Google “top honeymoon destinations” and you’ll discover a predictably similar selection of results: a passel of palm-fringed, white sand beaches hovering around 25°C (80°F). The accompanying images show couples lovingly holding hands while admiring ocean sunsets, usually from the safe distance of a lounge chair or infinity pool. If you traverse past the top ten you’ll see the occasional cool climate locale, such as a romantic Paris B&B or an idyllic Lake Louise chateau, although these are the exception. For one unconventional couple, none of these typical termini would do.
In 2014 stunt man and cinematographer Tim Van Der Linden and his actress girlfriend left Los Angeles for a European sabbatical. Having spent years building their careers and saving money, the trip was long overdue. They drank coffee in the City of Love and explored the French countryside; tasted chocolate in Zurich and took in the magnificent mountains; had a blast in laid-back Amsterdam; and, after ten years of dating, Tim proposed.
“It was a bit fateful that I popped the question on a major trip,” Tim told me, “because after we saw how easy it was to plan and accomplish, we dove head first into more adventurous travel.”
Not long after visiting Europe, Tim and his fiancé embarked on a whirlwind, eighteen day trip to China. There they toured the ancient, world famous town of Lijiang; explored the paradisiacal city of Yangshuo; and ambitiously summited two large mountains in three days including one of the earth’s most dangerous hiking trails.
Feeling inspired, they decided to pursue an even more ambitious trip next for their (unconventional as ever) pre-honeymoon, something that had been a lifelong dream for both of them: Visit Antarctica.
The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of
“We had always dreamed of Antarctica,” Tim recalled, “For me it was the sense of adventure and going to such a (relatively speaking) untouched area. My wife had always felt drawn to the continent and literally dreamed of it. She has always been interested in icy landscapes and large, empty, unexplored areas.”
So the couple started formulating their voyage to the final frontier – sure to be a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. Despite years of dreaming and months of planning nothing could have prepared them for what they saw.
“We were both unprepared for how absolutely stunning it was there,” Tim gushed, “I’ve never, by a very large margin, seen any place as beautiful as Antarctica.”
That isn’t for a lack of trying. Since he was a child, Tim has been an avid traveler. Growing up with parents who had lived in both Europe and Curacao, he regularly visited both. After graduating college Tim traveled to Australia for a scuba diving trip, and (since they’re so accessible from the United States) regularly visited the Caribbean Islands.
While Tim has done his share of budget traveling, the adventurous excursions he and his partner tend to pursue are often expensive. Despite both having successful careers in the film industry, Tim insists that it’s their financially conscious lifestyle that allows them to travel so often and extensively.
“We’ve been fortunate to be successful in this industry and make a fairly comfortable living, probably above average for most,” he conceded, “but we also live a fairly thrifty lifestyle when we aren’t travelling. We don’t really spend much on going out every weekend… and I tend to spend quite a bit less than most people when it comes to either going to bars or buying unnecessary things.”
Some of the sacrifices Tim and his wife have made include sticking to one drink at dinner, keeping their monthly expenses to a minimum, taking on absolutely no debt, and holding off on having children. (They do, however, have a pet Siamese who a network of friends look after while they’re away.)
The Price of Paradise
Needless to say, traveling to Antarctica isn’t cheap. As Tim put it, “We tightened our belts a bit to prepare for the trip, but in reality what allowed us to afford it was being smart with money over the many years prior, living well within our means, saving up intelligently, and making smart investments. With the way we had lived, it made the expense of the trip much less painful to bear, although of course the cost of the trip was nothing to scoff at.”
Nothing to scoff at, indeed. The room they booked goes for a little over $13,000 USD, and that’s not including any gear or flights to Ushuaia, where the ship departs from. The couple was happy to pay a premium for such a special occasion, but Tim pointed out that there are less expensive ways to take the trip.
“If you’re willing to share a room with friends you just haven’t met you, you can [pay] half the cost without really losing any of the great experiencing of the trip – we were rarely in our room except to sleep. Everyone on our boat was very friendly and I wouldn’t have regretted sharing a room with any one of them. Additionally, if you’re backpacking and willing to spend some time in Ushuaia, you can book last minute ship cabins at very steep discounts (around 40-50%) as long as you have a flexible schedule.”
