K-State president Richard Myers is no stranger to travel. Myers and his wife, Mary Jo, have been to over 100 countries as tourists and as part of Myers’ duties when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The only continent the couple is missing is Antarctica, but come January, they’ll be able to cross the icy frontier off their list. You can join them on the 14-day K-State Alumni Association trip for $10,995.
Every month, the association partners with national agencies to offer travel packages to exotic destinations like the Galapagos Islands or Tahiti as part of the Traveling Wildcats program. But the trip to Antarctica is something the association only offers once every few years.
“This trip specifically is an expedition to Antarctica,” said Terin Walters, director of the travel program. “We’ve done it a few different times, and it typically goes really well for us. We’re really selective of our tour operators to make sure they’re providing the level of service and expectation that our alumni look for.”
The northern hemisphere’s winter is the southern’s summer, and the mid-January trip starts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the group will have the chance to tour the city’s historic neighborhoods and parks, before flying to Ushuaia, “the Gateway to Antarctica” and the southernmost point of South America.
After that, the group will join several dozen passengers from other alumni associations on the MS Le Boreal cruise ship, navigating through the Beagle Channel and the Drake Passage, where breaching whales feed on plankton and krill driven up by the cold Antarctic currents.
The group then spends five days cruising around the Antarctic coast. They’ll also visit Port Lockroy, a former British intelligence post and now research station, as well as Petermann Island, the trip’s southernmost point and the home of Adelie and Gentoo penguins.
Myers said he’s excited for the trip, which he called a learning opportunity.
“I’ve never been before, it’s the one continent my wife and I have not been to,” Myers said. “But there’s the more important reason, of course, of understanding the impact that climate change is having on our planet. A lot of it is manifested down there.”
The trip is not the first alumni association trip the couple has been on, having been on a trip to Alaska a few years ago. Mary Jo herself has hosted four trips previously, and Myers said his wife typically takes good care of guests on the trips.
“When you go as the presidential couple, we’re the hosts, and for those K-Staters that come on the trip, we have specific duties,” Myers said. “They help with your fare, your cost. But you have obligations for that. … You have to make sure the K-Staters are well cared for, especially when things don’t go right. They might not get their luggage, or they might an illness — you have to step in and use your best judgement to make sure they’re well cared for.”
Myers said he also typically uses the trips as an opportunity to update alumni on K-State and the Manhattan community and build camaraderie. Walters said that while the trips are geared toward alumni, the trips have included guests and non-K-Staters. Right now, 36 alumni have signed up for the January trip, and trips to other destinations have been as big as 70 people.
Although it might be easier for Myers to list names of places he hasn’t been, he said that in his travels, the more interesting places have been anytime he’s been out of his comfort zone.
“That could be even just in the state of Kansas,” Myers said.
“People ought to be open to all these vistas, and my wife and I really like to travel. We find interesting places around the next corner. For instance, we’re going to Lindsborg for Labor Day. We haven’t been before, I know it’s a little different from other places, but I want to go experience that.”
Antarctica, though, will offer a perspective on the world unlike anywhere else, he said. The travel company provides guests with bright orange parkas they get to keep, but Myers said he’ll have to see if he can have his dyed purple.
“I know we’re going to see a lot of penguins,” Myers said. “We’ll do other things, too, and get a sense of what this continent looks like. We’ll only see a small part of it obviously, but we’ll get a feeling, an awareness of our planet. I’m looking forward to all that.”