But all of this makes it almost impossible to say goodbye to it.
I flew down to Antarctica from New Zealand on January 23, with the intention of staying 9 months and spending a winter season in McMurdo Station. I did a Winter in 2011, and had an amazing experience. I was looking forward to repeating the experience, and adding new things to it; meeting new people and having new adventures. I packed for nine months, said goodbye to friends and family, and flew down.
But winter in Antarctica is not something many people can handle. This is literally the harshest, highest, driest, and coldest continent on earth. It's physically isolated from the world from March to August every year (February to November if you're at the South Pole!). And that made me realize that despite the love I have for this place, and for the amazing, extraordinary people here... I cannot stay this winter.
I won't go into detail on a public blog, but personal reasons mean that I can't stay this winter down here without the ability to leave for six months. It was the hardest decision of my life to make, and I'm so thankful that I have the support of my friends here and off the Ice, to help give me strength to do what I need to do.
I don't think you can ever truly "leave" Antarctica. Once you've come here, a piece of it stays in your soul, lurks in the back of your consciousness, for the rest of your life. Even if you can never physically return, you know that part of your heart always belongs to the Ice. I do hope to return someday; maybe later this year, maybe next, maybe years down the road. I love Antarctica too much to let it go completely.
My adventures will continue once I leave here. I'll be back in the States next week, and from there... who knows? There are a million new places in this world to explore, and a million new places that I can fall in love with. After all, you never forget your first love, but maybe there's something out there to fill the hole in your heart.