One of the many stops on the backpacker route in Patagonia is the last city of Ushuaia. Ushuaia is also known as “El Fin Del Mundo,” the end of the world– it is considered the southernmost city in the world & the place where the road ends.
Although there is not much for a budget traveler to find in Ushuaia, there are a few free hiking trails & glaciers in the area. It’s also fun to say that you have stood at “El Fin Del Mundo.”
The real draw to Ushuaia are the cruise ships departing to Antarctica every week. These trips can cost $10-$15k or more for about 2 weeks & are typically booked months in advance!
Like many travelers, I came to Ushuaia to snap a picture at the end of the world & because it was a logical stop on my route.
Although Antarctica is a dream destination, I had no intention of finding myself on a cruise ship heading south from Ushuaia.
Step One To Getting To Antarctica: I Made A Decision
I booked 3 nights at hostel Cruz Del Sur & a flight from Ushuaia to Santiago, signifying the bittersweet end of my time in Patagonia. Normally, I just go with the flow of travel– this was the first time in my entire South America journey that I had anything planned more than 2 to 3 days out!
After I arrived in Ushuaia, I started to hear rumors about travel agencies offering massively discounted trips to Antarctica. I tried to ignore the buzz because even the discounted trips cost at least $6,000! “Anyway, my plans to leave Ushuaia are already set,” I convinced myself.
Multiple people returned from Antarctica & proclaimed that they would have spent twice as much money to do this trip– It was that good.
Now I understand why I don’t advance plan– things always change. New, better plans come together when you show up in a city with an open mind and no agenda or expectations.
During my first 3 days in Ushuaia, my mind kept wandering back to the idea of finding a great deal on an Antarctica expedition. I kept shoving the thought away.
On what was to be my last day in Ushuaia, I finally convinced myself that I should look into this once in a lifetime opportunity. After all, I had spent so much time, energy, & money traveling this far south. I knew in the back of my mind that I would likely never have the motivation to make this kind of journey again.
Step Two: Waiting period: is it going to work out?
I visited Sarah at Lifestyle Travel Agency, per the recommendation of the hostel owner & several travelers I talked to. I imagined myself spending an entire day searching for the best deal & haggling with pushy agents.
Immediately, Sarah found two discounted trips that both fell within my budget & with only one spot available on each- one leaving in 2 days with a waitlist & one leaving in 1 week. I put myself on the waitlist for both, just to be sure.
Then I went back to the hostel & prayed a lot– everything will work out how it’s supposed to, right?
Later that night, Sarah emailed & said the spot on the ship leaving in 1 week was mine if I could produce the money by noon the following day. In order to prevent myself from having a panic attack, I prayed again.
I knew that dropping this kind of money would be a game changer for my future travels. I also trusted that Antarctica would be a life changer.
In the morning, I jumped out of bed & raced to her office to make the payment. Sarah & her husband ripped the band-aid off quickly & easily.
The Send Off!
After 11 days in Ushuaia with not much to do but patiently endure the cold & rain & take lots of naps in my warm sleeping bag, I finally board the ship to Antarctica this afternoon! I am about as excited as a little kid waiting for Christmas!
I will be “off the grid” without Internet until March 23rd. Already, I can’t wait to document all of the juicy, nitty gritty Antarctica stories– subscribe to the e-mail list to get updates on this once in a lifetime journey.
p.s. — the “polar plunge” is going to happen! If you’re wondering what that is, it’s exactly what the name implies– a 10 second plunge into the icy, Antarctica Ocean.
Subscribe to my blog to get my updates when I return!!! 🙂 – Stephanie