I am very happy to announce that, at long last, this blog will come out of hibernation in just a few weeks time! I have solidified my plans to return to Greenland, and I absolutely cannot wait. I have practically been thinking about this trip since before I even left from the first one!
Over the course of 53 days in March and April, I will hop from region to region conducting hundreds of interviews with tourists, just as I did last summer. I will return to a few towns I know well, spend (not enough) time with my beloved host family from last summer, and even add a few new destinations to the repertoire.
While I now know a great deal about what to expect in Greenland, there is still much for me to have butterflies about! For one thing, Greenland in winter is a whole new ball game! Some temperatures will be colder than I have ever experienced, and there will be snow everywhere. For another thing, I will lead a much more nomadic life than I did in the summer. Every 1-3 weeks will be a new destination, and I will be alone for most of them. But, this is what I want and what I have dreamed about for months now, so I cannot wait to get my feet back on Greenlandic soil!
I often wonder how many other people out there have left Greenland so impressed, so impacted, and so totally obsessed?? And how many more people could be so because they are inspired enough by my words to go experience it for themselves?
It seems the phrase “pay it forward” has become a worldwide phenomenon lately, and I use it here as the title of this post because it appropriately describes my motivation to maintain this blog.
As a professional in the tourism industry I acknowledge that I have a different perspective than most, but I really feel as though I have a (welcome) duty to share my travel experiences with others. Since I have firsthand knowledge about things that could be of information and inspiration to others, I feel as though I should pass it on for the benefit of the inquisitive traveler.
So what exactly have I been doing to prepare for this trip?
1. Making flight and hotel reservations, of course. In general, flexibility is key when planning a trip to Greenland, especially in the off-season. There are only two airlines that fly into Greenland (Air Greenland and Air Iceland), and they do not have flights every day (more like every 2-4 days). Also, because some airport runways are shorter than others, some planes can only land at certain airports; so there are typically transfers involved even with domestic flights. Finally, the weather in Greenland can cause delays. This is the name of the air transport game and cannot be avoided. My suggestion is to purchase trip insurance whenever possible and avoid quick layovers/transfers, especially when changing airlines.
As for hotels, there are only a handful of options in each Greenland town (hotel, hostel, private accommodation), so the choice is not very difficult!
I booked all of my flights using the airlines’ online booking systems, which was very easy and just like booking any other trip. I booked my hotels by either emailing the hotel’s info email or by calling direct with Skype account. FYI, if you call direct, be aware that the person answering the phone will answer in Danish. I typically say a small intro in Danish so that the person answering is not totally thrown off by hearing English out of the blue. “Goddag, jeg er fra USA. Du taler Engelsk?” (Hello, I am from the US. Do you speak English?”)
2. Getting a good idea of what exactly the weather will be like. The best site I have found so far is Weatherspark.com. It has detailed information about average monthly and daily temperatures in various towns in Greenland. For reference, when I first get to Kangerlussuaq (north of the Arctic Circle) on March 8, an average day should be between -10 and 6 *F. By the time I leave two and a half weeks later, it will be between -2 and 14 *F. In the second town, Ilulissat (further north than Kangerlussuaq but closer to the coast), it should be between 9-20 *F pretty much the entire two and a half weeks I am there. In the third town, Nuuk, the capital (south of the Arctic Circle), it will be between 21-28 *F when I get there and between 25-32 *F by the time I leave. Notice the first time I will probably experience above-freezing temperatures is not until the sixth week! In the fourth and final town, Kulusuk (just south of the Arctic Circle, on the east coast), it will be between 26-33 *F by the time I leave on April 30.
Shootingonlocation.com has also been helpful, giving specific information about sunrise and sunset times in various towns in Greenland. In Kangerlussuaq, there will be between 10 hours and 45 minutes of sunlight and 12 hours and 44 minutes of sunlight. In Ilulissat, 12 hours and 57 minutes to 15 hours and 14 minutes. In Nuuk, 14 hours and 38 minutes to 15 hours and 57 minutes. And in Kulusuk, 16 hours and 22 minutes to 16 hours and 58 minutes.
3. Familiarizing myself with photos of Greenland taken during the months and in the various locations of my trip. This is to supplement my inquiry of what the environment will be like during this time of year. Cue shameless plugs… The I Love Greenland Flickr account has oodles of pictures, as does the blog of Wanderer, a fellow GWU Masters student who also worked in Greenland. I also did Facebook album searches of friends and strangers who have been to Greenland around the same time.
4. Purchasing a few new cold weather clothing items (such as gloves, windproof/waterproof pants, and tall insulated/waterproof boots) but mostly packing lots of my existing items (such as thermal under layers, wool socks, hat, sunglasses/sunscreen, warm muskox wool wristwarmers from my first trip, puffy down jacket, and a heavy fleece-lined jacket with fur-lined hood). If there’s anything I do know about the weather in Greenland, it is that it can change quickly and drastically with the onset of wind and fog. Dressing in layers is definitely the best way to regulate body temp.
My last tip about clothing in Greenland (which I wrote about previously) is to not take anything that has 50% or less of its life left. Of course, it all depends on your activity level. In the summer, I took a pair of boots that I had had for years and had never let me down. After a full day hike up and down an 1180 meter mountain, they had virtually disintegrating on my feet. So, even if you’re not the type to buy new things for a trip, I suggest you do it for Greenland.
5. Buying traveler’s medical insurance. I use a company called Seven Corners/Liaison Majestic, and it is extremely affordable. I like having the added security of knowing I am covered if I were to need medical attention further than what Is available in Greenland. I think it is a good idea, especially if you are doing more physically challenging activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, heliskiing, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and so on.
6. Since I will only be in Greenland for a short time, I fortunately did not need to go through the process of applying for a Visa for this trip. It is quite a lengthy and arduous process. If my memory serves me correctly, a Visa is necessary for trips longer than 90 days.
That’s all for now. The next time I write, it will be from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!