Due to the price point of the trip, Tim and his fiancé expected to be the only young people on the ship. In reality, they wound up in a very diverse crowd, including people of all ages, from all walks of life. Among them were lawyers, Olympians, park rangers, scientists, and even a rabbi.
“The nice thing is that everyone on the expedition was fairly likeminded. Most people had an adventurous spirit and were very mindful of the delicate environment at the same time. Everyone was eager to make friends and it was overall a very amiable group of people on board,” said Tim, adding, “The wide variety of people made for great swapping of stories and plenty of great conversation.”
The Peak of the Trip
While in Antarctica Tim and his fiancé encountered penguins, seals, and whales. They witnessed icebergs turning over in the water and saw an avalanche almost up-close. They swam in the subzero Antarctic Ocean and camped overnight on the continent – all incredible, once-in-a-lifetime feats. So, I had to know, what was the most remarkable moment of the expedition?
“It’s nearly impossible to pick the best moment of the trip,” Tim said, carefully considering, “Honestly, it was probably at the peak of the high point of one of our destinations, Paradise Bay, where our group climbed to. It offered 360 degree panoramic views of the most absolutely stunning scenery I’ve ever seen, and it was such a special moment to take it all in. The polar bear plunge in the Antarctic waters was probably a close second, as that made me feel very alive and adventurous.”
Other high points included human sledding, penguin chicks hatching before eyes, and fourteen humpback whales breaching off the bow of their ship for two hours. They also drank vodka distilled at the southernmost research station in the world, and had penguins playfully porpoise onto one of their kayaks. It was New Year’s Eve, however, that won out as Tim’s favourite memory of the trip (although it wasn’t technically on the continent so he’s counting is separately).
“On New Year’s Eve we crammed seventeen people onto an eight person hot tub on the deck of the ship while we traversed pack ice on our furthest point south, and topped it off with streaking along the deck of the ship under the midnight sun.”
The Lowest Point of the South Pole
Overall, there wasn’t much unsettling about the trip for Tim and his fiancé. At one point their boat had to turn around for fear of being trapped in ice, but (possibly thanks to the aforementioned vodka) no one was scared.
“It was a bit unsettling when we camped overnight on the continent,” Tim said, “and a very thick fog rolled in so we couldn’t see the ship just as the temperature began to plummet. I slept for maybe 30 minutes that night and in the morning I had a small layer of ice around the hole in my sleeping bag that I had left open. Overall I’m glad I did it to say I did but it wasn’t exactly enjoyable and it definitely set me back for the next few days.”
Prioritizing Your Passions
Obviously Tim and his wife have made travel a priority in their lives. I asked Tim why travel is important to him and how he feels it benefits people in general.
“For me personally, travel is a big priority because the world is such a big and beautiful place and it would feel like a waste to not experience it when we have an unprecedented amount of freedom to do so. 100 years ago, it would take weeks to cross the ocean. Today, I can be in China is less than 24 hours. I really love being able to stand in awe inspiring surrounding and take it in; it’s what makes me feel alive and gives me proper respect for the world around me.
“Besides my personal ones, anyone can benefit from traveling for a huge number of reasons. It gives a deeper understanding of cultures outside one’s own and helps one understand the different ways in which the world works. It can also give people a better respect for the environment by seeing just how beautiful and fragile it can be, as well as a deeper respect for the struggles of people in different living circumstances. It has certainly given me an extraordinary feeling of gratefulness for the life I’ve led and the place I live.”
Since interviewing Tim, he and his wife have checked all seven continents off their bucket lists. That isn’t the end for their epic adventures, though. After realizing travel is pretty easy when you prioritize it, they have no plans of letting up.
This story is part of a series called Living the Dream about people from all walks of life who’ve made travel a priority.
June 5, 2015 edit: A pre-honeymoon was only the beginning. Tim and his wife took a magical trip to New Zealand for real honeymoon. See the photos, and more of Tim’s photography, at his Flikr account.