Chasing Antarctica – feel the fear and do it anyway

“Through endurance we conquer”― Ernest Shackleton

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Yesterday I did something big and scary, at least for me. I applied to Gateway Antarctica in Christchurch to do a postgraduate certificate in Antarctic Studies (PCAS) next summer here in New Zealand.

OMG, if you only knew how hard it was to publish those words publicly.

I’ve been thinking about applying since last winter but held back because it wasn’t the right time for me professionally. To be honest, I also wasn’t sure I was good enough.

Isn’t Antarctica just for hardcore scientists? Not for bloggers and girls with degrees in medieval Spanish history.

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

For the past decade, I rode the wave of success my travel blog has brought me, getting paid to travel the world.

But since my experience with the beaching whales on Stewart Island, I found myself wanting to do more with my work. It was a massive, terrible slap to the face. But there’s a reason it was me on that beach with them, and by god, I will do something positive out of it.

Just writing about travel and taking pretty photos isn’t enough for me. I want to really make a change in both policies around conservation and also inspiring my generation to truly give a shit about the natural world.

We live on an extraordinary planet, one I’ve been privileged enough to explore. Above all, I want to do all I can to keep it that way.

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

The one place that truly speaks to my soul, and I love the most is the Antarctic. The polar world motivates me beyond measure. I eat, sleep, and breathe it. It’s so close to my heart; I don’t even talk about it with many people.

Now I’m hungry to learn more, to educate myself on this wild place, and to bring it to life for you all in a way that is powerful and creates change. My dream is to become an expert communicator around the Antarctic and to use my blog and social media to protect this incredible wilderness.

Antarctica is the frontier for climate change. What happens here impacts us all.

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

PCAS would give me the education I need to make this dream a reality.

In many ways since “making it” as a blogger, the past seven years I’ve been playing it safe. I found a formula for success for myself, and more or less, I stayed within those comfortable boundaries.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is daunting. The truth is I’m terrified of rejection. To have someone take the measure of you and say no, you’re not good enough is frightening.

To put yourself out there with a dream close to your heart and not get what you want is frightening.

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

Applying to a graduate school program a decade after I left university is scary. Submitting an application to be judged is scary. Telling you all I’m doing this is scary.

I’ve always struggled with the feeling I’m not good enough, that perhaps I’m not a “real” photographer or that my writing isn’t valid because I type mostly with my thumbs.

Fearing the hurt of rejection from something I want more than anything, I could see myself beginning to self-sabotage my application. Self-sabotage is a coping mechanism for people like me who expect everyone to let them down. Can you relate to this? Do you do this too?

Luckily, I caught myself in time. “Liz, we don’t do play this game anymore.”

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

Right now, many of us have been given a clean slate and fresh opportunities (even if we didn’t ask for it). We’re amid a freaking global pandemic, with many of us being let go, and facing a future, no one has experienced before.

In other words, it’s never been a better time to take a giant leap of faith.

Now I’m ready for the next chapter. Let’s fucking go and try something new; why not? No more playing it safe. It’s time to be brave. What’s there to lose?

I’m finally putting into practice one of my life mantras: feel the fear and do it anyway.

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

And the best part of this wild emotional roller coaster all inside my head?

Well, besides talking about penguins all the damn time, I’ve also made peace with myself if I don’t get accepted to PCAS.

This has been an incredible opportunity for me to put myself way way WAY out there in a way I haven’t done in a long time. It’s been an exercise in believing in myself, in trying something new. In sitting down and figuring out exactly what I want to be doing in the future.

No matter what happens, I know I’m following my dreams anyways. I will never stop caring for our planet and inspiring others to the same. And I’ll definitely never stop talking about penguins.

In the middle of chaos and uncertainty, I’m pretty proud of myself for finding the grit to put myself out on a limb and take a leap of faith into the unknown. What an opportunity, right?

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

Last year I had the word “courage” inked in my inner elbow to remind myself to be brave and to take risks. I’ve never felt more convinced this is what I should be doing. I know what I want to do, and I’m fucking going for it.

Upon a lot of self-reflection and work, I went ahead and put my all into this application and submitted it yesterday.

We can do big scary things together. You are not alone. I am not alone. Wish me luck!

What’s the most significant risk you’ve ever taken? How are you coping with things now? Would you ever go back to school? Spill.

antarctic studies

antarctic studies

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21 Comments on “Chasing Antarctica – feel the fear and do it anyway

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  1. Good luck Liz! The program sounds amazing. And yes, I went back to graduate school ten years after finishing college and it was the best decision (and year) of my life! As for rejection, my belief has always been to put myself out there despite the risk. I’ve been rejected plenty in my life (jobs, schools, etc) and still had many successes and ended up in a really good place. I’d be more uncomfortable with never even trying to reach my goals, even if it’s scary. I always feel proud knowing I did all I could to achieve my dreams. Congratulations on putting yourself out there for such a cool opportunity! You got this!

  2. Awesome Liz! Good luck, so great you are going to use all your great skills and experience to further the cause of conservation. I so get the self-sabotage stuff and your article resonated with me. I’m hoping as a society once we get through the worst of the pandemic we will look at how we are living and make some changes and put the planet first. Good luck!

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