Thursday, October 30, 2014
As I find myself getting older, I want to see what the world is really like, I want to meet real people and see real stuff, and Lord knows I want to get away. I should have been the one who got paid for that Southwest catch phrase. At any rate, it's that time of year when northern travel is winding down, and people are starting to go south for the winter. My parents told me that the snowbirds are back in Sun City, so I know it's that time. But, there's time for that one more look at something amazing before heading south for the winter. That something is Ittoqqortoormiit.
This is one of the most remote towns in the world. It's on the Eastern coast of Greenland along the longest, deepest fjord in the world. In the winter it is dark, frozen, and only accessible by helicopter. It's a thousand kilometers from pretty much anywhere, and the warmest place around is the hot springs. So, with Nuuk and the whole southern tip of Greenland that is way more hospitable, inhabitable, and enjoyable; why would anyone venture up to Ittoqqortoormiit? That's the adventure for anyone folks. This is one of those things that you never thought you would do, but you did, and afterward you couldn't imagine passing on the experience.
Sure, the town is one of those colorful little Nordic towns that you see on postcards and jigsaw puzzles, but it's more than that. It's one of the great places to sail, which is why the Vikings loved it so much. It's ruggedly beautiful and full of amazing wildlife. It's true that not everyone is that taken with muskox, polar bears, and whales, but some of us just go for it and find out that it's really amazing, and makes a tropical island just look boring.
Greenland is one of the best spots on Earth to see the northern lights. This time of year starts the prime watch time for the northern hemisphere. I, personally, don't like to wait until the middle of winter, because that is just harsh. So, early in the season, like now, is a great time to go.
The amazing thing about Ittoqqortoormiit is that there are only around 450 people there and they are natives, who have lived off this land for a very long time. The experience that you get by going there is one of living amongst them and seeing how they live. You stay at a seven room guest house, which is the only lodging in town. You spend time with the locals and see how they live and learn about their ways. It's that thing that you can't get by watching documentaries on television. It's that hands on experience that you will never forget. It's not that often that you go and see how a people lives, and they really are living like they say. It's not Sturbridge Village or Old Plimouth Plantation. It's the real deal, and you may well see polar bears and muskox while you're there. It's all possible.
While you're in Ittoqqortoormiit, you will go dogsledding, because it's how they get around. You will eat seal, bear, ox and whatever; because it's what's for dinner. You will get to go to the school and the store and church, just like the Inuits do. It's an amazing experience. Oh yeah, you'll get to see the northern lights too. You'll also get to see amazing sunrises, sunsets, hot springs, archaeology sites, icebergs, mountains, fjords, dancing, and so much more. There's no place else on Earth where you get such a totally submersed experience as making the trip to Ittoqqortoormiit. You'll never forget it, and honestly, you won't want to go home. It will make you into a northern traveler. You'll quit looking at Jamaica and start looking at Siberia and Iceland. Promise.
People are people, and the folks in Ittoqqortoormiit are just like anyone else, but they live a little differently. Culture is one of the best reasons to travel. You don't get to see the world if you only look at the tourist attractions. Go beyond that and learn something truly amazing. Step outside your life and see what it's like to live like someone else. I remember watching a Goldie Hawn movie called Overboard a long time ago and I heard her butler say the most amazing thing. He said, "Most of us only get to see on little slice of life. You've had a chance to see life from a completely different perspective. It's a gift." It is, so cherish it. Do it. Enjoy.