Antarctica, Videos

Travels with my Father

33 Comments 10 January 2013

Dad looking at an Antarctica photography book

Dad looking at an Antarctica photography book while waiting to depart from Ushuaia Argentina

“What percentage of the world’s population do you think gets to see this?”  dad asks while standing on deck surrounded by Antarctica and its snow covered peaks and icebergs.

“I don’t know dad – a very small percentage I guess.” I reply.

After a slight pause – he says ” They should all see it.”

It was one of those many moments on this trip that I could tell we were both on the same wavelength – awe and thankfulness flowed through me providing an inner warmth that sunny day on the top deck of the MS Expedition. The jaw dropping beauty that surrounded us, the complete quiet, the pristine mirror like waters, and the shades of blue were about too much for my brain and heart to take in and process. And each of these feelings were intensified by the sheer fact that I was here in this pristine part of the world with my dad.

Dad keeping a close watch out for land

Dad keeping a close watch out for land

I had no idea what this trip would hold for my father and I – it had been 3 years since we had taken on such a journey. I had a good understanding of how my I had changed over 3 years time, but I wasn’t sure how dad had changed physically. Three years can bring lots of changes in your 70’s. However the only main thing I noticed is that I had to repeat things more and I could tease him about losing his hearing. Or maybe I was just losing my patience – who knows.

I really am not fond of getting older – but there is one benefit about aging – my relationship with my family gets stronger. I don’t think I ever really related to my dad when I was younger – he was just someone I had to mind and do what I was told – my authority figure. And never EVER did I want to cross him or disappoint him – that would be playing with fire. But now 24 years after I moved out of my family’s house our relationship has evolved and changed. And having the opportunity to show my father, who is an explorer at heart, different parts of the world is a gift that not many people get. Just like I’m obsessed with wanting to explore every corner of this earth and experience new things, I want the ones who I love to do the same. It’s one of the hardest things about being a solo traveler, experiencing these amazing things alone. My need to share it with someone is what got me into blogging. But when I can share it with someone who has shaped my life it’s infinitely better.

A birthday celebration as a child

A birthday celebration when I was about 2 1/2 years old.

As we left the US my father had to get his travel legs underneath him again. The US makes you soft – it’s easy because it’s what we know. For any adult change is hard – but when you are 76 I think that change must be infinitely harder. I had to slow down my travel pace quite a bit in airports and stop and try to explain things and point things out. I am used to making split second decisions and not having to consult anyone, but now I had to remember that my father was still my father – I couldn’t simply tell him what to do – I needed to explain things and make him a part of the process. We made it through 3 flights to Buenos Aires with no real complications except some really sorry meals on United. However we were both happy that we had built some extra days of travel in before the cruise since we simply needed time to get acclimated and catch up on sleep after such a long journey.

In Beunos Aires I found myself pointing out the many street obstacles – as we familiarized ourself with the city by walking around neighborhoods, attending tango shows, visiting some outdoor markets, eating steak dinners, and walking through the cemetery in the blazing heat. I was happy to be traveling with a 76 year old – they don’t mind just sitting around and enjoying down time – which is much more in alignment with my travel style these days.

steak dinner buenos aires

Eating a big steak in Buenos Aires

One of my favorite things about traveling with my father is that his otherwise introverted demeanor that he has at home in South Dakota seems to disappear when on the road. I listened as he told stories of trips to Europe, work trips to South America, and his days in the army in Germany which I only seem to hear when I’m traveling with him. It’s as if a flip is switched in his mind when we travel that makes him think about his past travels.

After a quick trip up to Iguazu to see the falls we finally started our journey further south to Ushuaia. Dad now has his travel mojo going as he glided through the domestic airport in Buenos Aires much smoother than a few days prior. As we being the landing in Ushuaia dad peers out the airplane window and jabs me to ‘look’. He points to the snow covered peaks and smiles. Once again I am reminded that I am my father’s daughter – we both get ridiculously excited by mountains and peaks. As we deboard the plane in Ushuaia dad says, “now the real adventure begins.” And I nod wondering what the past week was to him! But clearly we are and have been both focused on Antarctica – and we are both excited to get moving further south.

