Expectations are part of travel. I wrote this before my visit to Longyearbyen on the island of Svalbard, but I’m sharing it after the voyage.
I love to land in Europe after an overnight flight. Legs finally stretched. Lemmings to passport control. Not quite sure of the time–only aware that it is light out and there are some people in the airport in suits who must be heading to work somewhere.
I wanted to fly to Longyearbyen before I had adjusted to European time. So I booked a flight landing in Oslo in the late afternoon–with a flight to Longyarbyen the morning after. Just enough time to rest, but not enough time to adjust. Why adjust to a time zone when it is light for 24 hours? And not just a little bit light, like Anchorage, but serious light. I wanted the confusion, because confusion is how I wanted to tackle the barren.
You can hike on Svalbard, or take a dogsled. You can kayak, or ride a polar bear. But “Arctic kayaking” sounds unwise. If the air temperature reaches a high of 41, I can only imagine the water. And I lied about the polar bear. I just wanted to walk the streets (all 6 of them) watching the 3am sun–wondering what the rest of the world was doing at 3am.
It is hard not to prewrite an article about Svalbard, because part of feeling is wondering how you will feel. Just like you wonder what it will feel like at your wedding, it is easy to wonder what it will feel like in the midnight Arctic sun. Will it feel endless, inspiring? Will it feel barren, boring? Will it feel nothing at all? Just a rock in an ocean. Will I regret booking three long days? Or will I think that three days will never be enough?
Will I have 24 hours of thoughts a day? What will I write?