This time of year is often a time we all reflect on the year gone and the year ahead.

I have been able to get a very real glance at what I will be doing only 10 months from now by following the very recent #HB3 Team’s trip to Antarctica, finalising the third year of the Homeward Bound program.

The incredible images of the seascapes shared by the group are nothing short of spectacular. You can feel the serenity. The blue colours in the icebergs are incredible, and the wildlife – just captivating.

As a marine biologist, Antarctica has always fascinated me. Thinking about having a chance to see all those animals (penguins, seals, whales…) up close in their natural habitat is so exciting! It is an incredibly rich ecosystem, existing much like it always has. 

In a way it reminds me of Tetepare, an isolated uninhabited island – the ‘last wild island’ – in the Solomon Islands where I lived and worked for 18 months (and where I met Gayle and Malcolm). There, the rainforest and reefs are much like they were thousands of years ago, just as the water and ice is in Antarctica. 

There is a strong link between Antarctica and places like the Solomon Islands. While both are wild and largely untouched, both are experiencing the impacts of climate change due to the rising temperatures, melting ice and increasing sea levels. 

Of course, the overwhelming feeling I have about starting the #HB4 program (and of course going to Antarctica) is excitement. But I also have feelings of uncertainty. There is a lot of work to do between now and November. Monthly assignments, coaching, group meetings and reading to do. It is a year-long program: the trip to Antarctica is only … well … the tip of the iceberg. 

I do wonder:

  • Am I going to have time to do all the theory work and still balance work, family and life?
  • Will I be able to make the changes I want to make?
  • Am I going to manage the Drake Passage? (I get terrible sea sickness which causes many people question why I am a marine biologist!)
  • Will my twin boys, Felix and Jackson, who will be three-and-a-half, and my husband, Michael, be okay while I am gone for three weeks?

I am sure I am going to have a range of feelings throughout the year, but I do know that all the people who have done the program before me say it was life changing. 

When I ask myself why I am doing this, I remind myself it’s because I want to be more confident as a leader, I want to increase my visibility and I want to be in the best position I can to influence global environmental policy. This (hopefully) will give me the conviction to do my very best this year.

Follow Gillian’s journey through the Homeward Bound #HB4 program here.