I sit in my window seat looking over the tops of mountains as they gingerly poke out through a sea of fluffy clouds. Curious as to whether I’m looking down on Idaho, or perhaps Canada, I turn on the flight map in the seat in front of me and, by a considerably appropriate measure, put down my book, Maphead by Ken Jennings. (I’m also listening to Rivers and Roads by the Head and the Heart, which is a pure cartographic coincidence, I swear.)
But back to the flight map.
It turns out that we are soaring over Invermere and heading over Banff, Canada, where I am hoping to camp one of these days (it’s on my ever-growing list of places to adventure to). I zoom out and follow the flight route to see the distance to my next destination but, naturally, I get distracted by the uber-detailed map, which includes remote places like Inuvik, Nunavut and Savissivikm, Paamuit and Nanortalik (Greenlandic is a fun language, let me tell you). Once I’ve spent a solid 4 minutes laughing at myself as I butcher the pronunciation of at least 17 cities in Greenland, I manage to move the map across the pond and over to London, where I’ll have a quick layover. This stop is en route to Oslo, Norway, which is a semi-stop in itself that is en route to my final destination: the Arctic.
That’s right folks, I am heading to the tippy-top of the world, well very near to it at least. For a bit of latittude reference, the Arctic circle sits at the 66th parallel and I am going to be in Svalbard, placed at the 78th parallel. The North Pole is at the 90th parallel, so essentially I am 800 miles away from the top of the world, which would be like driving the California coast.
Now you may be wondering, how does one find themselves in the Arctic in the first place? To which I say, good question. My answer will inadvertently evolve into more questions, but the quick answer is that I am going to the top of the world on business. Now if I’m correct in my previous assumption, the next question is thus, what do you do for work? To put it in a neat little package, I’m basically a travel guru that specializes in remote places around the globe and I have the absolute privilege of being sent to, and becoming intimately acquainted with, Svalbard. By doing so, I will be gaining invaluable hands-on experience that I can share with my colleagues and pass along to our clients. I’m excited to visit the Arctic as it is, quite literally, the polar opposite of the region I am currently an expert in, Antarctica. And no, to answer what I imagine is your next question, I’ve not yet visited Antarctica, but one day I will!
And that, my friends, is how one finds themselves on three planes trying to pronounce Qeqertaq, Qasigiannguit and Ittoqortoormiit on their way to a polar bear expedition in Svalbard.
My trip is a mix of work and play (though mostly play), but I hope to find some time to post about my adventures soon!