You’re Going to Miss … Svalbard

by | Jul 11, 2022 | Svalbard, You're Going to Miss It... | 0 comments

 

PRESS play and read the post with the music 
(and feel free to even watch it; it’s very applicable) . . . 
 

 

You’re going to miss hearing about trip to a region on Earth you never heard of before, signing up from as far back as 3 years to as close as 3 weeks, no longer holding your breath if this will actually happen after 3 postponements over 3 years, and then a cautious inhale when finding out it actually will, and ironically sooner than you had expected. While you may not miss the incessant requests to fill out the confusing mess of Personal Information Forms over and over and over again, you will miss that being a unique way of getting to know your fellow traveler, after which you shoot questions back and forth in the group chat and during the virtual orientation regarding the paradox of packing winter clothes for a summer trip.

You’re then going to miss dodging all the summer flight drama to reach Oslo in time, beginning your first few hours with splendid coffee outside in perfect weather, exploring all of this tiny capital city within hours the way you remembered it, reuniting with a long lost travel story from 11 years ago and feeling like you finally followed through on a promise, gallivanting through her childhood, giant soft serves, and sculpture forests, group exercises in procuring dinner among scattered stalls in a crowded food hall, dancing under Scandinavian rain and dodging nudist families in your basement spa before waking up to a splendid breakfast spread on your hotel rooftop. You’ll then miss absconding off to different parts of Oslo in your separate ways and reuniting at the airport, where you’ll be perplexed by an efficient baggage drop-off operation followed by maddeningly inefficient security lines. And while you’ll all still get through with plenty of time, it’s time to get confused again when you’re asked to stamp your passport out of Norway to visit a territory of Norway’s, which ultimately makes sense because you’re really flying to a magical internationally recognized enduring winter wonderland that neither stamps anyone’s passports nor knows a summer night sky.

 

 

You’re going to miss watching out the window as your flight descends below the clouds to see the valleys of Svalbard for the first time, the photoshoot on the tarmac as if you were landing back in French Polynesia, your first (fake) polar bear sighting, the back and forth on how to pay and for how many on the airport shuttle bus (and still getting a good deal out of it), the slow drive into Longyearbyen and just taking in how grand nature seems here, reuniting with old friends at reception of Coal Miners’ Cabins, dropping off your stuff quickly at what feels like a ski lodge hostel hybrid, the reassurance that your window curtains are capable of blackout lighting, the odd daze of your first white night while walking the 20 minutes into the city under the warmth of a perpetual midnight sun, “bar hopping” from one potential dinner spot to the next, and then having your first Scandinavian dinner over a hearty and guilty heaping of whale meat.

 

 

You’re going to miss waking up to your first arctic “sunrise” and how it looks exactly the same as what you fell asleep to 9 hours prior, the half-assed scramble to make it to an 8am bus to take you to your first boat ride of the trip, the first of many safety orientations followed by a near onboard mutiny when part of your group would find out there would be no entertaining the Russians with our presence at Pyramiden, the awkward silence and negotiations over a very very prolonged ship ride afterwards, the innocence lost at the undesired future in the “Doomsday Vault,” getting back with still enough time to explore Longyearbyen with café adopted huskies to wash away the morning’s aftertaste, another dinner back at the same restaurant (now that you know what to order), and waking up the next day for another lazy morning exploring more of the settlement and checking off all the “northernmosts,” before the journey begins with your first life vest fitting and zodiac ride across to your new (and for some of us, old) home away from home.

 

 

You’re going to miss the excitement of opening the door to your upgraded rooms, patiently waiting for your luggage to arrive from the harbor (or the airport), and exploring how to fill all the little nooks and crannies that you get to nestle with for the next week. While you won’t miss the following endless rounds of safety briefings, evacuation drills, and more safety briefings about the safety briefings, you will miss the ship staff struggling to locate some of your friends for the evacuation drills, the first group photos on the helipad, welcome champagne, cider, and kir royales, the first group dinner, feeling like rebels by always taking the other door to the dining room, and the first round of drinks and banter as if it were the first night of yacht week.

 

 

You’re not going to miss the beginning — let alone any — of the daily morning wake up calls from the PA sound system, but you will miss waking up every morning not needing to check your phone because there’s no data here, reminding yourself of the relief that there is no way the crazy outside world can now reach you, followed by an undistracted breakfast spread of unlimited coffee, tea, and various styles of goop, and finding out that high gusts means a relaxing first morning passing the time on the ship …still without any data; while the itch, scratch, and shakes may follow, you know this separation will be good for you. Although your newly declared liberation may then be interrupted by the finger wagging over flip flops, being told to pick up your musk boots or the numerous more orientations and briefings during the week, they are just temporary distractions from the unadulterated nature that surrounds you, as if you were living in a high definition 4K TV with 12.2 surround sound — 24/7 if you wanted it to be — where you can even get in a workout by the most beautiful gym in the world, followed by the winds eventually calming down so you can embark on your first landing for a 2 hour hike up and towards a sadly receding glacier, the glorious views of the harbor from the top, the convenient surprise how quick it was to jog downhill and speed back for dinner, and finishing your first official day with blackjack lessons by another glacier pass.

 

 

You’re going to miss waking up bright and early for another kayaking orientation, suiting up as if you were about to parachute behind enemy lines, especially when this is all taking place on a real helipad, and then carrying the kayaks one by one, curious to see how this operation will all work out, starting off what feels like a private zodiac tour, sliding into your kayaking positions one by one while admiring the waterproof technology of all this fancy polar kayaking equipment, then gliding along the coast for close up views of world’s northernmost seal colony and abandoned 17th century whaling station, enjoying another upper body workout in while trying to remind yourself this isn’t a race, returning onto the boat only to be told you’re about to hop on another military-style sortie as word gets around that polar bears have been spotted feeding off the carcass of a minke whale. So you’ll then miss an excitement of jumping back into your zodiacs for the silent hunt, first coming upon the carcass and then a family of 3 polar bears sleeping (and pooping) a few hundred meters above with not a care that hundreds of sniping cameras would be aiming in their direction. Don’t worry, we’ve come in peace.

