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PODS, Pandemics and Polar Bears

How The Strategies of Polar Explorers Can Help You Cope And Stay Safe

Recently my news feed has been filled with articles and stories about people creating "pods" or "bubbles" for social health and wellness. It refers to a small group of people with like-minded levels of social responsibility. Being a part of a pod allows for interpersonal contact and support while limiting your exposure to Coronavirus. Like a pod of whales traveling across a vast ocean people in "pods" can rely on each other for support, safety and a sense of community. 
 
I'm a polar expedition guide by profession. I organize and guide ski and dogsled expeditions to the North and South Poles for a USA based company that specializes in the high latitudes. I'm also the Mom to two awesome school-aged daughters. In the last few months these two worlds have meshed more than normal as I shared stories with them about the forced "quarantines" of many early polar explorers and the need for adaptability and patience when things go from plan A to plan B. They blended even further when their school district, along with hundreds of school districts across the country, announced this week that they will be using "pods" as a core component in returning to in-person learning.
 
The term PODS is not new to me or my colleagues at PolarExplorers. We've been using it for nearly two decades as a way to describe our small teams and as an important acronym to help us remember what it takes to be safe and successful on an expedition. PODS is a mantra for us - a back country mindset that also happens to have remarkable relevancy in the front country - especially during a pandemic. Here's what PODS stands for in our world. 
 
P - Proactive
Stay on top of the game. On an expedition being proactive can mean eating even if you're not hungry or drinking even if you're not thirsty. We are always asking ourselves "what do I need to do right now to be functioning at a high level in six hours?" and then we work towards that goal. With Coronavirus staying proactive might look like washing your hands on a regular basis, even if you don't feel like you need to. 
 
O - Organized
Being organized means having a home for all your essential items so the moment you need something you know exactly where to look. In the polar regions I might suddenly need a change of goggles, different gloves, or a noisemaker to ward off a curious polar bear. In the urban jungle, surrounded by potential Coronavirus exposure, organization is just as important. Have a home for your mask, whether it's a backpack, purse, glove compartment or hook by the back door. Always know where it lives. The same goes for your back-up mask, hand sanitizer, and other items you might need to use on a regular basis. 
 
D - Deliberate
On an expedition we're deliberate about everything we do: the way we open and get into our tents, the way we make tea, the way we put on our boots and pack our sleds. Serious complications can occur from the simple act of being mindless. This couldn't be more true with Coronavirus. Rubbing your eyes with an unclean hand, coughing without wearing your mask, standing too close to another person. Being deliberate and thinking about your actions can go a long way toward helping you stay safe and healthy.
 
S - Safe and Successful
Why should we focus so much on being proactive, organized and deliberate every hour of every day? Because it's a simple recipe for staying safe and being successful. That rings true whether you're skiing across the Antarctic plateau or standing in your kitchen making an evening meal. 
 
Since we came up with our PODS acronym almost 20 years ago it has helped us ski to the North and South Poles dozens of times. It's guided us as we traverse remote glaciers and thrive in conditions that seem uninhabitable. It helps us focus and remember what's important when things get crazy. And now, more than ever, we are using PODS to help us navigate our lives back home. Whether it's the supermarket, a school hallway, public transportation or a walk in the neighborhood, we can use PODS to remind us to be proactive, organized, deliberate and safe. 
 
But the PODS mindset is more than an acronym. It's also an interpersonal commitment to your pod. We don't always get to choose who we are in a pod with, which means that it might take some work to make a pod feel like a community. In my profession we call this skill "Expedition Behavior." It's a term coined by Paul Petzoldt who founded the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Expedition Behavior is an awareness of all the relationships within the pod and a commitment to being attentive to those relationships in a positive way. We consider Expedition Behavior a skill that's as important as being able to set up a tent, or cook a decent meal. 
 
As a guide, when one of my teams reaches the North or South Pole there is always an incredible feeling of satisfaction. Sometimes there's also a collective sigh of relief to have the hard work behind us. One step at a time we have reached our goal together. The Coronavirus is not a destination and there might not be a finite end, but it's still a journey. If we can travel this path together while being attentive to our relationships, and being proactive, organized, deliberate and safe, we will all be better for it.

Virtual Event Calendar

We might not be out exploring at the moment but have many VIRTUAL ways of expanding your horizon and feeding your need for adventure. Check out the list of virtual events below: 

Thursday, June 25th (BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND)
What: Virtual Polar Training
Where: Zoom (click here)
When: 2PM Chicago Time 
Description: With this Virtual Training, you'll add some unique skills and best practices to your adventure toolkit and ensure a better experience on your next cold weather adventure. The "Shakedown" Polar Training was first conceived as a litmus test for extreme cold weather expedition readiness, but it’s so much more than that. The Shakedown is not just for folks who dream of tackling an extreme cold weather expedition. It’s for anyone with a sense of adventure and an appetite for outdoor fun! 

EVERY FRIDAY
What: Polar Opposites (see description below)
When: 1 PM Chicago time
Watch previous episodes on our youtube channel.
Description: Join PolarExplorers guides for a Friday Happy Hour Debate as we discuss outdoor topics that have two or more sides. LIVE ON FACEBOOK. Please submit your suggestions on what you'd like to hear us debate.

PREVIOUS EVENTS

Thursday, May 28th
What: Virtual Polar Training
Where: Zoom (click here)
When: 2PM Chicago Time 
Description: With this Virtual Training, you'll add some unique skills and best practices to your adventure toolkit and ensure a better experience on your next cold weather adventure. The "Shakedown" Polar Training was first conceived as a litmus test for extreme cold weather expedition readiness, but it’s so much more than that. The Shakedown is not just for folks who dream of tackling an extreme cold weather expedition. It’s for anyone with a sense of adventure and an appetite for outdoor fun! 

Read more ...

Another Year of Waiting: Polar Poetry Slam

 PolarPoetrySlam.jpg

"Another year of waiting!"
 
It's a call many a polar explorer has cried when his plans turned out different than hoped. Usually it was the fault of the ice. Grabbing the sides of a ship and locking it like a vise. Bound to their floating homes and forced to "shelter in place" expeditions often spent two or three years, sometimes more, before being set free. Keeping spirits high and avoiding the dark thoughts of uncertainty was a top priority. Many of them turned to poetry, plays and other creative outlets to survive the tedium and to remain hopeful.

Read more ...

2020 North Pole Last Degree Teams!

 We'd like to introduce you to our 2020 North Pole Last Degree Teams! These international teams will kick off their various expeditions on April 6 and April 15 in Longyearbyen, Norway. Check back again soon as more teams and participants will be added. Make sure to bookmark our blog to read the daily updates and listen to the daily audio dispatches!

Read more ...

Vinson Team Back to Civilization

Keith and Brian are safely back in Punta Arenas and have spent their first night in three weeks in a real bed! All that's left between them and home is some minor gear organizing, a thorough body washing, and a couple flights back to North America... I'd like to pass along our team's thanks to everyone who took the time to follow the expedition. Both the Last Degree ski and Vinson teams were more cheerful knowing there were people out there following along. 

If you're interested in following more of our expeditions, check back in this April for a full season of North Pole adventures! Until then, we're signing off.

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone 1.847.256.4409
Toll-Free USA/CAN. 800.732.7328