My dad loves ships, and when he hears there’s an open bridge policy on the MS Expedition, I can tell that we will be making a trip up there soon to meet the captain, crew, and get the best view. We settle into ship life and dad and I meet new groups of people at each dinner/lunch/breakfast . People seemed surprised that we would travel together. In fact surprisingly I had a few people come up to me at times and say how cool it was that I was traveling with my dad. “You must really get along well. I could never do that with my dad.” they would comment.  Spending 3 weeks with my dad never really seemed daunting to me. I knew that we’d be fine and more than ever travel has taught me that family really is the most important thing in life.

The mainly Philippine crew starting referring to my father as simply “Dad” – I would walk into the lounge and the waiter or bartender would ask, “Where’s Dad?” I would tell them that he was out on deck and coming to join me shortly. My dad seemed to be happiest outside so we spent a good deal of time out there enjoying the landscape, birds, and the crazy weather. We were both perched out there once we came out of the Drake passage and had our first glimpse of land.

Dad and I on the front of the boat

Dad and I on the front of the boat

He also seemed to make friends with all of the expedition staff who knew him by first name and took great care of him when I was out kayaking and my dad was left to do the landing by himself.  We both loved the landings – we were both in awe to see our first penguins and seals. Dad was so amused by the penguin personalities – he was pretty happy just finding a place to sit and watch them as I ran around and took photos.

The day we finally had the opportunity to take our first steps on the continent of Antarctica we were both excited. We stopped at the Chilean station, Gabriel Gonzalez Videla,our first landing on the continent. Dad and I excitedly snapped pictures to record our 7th continent. We explored the island marveling at the Gentoo penguin colonies and then to my surprise my father who is not one for fanfare or shopping was all excited to purchase a bottle of wine, get our passports stamped, and purchase a souvenir hat.

That afternoon the weather cleared up and provided us with spectacular blue skies as we cruised through the Andvord Bay. My dad and I went to the top deck to simply watch in awe as we slowly passed some of the most spectacular landscapes either of us had ever seen in our lives. We could barely find words for what we were seeing. We talked about how these views were different than Nepal. This was even more remote – there were no villages or locals. The mountains were at sea level and stood out with their charcoal colored jagged peaks dusted in snow. And the icebergs were something that neither one of us had ever seen before. There was so much to take in and see that neither one of us wanted to go inside.

Dad checking out the penguins

Dad acknowledging a penguin

We settled into a nice rhythm on the ship. We’d go to lectures, do the landings, my dad would read and I would edit photos. We’d go down to the Polar Bear Lounge in the evenings to have beer, play cards, socialize, listen to music, and watch the sun slip beneath the horizon but never really leave us. And even though we really didn’t get much sleep on the cruise thanks to all of the excitement of being there – we always woke up happy and excited for the next day.

I realize that having healthy parents that you get along with is a true gift that I’ve been given and I want to take advantage of that for as long as I can. I remember when I was much younger my parents would take my grandparents on train trips and vacations so maybe I grew up just assuming that this is something all kids should do – give experiences back to their parents. But what I love most about my dad is his desire to take on the new and exotic. I come up with crazy ideas and he’s willing to do them with me. A side of him I never really witnessed too often when he was working at Caterpillar in the world of logical engines and processes.

I can only hope that he continues to say yes to me and my adventures well into his 80’s.


I put this video together of our journey – Enjoy!  Do you think you would ever travel with your parents?

You can follow in Sherry’s footsteps all the way to Antarctica. Plan your trip of a lifetime to Antarctica with ExpeditionTrips and save 5% on your voyage rate – exclusively for OttsWorld followers

Disclosure: ExpeditionTrips and G Adventures hosted my Antarctic Peninsula Cruise. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own – as you know how I love to speak my mind!

