Every so often, someone asks that age-old travel question, “If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?” Popular answers include tropical islands and African safaris or trekking adventures in Asia or South America. I often see raised eyebrows and strange looks when I answer, “An icebreaker to the North Pole.”
It’s not what most people expect, and even some of the most seasoned travelers I know have never even considered it a possibility! Yet this is the single item at the top of my travel dream list. (For a while, it was even on my Amazon wish list -- not because I actually thought someone would book it for me, but just to see it among the books and DVDs and enjoy a moment of wistful longing.)
Why the North Pole? I've always loved maps, and ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the thrill of crossing those invisible lines in person. State lines and international borders. Latitudes and longitudes. They all share a special quality: when you’re standing there in person, you know your exact place in the world.
Some people find those unseen lines to be a disappointment, arriving at a significant geographic point and abruptly realizing that there’s actually nothing to see. Maybe there’s a marker or a sign, but the part of the world on one side looks very much like the part on the other. The joy isn’t in seeing what’s there, but in knowing where “there” is. I picture myself as a tiny pin in a world map, and the oceans and continents spread out around me.
My particular penchant is for geographical extremes. Standing at the tip of the Indian subcontinent, I felt like I was poised at the very edge of the world. Looking down on myself from a global perspective, oceans spread out in three directions, and the entire Asian continent fanned out behind me. For the moment that I stood there, I myself was the tip of this enormous expanse of land!
To stand at the North Pole? That would be to stand on top of the world! Just imagine the whole world extending out from the very spot where you stood. What an incredible experience! To be the tiny pin at the very top of the globe.