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5 min read

Beyond the Classroom:A Family’s Expedition to Antarctica

A trip to Antarctica warrants an excuse to miss school.

Three weeks before embarking on our first journey to Antarctica, I found myself in the school counselor's office with my 15-year-old son, Scott, making a passionate case for why this trip justified his absence from school for two weeks. Armed with the cruise itinerary and rehearsed arguments, we nervously explained the educational value of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Looking back, we laughed at how we tried to oversell the trip, eventually realizing the simple truth: the allure of Antarctica speaks for itself. The counselor's enthusiastic support and assurance that Scott would learn more during this trip than in two weeks of schoolwork sealed our decision with high-fives.

Preparing for the Antarctic cold required acquiring specific gear, but Scott's interest lay in choosing the right photography and videography equipment. He dedicated hours to researching cameras, GoPros, selfie sticks, and gimbals on YouTube. We already had most of the necessary gear, needing only a few extras for battery life and storage. I tasked Scott with managing all our equipment, deciding which to use each day, and editing our footage. This responsibility not only kept him engaged but also honed a valuable skill in an era dominated by screens. Sharing his experiences on social media, particularly Snapchat, became a key part of his enjoyment.

For Scott, this trip marked his first cruise and his introduction to the wonders of not only Antarctica, but the lifestyle of a passenger. This cruise, aboard the luxurious Scenic Eclipse, complete with butler service and a spa, added a humorous element as we reminded Scott not to expect such extravagance at home. The ship's evening entertainment featured a classically trained Serbian pianist who, taken with Scott's self-learned pop renditions on the piano, offered him impromptu lessons, enriching his experience further. The cruise's all-inclusive setup was particularly appealing for a teenager like Scott, offering endless culinary delights and the chance to taste dishes from across the globe at any hour. Moreover, Scott's interactions with crew members from diverse nationalities provided him with a rare opportunity to engage with a variety of accents and cultures, enhancing his worldly perspective in ways that years of travel might not achieve. Unique to Scenic, the cruise's 'open bridge' policy allowed Scott frequent visits to deck 7, where he stood beside Captain Ned and the navigational team, absorbing their expertise in maritime navigation. This learning experience was complemented by a tour and presentation in the engine room led by the Chief Engineer, showcasing the technical prowess behind the vessel's operation.


Ideally, the nature of expedition travel is what made the whole trip more enjoyable for Scott. Specifically, an expedition cruise aims to enhance your experience off the ship, and the activities that we participated in were enough to keep a teenager engaged and active. Between Zodiac landings, hikes, kayaking, paddle-boarding and a helicopter ride, daily norms were hard to explain back home. One of these activities in and of itself is amazing, but to engage in such opportunities daily was too good to believe. The expedition leaders were young adults, who had a passion for the outdoors, which was ‘cool’ to Scott. These Discovery Leaders made learning fun thanks to the interactive nature of our surroundings. Words can barely express the feeling, or the sound created by a Humpback whale while kayaking 20 yards away. The expedition leaders were quick to tell us that we were getting spoiled, and nothing else may ever compare.

Among the 162 passengers, Scott was one of only three minors, making his time with us, devoid of peers, a significant adjustment. Spending 2 weeks with mom & dad without friends may seem like eternity, and without a doubt, he needed his space from us but overall, he managed his emotions well. We opted to overlook the occasional eye roll or 1-word ‘Bruh’ response. All his brief annoyances at us, were overshadowed by the sheer excitement on his face from taking off on a helicopter from a ship, doing a front flip polar-plunge into 30-degree Fahrenheit water, listening to the sounds of a penguin or fur seal arguing with one another, or even something as simple as trying to walk steadily across the ship’s lounge while navigating the Drake Passage.


My memory of this cruise is fortunately logged in photos and videos, but the feeling of having Scott with us is etched in my heart. If I could give any advice to somebody considering taking their teenagers, or their ‘grand teenagers’ along on a journey that isn’t mainstream, then I would emphatically encourage it. State your case to take them out of school and go learn and share together. Trust me, there will always be another sports game to play in too. The trend in ‘gramping’, a concept for grandparents to take their grandchildren on a ‘skip-gen’ (skip-a-generation) travel has increased since the pandemic, and I would argue that teenagers are more respectful and admiring of the quality time spent with their grandparents. Gifting travel for special occasions will reap heartfelt rewards way above any monetary thing we could gift them. Teens might be captivated by the allure of the latest iPhone, VR headset, Lululemon leggings, or trendy sneakers, but what truly leaves a lasting impression is the quality time spent together. Trips create unforgettable stories that last a lifetime, offering impactful experiences that not only enrich their lives but also become cherished memories. Ultimately, it's the shared moments that stand out as the most significant, enduring legacy.