Your Comments

33 Comments so far

  1. Kay says:

    I needed this article. I’m planning a trip to Paris with my folks this May. I haven’t traveled with them in almost 15 years, and the trip has been a source of anxiety. I’m planning, they’ve never been, I feel responsible for providing a trip of a lifetime… it’s nice to have a reminder that I’m doing this to spend time with my family.

  2. This post hits home, S! My family and I did trips around America when I was a kid, resulting in eye-rolling and arm-crossing as I was driven from Chicago to Orlando, or forced to endure the same tantrums my sister always threw when trying to pack. My dad worked loads when I was young, so his leaving the cubicle to start a carpentry business and my moving abroad meant summers working with him and more frequent Skype calls. Since coming to Spain, I’ve had the family visit me twice in Spain, and we’ve traveled to Morocco, Amsterdam, Ireland and China between them. Turns out, I get my travel personality and my curiosity from him!

  3. Donna Hull says:

    What a lovely post about traveling with your dad. I enjoyed reading about your Antarctica adventure as much as I did reading about the trip to Nepal. It’s amazing the freedom that travel gives us to really show our personalities. I think that’s what you experience with your dad when you are on exotic journeys like this.

  4. Kaleb says:

    I read your trips with your Dad and it birngs me a joy that almost makes me cry (of happynes)! I love how as we get older we go back to being a kid! I am only 20 and my mom 41 but we do everything together and hope one day will be like you and your Dad! I show my mom your photos of both of you and she felt the same as me! God bless you and yours and give you lots of time to enjoy the world with the ones you love!

  5. Jannell says:

    So, so great! Loved the video

  6. Kara says:

    Wow! I loved this post. As I have gotten older, I have also grown fond of traveling with my parents. My father, in particular, is a real adventurer at heart…and I have a strong desire to explore pieces of the world with him. The issue is that his health is declining, and I always worry about taking him out of the country. This post plucked a few strings in my heart. Embrace these chances to explore and bond with your father…and keep writing about it. I love it!

    • Sherry says:

      Yes – when I travel with my father – my anxiety level definitely goes up as I worry about his health, his ability to get around, etc. But it’s always been worth it. Plus – he slows me down – which is exactly what I need. I hope you can do a trip with your Dad Kara! There’s always plenty to explore in the US too! :)

  7. What a great experience! I wish I had traveled with my Dad. Lucky to have a dad so healthy and full of life and vigor!!

  8. Kelly D says:

    Thanks for posting this…

    It makes me want to travel with my Dad who is turning 65 tomorrow :)

    Keep up the GREAT work!

    Kelly D < :)

  9. Mara says:

    I loved this post! As someone who lost both her parents at a relatively young age, I can say that you are wise to seize the day. I had one big trip with my father – to India – which at the time meant taking unpaid leave from work. I can’t tell you how glad I am now that I did!

    It’s funny – I really don’t have much of a desire to see Antarctica, but your post makes me think maybe I should reconsider. :)

    • Sherry says:

      Mara – your trip to India with your dad sounds amazing. I always wanted my dad to come visit me when I was in Vietnam – as I would have loved to show him the craziness of the place! I hope you do consider Antarctica – it was everything I hoped for and more!

  10. I haven’t really traveled with my parents, but I invited them to go with me to Norway in April. (They declined.) I think I’m with you – I want to help others see and experience other places in the world. I took my niece and a nephew to France last year and hope to take the other nephews places in the future. It’s also one of the reasons I started a new business with my niece; so we could earn money for us to travel together. (Her first choice: Easter Island!) Wish us luck. :)

  11. Carmel says:

    Not sure about that. I have traveled to Mexico with my mom and that wasn’t the best experience, but mostly because I had just gone through a bad breakup. I’d like to think it would be easier now that I’m older.

