When we reach the proverbial ends of the earth, there is a magic that happens nowhere else. The extremities of life emerge in palpable ways, showing their harsh beauty in visions of towering glaciers, haunting mountainscapes, and gaping sapphire fjords. We find animals whose oddities have allowed them to thrive in severe weather; people with customs, languages, and work ethics as resilient as the earth itself. Every day possesses a raw sense of survival and urgency to appreciate the world. For, in the Arctic and Antarctic alike, life is an intricate balance of toil and joy.
I came close to approaching the South Pole when I visited Patagonia in my early twenties. It wouldn’t be until I was in my thirties that I would head much farther north, realizing my lifelong dream of visiting Iceland. Bundling myself up like never before, I ventured into the dark, snowy beauty of winter, my teeth chattering while my eyes feasted upon topographies I thought were only possible in the imagination. The truth is, before this trip, this region of the world seemed so unreachable, so unnavigable, but I was proven wrong. A love for extreme weather, rugged landscapes, and Viking culture was born within me, prompting me: Where to next?
Since that time, I have seen many countries throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, but Scandinavia is calling me with rabid persistence. There is still so much to see, and, after pouring over my friend Candace’s drawings, and beginning to read Blair Braverman’s Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, I am certain that I must travel to Norway. It’s unabashedly summoning me. Admittedly, I’m more of a spontaneous traveler, but over the years, I’ve found that it’s important to do research ahead of time and to have a grasp of the activities/sites that you absolutely cannot leave the country without doing.
Here is my minimalist wishlist for Norway:
- Arrive in the capital of Norway, Oslo, preferably during summertime. While winter in Scandinavia is gorgeous, there is nothing like enjoying the midnight sun. Surprisingly, this city is home to approximately one million people and is at the forefront of global trends.
- Attend the Øya summer music festival, which is headlined by some of the world’s most prominent bands. It’s also one of the greenest, most environmentally-friendly events with organic food. Music festivals are some of my favorite celebrations and a great place to meet like-minded people- no matter where they come from!
- Eating at Oslo’s leading vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants! As always, whenever I travel, one of the things I most look forward to is trying their local plant-based dishes. I’d especially like to try råkostsalat and raspeballer.
- Head (way) north to the islands of Lofoten to catch the Northern Lights. (This would require a separate trip, as you can’t see the aurora borealis during the summer time.) I was lucky enough to see the lights dance twice in Iceland (from my hostel balcony, nonetheless!), but there’s something inexplicably mesmerizing about this natural show. Just as sunsets still captivate me, I don’t think I would ever tire of the lights.
- Hike to Trolltunga. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not much of a hiker so this 10-12 hour trek might seem like a death wish for me. Nonetheless, with some preparation (and training), the view at the top of this 1,100-meter cliff rock would absolutely be worth it. I imagine myself, dangling my tired legs off the top of the Troll’s Tongue, gazing at Lake Ringedalsvatnet, breathing in the fresh air, and feeling (quite literally) at the top of the world.
- Go on a wildlife photography rampage! If you know me, you are familiar with just how much I adore animals. Norway is home to a plethora of gorgeous animals, such as polar bears, reindeer, puffins, arctic foxes, and so many other wild animals. It doesn’t matter how many glaciers hikes, snowmobile outings, boat rides, or sleds I’d have to board; I want to see all of the animals and photograph them in their natural habitat.
That, in a nutshell, is my wishlist for visiting the arctic beauty of Norway. Once there, I’m sure I will find so many other adventures to embark upon.
Have you been to Norway? What was your favorite activity or site, and what do I need to add to my list?