60-second Tourism Evaluation of Sisimiut! (66*N 53*W)

I have just spent 10 lovely nights in Sisimiut! In my opinion, Sisimiut is quite an easy town to be a tourist in. It is easy to get to/from, and it is easy to find information once you arrive. You can get to/from Sisimiut by Air Greenland flights, by the 160 km Arctic Circle Trail, and by the Arctic Umiaq Line ferry, Sarfaq Ittuk. It seems that most tourists take advantage of these opportunities to be quite mobile. In Sisimiut, there are choices for accommodations, excursions, shopping, and local hangouts, but not so many that you feel like you are missing something perhaps. Information about excursions is readily available at all of the accommodations, and arrangements can be made on the spot.

Sisimiut is commonly the end point for trekkers who do the Arctic Circle Trail, so tourists and locals both help create the relaxed and quiet atmosphere. For those who want to relax in town, there are a number of nice cafés and shops to discover as well as the culture house, called Taseralik, the Arctic Technical Centre, and the Museum. For those who are looking for more activity, there are daytime sailing tours, helicopter flights, and two mountains close by to hike (551 – 775 meters / 1,808 – 2,543 feet). Finally, for those with a special interest in fishing, Sirius Greenland has two field camps where you can fish for all the Arctic Char your little heart desires! They can even help you with SCUBA diving! And of course, for those who want to get away from it all and enjoy the sounds of silence, the backcountry of Sisimiut is your oyster!

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60-Second Tourism Evaluation of Kulusuk & Tasiilaq ! (65*N 37*W)

(From 30 April 2013) I had often heard East Greenland called the “forgotten side” of Greenland – so few residents, such harsh landscape, and all the way across that huge Ice Sheet! One might get the impression that it is a totally different country over here. Well, I am here to dispel that myth! At the end of the day, East Greenland is still Greenland! There are still quaint settlements to explore by boat, dogsledge, snowmobile, or ski (depending on the season). There are still smiling and happy people that provide great company and the most genuine service. There aregradual hills, steep mountains, and valleys of flowers to walk through or climb up, whatever you fancy. There are deep fjords with such still, striking blue water that you swear you are in a dream. And all of that is just 2 hours from Reykjavik, Iceland! So, “forgotten side”? Not quite!

My Love Affair with Greenland

The title of this post is inspired by Mike Libecki, an Extreme Adventurer who has a strong loyalty to Greenland. In a 2012 interview with Visit Greenland, he says:

“The first time was in 1998… It was a cool opportunity, and I fell in love with it instantly. This is the 7th time I have come back. It’s just a love affair!… It’s just so mesmerizing.”

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I have been trying to write this post for about 15 months now, but it has proven to be one of the most difficult topics for me! Personally, I have known why I love Greenland since the very beginning, but it is so much about an intangible feeling, a sense, and a state of mind that words do not do it justice. Without further ado…

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I often say that I was born in the wrong time. No, I do not mean that I am an 80’s girl wishing to be born in the 70’s. I mean that I really, truly feel that I was meant to be born in a different historical era – pre-industrial or perhaps even hunter-gatherer – when life was more real and literal and, in a way, more meaningful. When the importance of intangible things in life outweighed that of material possessions. Okay, maybe I would settle for a place that at least has a hint of this feeling. Does it exist? Turns out yes – I found it in Greenland!

So I guess you are now thinking that I love Greenland because I found this hunter-gatherer lifestyle here. Well, I want to make absolutely clear that physical everyday life in Greenland is NOT like hunter-gatherer times! You will never hear me describe Greenland as primitive, simple, or back-in-time because it simply is not so! Most Greenlanders live as modern a life as one can find elsewhere in the world. They are using iPhones, listening to the world’s #1 music hits, speaking English fluently, doing business with global partners, furnishing their homes with the trendiest European designs, traveling around the world for holiday, studying and working all over Europe and beyond, and engaging in any other aspect of modern life you can think of. To be perfectly honest, Greenland is more civilized than many places I have seen in the United States!

No – even though Greenland is quite far from my little time-travel dream, there is something here that completely fulfills my desire for a more meaningful life, and that is why I love Greenland. It fascinates me that Greenland is a totally modern society with all the comforts one can find elsewhere in the world, yet traditional aspects of life persist. Namely, the Greenlandic lifestyle is still very close to nature. Of course, Greenlanders go hiking and sailing to enjoy nature’s beauty, but they also still use the land and sea for personal subsistence. For example, reindeer-hunting season opens in August, and Greenlanders hunt all through the autumn to build a store of fresh meat. They also fish all summer long for Cod, Arctic Char, Halibut, and Redfish to enjoy through the winter. The stark contrast of going 50 km or more into the wild to hunt for one’s own food and then bringing it back to a Danish modern home with electricity and wireless Internet is quite mind-boggling. I can live in the modern way I have grown accustomed to yet threads of the traditional lifestyle and mentality persist. To me that is what makes Greenland really special.

All of this means Greenlanders have an extraordinary understanding of the landscape, water, weather, seasons, and animal life. I love that! It is a totally different knowledge set than creating algorithms, watching the stock market, or drafting a legal document. In my opinion, it is a more valuable knowledge set in the grand scheme of life. It is something like the difference between book-smarts and street-smarts. A Washingtonian might have book-smarts but could not last a day in the wild. On the other hand, Greenlanders have both the book-smarts and the street-smarts. That is what makes them special and amazing!

On a more social level, Greenlanders have vastly different priorities and interests than what I am used to in Washington, D.C., and that is a good thing. I much prefer the Greenlandic way! For one thing, Greenland does the institution of family totally different. Family is the number one priority for everyone that I have met here – both men and women. The American phenomenon of allowing one’s family to suffer for the sake of a career simply does not exist here. Things like working 80 hours a week, getting home after your kids are in bed and leaving before they wake up, having a nanny essentially raise your children for you, hardly taking two weeks of vacation/holiday and even still working through the entire thing – you will be hard pressed to find these things in Greenland.

So in a sentence, I love Greenland because family is the top priority, life is close to nature, and it just makes me happy to be alive!