By Richard Carroll
Photography: Donna Carroll
"I love to travel because I hate having
my life disrupted by routine."
World sophisticates, the Invisible Travelers are the creme- de-la-creme of independent, take-it-as-it comes travelers. Most have advanced degrees, are on the web, carry field glasses, have a concern for the environment and a curiosity that a cat would envy.
They come from all walks of life, range in age from their late 30's to mid-70's, and are quietly looking forward to stepping onto Antarctica, the Seventh Continent.
The Invisible Travelers are like drifting icebergs. Below the surface they are focused energy, yet their facades appear as calm as astronauts. This time around they meet for two weeks, share a view of fluttering cormorants, ice flows, snow-covered mountains and waddling penguins, then disperse to all parts of the world.
Lee Mixon, an avid birder, who between journeys calls Chicago home, has covered most of South America and the Pacific Rim by train, bus and bicycle. Along the way he has sighted and recorded 1,400 bird species. "The bird migration through Israel and Jordan is phenomenal, he smiles. "They're my next destinations."
Cool and calculating attorney Jake Curran from Syracuse, New York, recently stood on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and feels comfortable whether he is sipping champagne at a resort or slipping around Antarctic pack ice in a damp zodiac landing craft.
Personable Fred Burlakoff, a young pharmacist from Williamstown, New Jersey traveled to Russia four times, and with a great deal of study, now converses in the language. Burlakoff, who always has an eternal smile on his lips, has experienced dangerous routes through Tibet and is open for any adventure. Bearded and unassuming Jim Burke, Buckfield, Maine, a trial lawyer, traveled with his trusty sandals, walking shorts and resource books throughout Bhutan, Easter Island and numerous other remote areas. Antarctica is his fifth continent.
White-haired Brigid Peer, Victoria B.C., who lived in Kenya for six years and taught nursing in Georgetown, Guyana says, "I've wanted to visit the Antarctic since I was a kid. The absolute beauty and the complete emptiness are magical. The Antarctic fills in a big piece of the travel puzzle for me."
The Invisible Travelers look like the family next door, would never be draped with the silly safari outfits of a thousand pockets, and can correctly pronounce the names of the Antarctic destinations and the wildlife. Damn pretension. Blessed with an ancient gypsy hormone, all have limited funds, but are forever urged forward by a beckoning map and itchy feet.
CONNECTING WITH THE INVISIBLE TRAVELERS
Marine Expeditions, a Toronto-based company, offers educational and affordable, all-inclusive Antarctic Expedition adventures on six former Russian research vessels that have been adapted for passenger use.
Small groups led by naturalists venture out from the ships in zodiacs and make Antarctic landings for closer observation of wildlife and the natural beauty. Marine Expeditions, 13 Hazelton Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5R 2E1; (800) 263-9147; Fax: (416) 964-2366.