 

 

You’re going to miss a day of boundless abandon in conversation and quiet thought where the day’s plans are “nothing” and all that you have is whatever you see and have in front of you. And as your ship sails into an arctic infinity, you begin to truly fathom how tiny you are as a speck on these bodies of water, let alone within this universe.

 

 

You’re going to miss then piercing this whole day of peace with a “night” of mayhem, celebrating a birthday within your squad over cake and nonstop bottles of Prosecco that leads to a reliable icebreaker that then becomes an excuse to karaoke that then snowballs into waking up the whole ship with an impromptu dance party, before you’re told to wrap it up, after which there’s a relief that your “commute home” from the “nightclub” is only a flight of stairs away. And while you may not miss still waking up in random parts of the ship the next (or any) morning, you will miss waking up seeing that your ship has woken up in what appears to be a random part of an archipelago with uniquely clay brown water. And what a difference it would make for photographs during the subsequent morning hike across pools of water reflecting grand glacier-streaked mountain ranges, the 5 minutes of silence at the top, and returning for an afternoon zodiac tour of the wildlife brewing by calving glaciers and icebergs. While the nature is splendid, the moment when nature calls may not be, and you will definitely NOT miss the excruciating pain of trying to hold it in like the Hoover Dam for nearly 2 hours as to not disturb how everyone else is enjoying the scenery without you, only to then become the scenery when your body’s idea of nature definitely has called it off the side of the boat in front of scores of telephoto lenses and cameras of people twice your age. And while you will hate and never want to experience a pain like that ever again, including the regret at having to entirely call it early, the loooooooooooooooooooong zodiac ride back to home base and screaming down the hallways to the nearest toilet, you will miss the unbelievable relief at getting rid of all that has brought you pain even if pain paints the walls. Ok, that’s enough, because the day’s not over and there’s still more to miss, including the recovery BBQ on the deck and not sure whether to put on or take off more clothes because it’s warmly cold outside, deciding to both keep a dance party going and being the dance party, getting to battle on the helipad at 80 Latitude, freezing your butt off outside as the new DJ, and then taking it inside to warm up and finally commiserate with the other groups on the boat. And yet that would still be short lived — after a quick shower you realize you’ve been bleeding all over yourself for hours from a knee laceration, which will bring you to the ship ER at midnight ironically only to treat yourself. And you’ll miss living what will be your story to tell that you sutured yourself as far up as the North Pole.

 

 

You’re going to miss figuring out how you managed to finally sleep through the morning wake up call — even through breakfast — and still somehow (barely) not missing the last zodiac out for the morning hike around an abandoned mining town opposite of the northernmost settlement in the world, the relaxed chats while stalking the native reindeer to the region, or the epic longer-than-usual hike to see a glacier hidden behind a hillside, and then a wholesomely relaxed afternoon dedicated to sailing with — and ooing and aahing to — the largest mammals in the world as they peek up every now and then to say hello. You’ll then miss putting on some motivational music and stripping down to your swimmies (or nothing at all) for the traditional polar plunge into freezing waters. One by one we faced fear, and one by one we realized we never had any to begin with.

 

 

You’re going to miss the last lazy morning sleeping through both the wake up call and breakfast again, and still having time to set up your home office for one last time in the bar while our ship looked for more blue whales, and then heading out for the last arctic hike around another abandoned town, this time by the Russians, where we traversed across sweeping hills, cemeteries, reindeer pastures, ruins of a pipeline, and countless abandoned cabins inhabited by the ghosts of the Arctic past, and just…taking in all this majesty landscapes until we had to scramble back onto the zodiacs to beat the receding tides, and then finish off the trip with one last champagne toast and dinner full of speeches and applause — rightfully deserved — before we retired back to the bar to enjoy one final hurrah and eventually waking up to farewell.

 

 

And you won’t miss farewell. You won’t miss the cell signal returning. You won’t miss opening the floodgates to horrible news from the Occident. You won’t miss the silence during breakfast, and you won’t miss the awkward crowding over settling balances at the front desk, the haphazard shuffling out on the gangway, or the way the bus unceremoniously pulled you away from what was home away from home for a week. You won’t miss being dumped off into the town where it all started, and yet not even awake enough to take you in for shelter, so you sit outside under the garish sun that still hasn’t left its gaze on you for the past 180 hours, waiting for things to open as you remain stunned with a dumb stupor how everything could have ended…just like that. And just like that. So you won’t miss the 4 hours of wandering aimlessly, miss missing your bus back to the airport, or miss the drama in scraping for backup plans just so we all could get to our flights out in time.

But you will miss hugs, the moments looking each other in the eyes and know what you just shared the past 6 days will be exceptional, be-known only to the 15 others that sailed with you every step of the way, way, way way off the grid and the extreme edge of the planet that accompanied your own off the grid extreme edges emerging past em-ocean-al surfaces; because through all the hours-long conversations, the ciphers spilled, and the psychological dive into depths you never knew you had, you will miss knowing that if it weren’t for the 15 others you shared this long overdue trip with, you’d miss what you never knew you could miss at all: kindred souls stirring beneath the abyss of icy surfaces, no longer hiding . . . 

 

. . . lights underneath that perpetually had kept us warm like the midnight sun, that we knew had been with us all along.

Where Are We Now?

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