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I need to pour my heart out.

Let me begin with the big news: we’re going to Antarctica – again! Departing in December 2024, this will be our second expedition to the 7th Continent for LGBTQ+ travellers.

Not only is Antarctica one of the wildest and most remote destinations on Earth, but it was also the inspiration for Out Adventures.

Sixteen years ago – in a different life – co-founder and life partner (now good friend) Steven Larkin and I embarked on a journey to the Seventh Continent. It was a small expedition on a ship called the Explorer. I was only 24 and naïve, with mixed expectations.

We departed from Ushuaia, Argentina, arguably the southernmost city in the world. I was keen and ready to roll, until we hit the rough waters of Drake Passage – perhaps the roughest water in the world. This went on for two days, but there were plenty of onboard lectures to distract me from the waves. Naturalists talked about wildlife, the ice, the weather, and even how to take killer photos. I was stoked about the adventure.

Antarctica is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. Photo by Robert Sharp.

Then we saw our first icebergs (ermahgerd, this is happening). What happened next? Here are my five favourite memories:

  • Seeing two mountains – miles apart – connected by a cross-section of ice. This single glacier inspired my love of mountain hiking.
  • Being greeted by a raft of penguins (that’s what they’re called when grouped in the water). They jumped in and out and even guided our ship to land.
  • Zooming between icebergs on a Zodiac. The bergs were a brilliant blue that indicated they had recently somersaulted in the sea, and it was the bluest blue I’d ever seen.
  • Encountering a pod of humpback whales while we cruised. Our captain decided to follow them off course. I ran to my room to grab my camera, and after fetching it from my bag, looked up to find I was being checked out through my porthole by a humpback whale that was only a few feet away! We connected, and it was magic.

Finally, the moment that changed my life. It was an early morning, around 4 AM when the captain came on the intercom. He suggested we rise and shine because a rarely accessible bay was open, and the water was calm enough to go ashore for something outstanding. I was in.

He failed to mention a ‘calm landing’ in Antarctica meant waves crashing against your legs as you hopped off the Zodiac. Or that it would still be dark because the sun was just breaching the horizon. As we made our way up a near-dry river bed, the water’s trickle against the naked Antarctic silence was replaced by a harem of honks.

Penguin honks. As the sun rose, and the sky brightened, and we rounded a corner, they came into view. Tens of thousands of them filled every mountain and valley well into the distance. Because humans were so foreign to them, they were unfazed by us. PEOPLE STARTED CRYING. No moment in my life was ever so perfect (and I’ll easily overlook the reprehensible reek of penguin poop).

In this rare, perfect moment, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of life, unaffected by, nor afraid of, humanity. In turn, I was no longer afraid of my own destiny, even if I didn’t know what it was.

Robert first visited Antarctica eleven years ago. The experience inspired Out Adventures. Photo courtesy of Robert Sharp.

Fast forward. Steven and I are back home, but we’ve just sold our house. We’ve also quit our jobs. And we’re off to explore the world for six months. That’s when we hatched the idea for Out Adventures, and in early 2009 it was born.

We took a huge leap during a terrible time in the economy. It wasn’t easy, and it ultimately ended our relationship. But since then, the company (which is now my pride and joy) has become the world’s premier provider of gay tours with the help of some extraordinary individuals, i.e., the Out Adventures team.

Now that I’ve bared my soul, I’m so proud to be planning our second Antarctica Gay Expedition with Quark, the world leader in polar tourism. In their 30 years of business, they’ve offered the first tourist transit of the Northeast Passage and the first circumnavigation of Antarctica for commercial passengers. Now, they’ve launched a purpose-built polar ship – the Ultramarine. It’s the perfect marriage of expedition and luxury, and I can’t wait to celebrate our 15-year anniversary onboard with an adventurous group of LGBTQ+ friends. Please join me in December 2024, and check the 7th continent off your list, too.

Yours in adventure,

Owner and Co-Founder
Out Adventures

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