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Reflections From Antarctica

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 19/02/2016


One month after Erickson Coaching International's Vice President Eileen Bistrisky returned from climbing Mount Vinson in Antarctica, we wanted to learn more about her adventurous expedition and her personal reflections from her trip. While enjoying the incredible beauty of Antarctica’s landscape, a remote expedition like this can also teach us a lot about overcoming various challenges, as well as finding our personal space within a team dynamic.  

- Eileen, why out of all the possible places out there, did you choose to go to Antarctica?
Eileen: Antarctica is appealing both because of its remoteness, as well as how incredibly pristine it is. It’s one of the few places on Earth that humans haven’t managed to destroy yet, and are actually making a tremendous effort to continue to preserve. The idea of going to a place that’s beautiful, pristine, and remote to experience nature unaffected by humans was very appealing.  

- What was the very first thought you had when your airplane landed at Union Glacier?
Eileen: I loved how vast, white, beautiful and spectacular it was! I have traveled to mountains all around the world, and I have to say that the only other place I can remotely compare it to was Denali in Alaska. The reason why I loved Denali as well was how white and glaciated it was. The mountains in the Himalaya, Andes and many other ranges are equally beautiful and spectacular in their own way, however you see a tremendous amount of rock and dirt, and a different landscape. There is something quite magical about ice and snow and being on a glacier the entire time.  

- When you saw how white and pristine Antarctica was, what was the one feeling inside that you really noticed?
Eileen: Peace.  

- What are some key reflections and new takeaways that came from this trip?
Eileen: My reflections centered around my personal relationship with what was going on. When you are mountaineering, there are certain factors that you have to deal with on any mountain. There is the altitude. There is the team dynamic with the people you are traveling with. There is the physical challenge of what you are undertaking.   This was the last continent that I traveled to. I had done expeditions on six other continents. Where I often struggle is with acclimatization, and managing my personal acclimatization which is usually slower than everybody else’s. This in turn impacts the dynamic of the group that I am traveling with. It took six other continents of learning and finding the right recipe, for it to finally all come together in Antarctica.  

For the first time, despite the fact that as usual I wasn’t ready to go the summit when my teammates were going, I finally had the internal confidence to feel that it was OK. I was at peace with them going without me. I also learned to trust that another opportunity would present itself, and felt a sense of zen throughout the whole process. This was the first mountain where I really felt that zen, and not stress. In my previous trips, I was not always able to summit the mountain when my teammates were going. The first time I turned around and did not summit the mountain at all, while subsequent times I stuck it out and made it, but only after dealing with a lot of anxiety, personal struggle and doubt. Antarctica was the first trip where I really had trust in the outcome and felt positive the whole time. There was no difference in the variables that were open to me this time - the difference was in my approach towards the variables.  

We have a tendency to gravitate towards doubt, fear, and anxiety which can really paralyze us. If instead we learn to gravitate towards peace, calm, acceptance, confidence and trust, the journey becomes much more enjoyable even if the outcome is the same. One can argue, that in my earlier trips, the overcoming of the doubt was a triumph. Antarctica was, in this sense, less of a victory because I did not have to overcome the same doubt as before. However, for most of us, to go through a journey while being more positive and to experience zen is a personal triumph.  

- Thank you, Eileen for sharing with us your experience and personal insight. I guess, one last thing that would be interesting to know is where you are planning to go next?
Eileen: I don’t know yet (laughing). I seize opportunities as they come!