many dozens of cruise ships feasting their way around the world. Here's an article about food supply on a cruise ship. What to make of all of this, in a world where people go hungry?
I defer to the Roman poet Horace, who wrote:
"Clogged with excess, the body drags the mind down with it."
Then he drank some more wine and fondled some grapes.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.