Interview with Antarctic Explorer and Photographer Adeline Heymann

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Interview with Antarctic Explorer and Photographer Adeline Heymann

In my Women Who Inspire Me series, we meet fascinating women from all corners of the globe who are chasing their dreams. The goal of this project is to highlight, inspire, and provide practical advice to others. Let’s lift each other up. 


Meet Adeline Heymann, a 30-year-old French-American travel photographer taking the trip of a lifetime. She is traveling slowly through South America and photo-documenting her journey. She recently went on a photographic expedition to Antarctica.



You’re currently on a backpacking trip throughout South America. What sparked the desire to pick up and go? Why South America?

I’d always wanted to go to South America, the hardest part was choosing where! Initially I was drawn to the vibrant culture, danceable music, colorful cities, and thriving wildlife on the continent. I quickly realized it takes time to travel through a whole continent and to appreciate its diversity (from deserts, to jungles, to mountains, and beaches).

On each trip I had done in the past, there were always more things I wanted to do but never had time for. For example, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate or you learn about new things to do only once you arrive in a place. The goal of this trip was to make the time to do everything that I wanted to do. I never know how long I will stay in a place until I get there, and I never plan more than a day ahead.


What do you do for work?

I’m a mad woman; an advertising junkie passionate about digital strategy and innovation. I worked at Wunderman, an engagement agency in Washington, DC and loved it. A combination of burnout and a growing travel dream pushed me into taking this trip. I also work as a travel photographer ( One advantage of taking a long-trip after working for a few years is that you have savings to travel as you wish without having to work at hostels or compromise your plans along the way.



Photo: Adeline Heymann

You recently went on a trip to Antarctica. Could you tell us about your experience?

The top goal of my travel year was to make it down to Antarctica. I knew it was far, extreme, and expensive and that finding an (affordable) way to get there would be a challenge. After an exhaustive search and lots and lots of emails/calls/meetings, I was offered job as an expedition photographer aboard the an expedition ship. It was amazing!!



Photo: Adeline Heymann

Did anything in particular surprise you about Antarctica?

The weather can be unpredictable and crazy.


What’s the coolest thing that you saw?

Antarctica is unbelievable. When people ask if I saw any animals, the answer is a resounding YES:  millions of penguins, hundreds of whales, dozens of seals, birds, and orcas. It was spectacular. In addition to the immense volume of animas we saw, we were also able to spend a lot of time close to them and understand their behaviors. I can tell you that whale breath stinks, penguins are clumsy, and seals are cute but can be vicious.



Photo: Adeline Heymann

What advice would you give to fellow travelers who want to visit Antarctica?

There is no place in the world like it. It is expensive, but it’s truly unique and unforgettable.


What travel essentials are in your backpack that you wouldn’t leave home without?

My camera, a Steripen (to make all water drinkable), extra battery pack for my phone and my pocket knife (to open bottles of wine, and have picnics!). For long-term travelers I would also add a sink plug to do laundry anywhere and ExOfficio quick dry underwear.


What is your favorite photo you’ve taken? What is the story behind it?

This is an impossible question! I was in South Georgia (an island east of the Falklands/Malvinas) and walked to the largest king penguin colony in the world. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. This is a picture of the colony with the baby chicks.



Photo: Adeline Heymann

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had overseas?

Ice climbing in Bolivia. After seeing incredible volcanoes, geysers, salt flats, and deserts, I could not believe that Bolivia also had glaciers. I did a 3-day ice climbing hike up Huayna Potosí to 6,100 meters. Ice climbing above the clouds while the sun is rising is one of the coolest things I’ve done so far.


Where’s your favorite place you’ve been and why?

Understanding local culture really makes a place great. I loved Colombia – the culture is vibrant, fun, and people seem to really live in the moment. In Salento, a small town in the coffee region, I stayed on an organic farm hostel and the combination of people, culture, and delicious coffee made it one of my favorites.


What’s your dream destination?

My last dream was Antarctica, Columbia, Peru, and Brazil. I’ve been to the first three and have just arrived in Brazil this week! Now I’m building an ever-growing list of new dream destinations: Croatia, Jordan, and New Zealand.



Photo: Adeline Heymann

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received? What advice would you give to women who are thinking about long-term travel?

Long-term, solo female travel is common! I’m never alone. I meet amazing people along the way and form strong relationships with those around me. The best part is I can choose who I want to spend time with and am much more likely to meet locals. People always tell me that I’m lucky to be on this trip. Instead, I feel like I was brave enough to create the opportunity and do it. My advice is to create the opportunity and make the time now.


Who do you look up to?

Seth Godin – marketing master who understands people and what drives them.


How has travel influenced your life? What life lessons can you draw from your experiences?

Travel has strongly shaped my life and perspective. It makes me more patient and more open-minded. After living a very planned and calculated city life, I’m now enjoying living in the moment, having space for spontaneity, and never planning more than one day ahead. With the people I meet I know not to judge and to look beyond first impressions — people will impress you! And I’ve also learned to trust my gut and be honest with myself. When you travel you can choose who you spend your time with, and I’d rather be with people who inspire me and make me laugh and less so with people who don’t share the same perspective.  




Learn more about Adeline’s journey and see her amazing photography at and on Instagram: @adelineheymann.


Do you have a question about Antarctica, photography, or long-term travel for Adeline? Leave them in the comments below.


If you’d like to nominate a woman for this series, nominate her in the comments section.


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