    What an amazing experience to have with your dad.

    • Sherry says:

      I think all relationships get easier as we age – at least that’s been the experience with me and my parents. HOpe you give a trip with your mom a try again!

  12. Sherry, traveling with your father to Antarctica and enjoying every moment of it is simply amazing! I’m pretty sure not everyone can do that, also judging by what you’ve mentioned in the post. In my younger days, I have traveled with my parents, from the Philippines and all over the US. Now in my adult years, I did travel with my father and sister back to the Philippines and I actually preferred it since he seemed to know everybody and had tight connections so everything went smoother. I will be traveling with my parents and little sister again this summer to Europe, and I am a bit nervous, but excited at the same time.

    • Sherry says:

      I always get nervous before traveling with a member of my family as I’m so used to being on my own and with family I think there is an added level of responsibility than simply traveling with a friend for some reason. But the nervousness is worth it in the end! Have a great trip!

  13. This was a very touching blog and video. I love your dad! What wonderful memories you have made. I lost my Dad 5 years ago at age 83. he was a farmer and we didn’t go anywhere while I was growing up. But the older he got, the more adventurous he became. We travelled to England, Alaska and Hawaii together and alaways had a great time. He was as excited as a child seeing something new for the first time. He made friends everywhere we went. Thank for sharing this with us. Give your dad a hug from me.

  14. Ron says:

    This was a great post! I loved it! It makes me so happy inside to know that you have a very loving relationship with your mom and dad and can show them the world through your eyes and theirs through yours. Beautiful! So happy that you were able to take this trip with your dad, hopefully, there will be many more in the future! Have you talked about a future trip?

  15. I’m so envious of your opportunity to travel with your father. I wish my father could do likewise, but at 87 he says his traveling days are over. What a treasure trove of memories you have with him. I wish for you that he stays healthy and robust enough to continue to travel with you for many years to come.

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks Barbara – I know I’m pretty damn lucky when it comes to my parents at this point. Now – the only question is where do my dad and I go next?!

  16. Lori says:

    Sherry, that video was incredible. What an incredible and amazing trip you shared with your dad!!

  17. kristi says:

    This was a really nice post! Y’all look so happy. I recently went to Mt. Rushmore with my grandmother and parents for a family trip to see the amazing mountain structures as a bucketlist item for my grandmother. It was frustratingly slow, because she moved slower. However, it was just amazing to see her face light up. I couldn’t ask for anything more really. Although, my mom had to fly with her. I just took care of her during the trip.

  18. Gil Long says:

    What a fantastic blog and video! You’re an amazing photograper, writer and daughter.

    My daughter and I just returned from a similar trip to Antarctica and had a wonderful time. It far exceeded my well-traveled expectations.

    May you continue your adventures with your father for a long, long time.

  19. Fida says:

    My eyes are full of tears after reading this. I inherited my fathers streak for adventure, but all we could do while I grew up up were road trips around our small country. He always dreamed of travelling the world once he could. By the time he retired around age 70, it was clear that early Alzheimer had set in. It made him extremely anxious and he showed fear of the unknown, which was something he never showed before. I could not entice him to do that world tour with me. All he was willing to do were small one or two day road trips, and he refused to fly a plane again, nor board a ship which he very much loved before.

    The disease progressed quickly, and now at age 86 we can only travel in his mind. On my last visit we explored his imaginary world for hours, he would describe to me what he saw – it was very real to him – and I asked questions to “stay on the trip with him” as long as possible. It’s amazing how a brain works.

    I am so happy for you that you still can travel with your father, and that you like it so much. These are memories more precious than anything else you bring back from your travels.

    • Sherry says:

      Fida – thanks for sharing your touching story. It sounds like you are making the best of every moment you are given. And that’s all any of us can do!

  20. wow! very lovely post and very helpful father.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Costa Brava Spain -> Barcelona

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