Why I Don’t Want Greenland On Your Bucket List (*there’s a catch)

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Yes, Bucket Lists were virtually invented for once-in-a-lifetime experiences like travelling to the Arctic, glacier walking on the only Ice Sheet outside of Antarctica, and sailing under the midnight sun. So it sounds odd to say I don’t want Greenland included in that. 

And, given that I dedicate my professional and personal life to showing anyone who will listen that Greenland is simply the best land in the world, it sounds VERY odd that I don’t want it on your list. 

But here’s why.

Greenland deserves so much more than a line on a Bucket List and a little square waiting to be filled in with a red check mark and then left in the dust.

Because that very check mark indicates completion and finality. It means you have been there, done that, and are ready to move on to the next item.

If Greenland has half the effect on you as it did on me the first time, then you don’t simply just move on after experiencing Greenland. You don’t just go back to ‘life as normal’ and forget all about the peace you had every morning waking to such beautiful views like the picture above, or the human compassion you felt when you asked a local for directions to your AirBnB flat and she ended up walking you the whole way there. For many of you, Greenland will be your transformational destination

Therefore, I ask you to let Greenland transcend the bucket list. Don’t go because it’s on the list. Just go.

Take your time to plan the trip; live in the moment every day you have your feet on the ground up here; go home and continue to let Greenland have a place in your thoughts; go forth and be changed by your experience.

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Has travel transformed you?

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Transformational travel. Learn these words. Live these words. It is more than the latest trend; it is a new movement in life.

I believe this style of travel is a fated yet fortunate natural progression here in the anthropocene. It could only really take hold now, after sustaining this quite device-obsessed, time-crunched, attention span-less, and dare I say a bit depraved, age.

I believe transformational travel will save humanity if enough people get on board.

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The Journey

It’s said that humans are subconsciously called to travel to wake themselves up when they start sleep walking through life, or when they stop being themselves at home.

“Listen — are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

– Mary Oliver

Then they go on their trip and have high adventures, talk with people, pick up seeds of the new place(s) and plant them in the backs of their minds, and undetectably rework their perspective on themselves and home. All of this is fuel for something bigger brewing later.

When they return home, everything gets synthesised and internalised to some degree, and a transformation starts. For some it is a matter of a changed thought process and being more mindful. For others it is more behavioural – adding (or deleting) something to/from the daily routine. And for a few, it catapults them into, more or less, a whole new life.

What is Transformational Travel?

I’m still pretty new to this concept, so hopefully my friends over at The Transformational Travel Collaborative will cut me some slack if I formulate this incorrectly…

Transformational travel is a style of traveling in which one embarks on a trip to drive a needed change in his or her life.

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My Most Transformational Trip

For me, the obvious life-changing travel experience was spending four months in Greenland in 2012. 

At a superficial level, it made me painfully aware of behaviours, habits and customs that are ‘so American’.

At a meaningful level, it made me question whether those same American behaviours, habits and customs – which I no doubt had and probably still have to some degree, much to my chagrin – jived with my nature and who I wanted to be.

Upon returning to USA, the transformation began in which I deliberately decided that I preferred the different way of life to which my eyes were opened. After multiple trips back to Greenland, I started identifying much more with my Greenlandic life than my American life, and it all culminated with the decision to move permanently to Greenland.

I am still trying to figure out why Greenland of all places was the spark, but until then, I am just happy it was. 

What trip or place has changed you?

Fly WOW air

IMG_3378My latest rec for getting to Greenland cheap so you can spend the money where it counts!

Greenland is expensive. Let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way.

Short of some pretty astronomic miracles, the Air Greenland and Air Iceland prices won’t be decreasing much.

But what if I told you the solution could be WOW air?

No, WOW air does not fly to Greenland yet, but traveling with this newcomer budget airline from Europe or North America into Reykjavík (a major connection hub for Greenland) could at least make one leg of your journey much cheaper.

Not long ago I flew on WOW air for the first time and I’d like to give it the Polarphile seal of approval (I just made that up) along with an honest pledge that I would seriously consider flying with them again in the future. High marks for service, price, and personality; low marks for convenience (as someone traveling to/fro the DC Metro Area).

Post-script note: I already booked my second flight with WOW air just two months after this first trip. Despite having a free points ticket with the competitor, black out dates prohibited me from using it when I needed to. Since I was forced to use real money, booking with WOW air helped me save over 500 USD versus booking with the competitor.

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The motivation: As someone booking their ticket just 11 days before departure, I was what you call ‘price-motivated’ – exactly WOW air‘s target market.

The bottom line: 11 days before departure I bought a transatlantic flight between continental Europe and North America for 294 USD, which did include some extra purchases of mine like seat selection, cancellation protection, and 1 piece of heavy hand luggage.

Regarding the seat selection fee, this applies to choose any seat in the aircraft, not just priority seating with extra leg room, like on other airlines (I don’t think those seats even exist on WOW air’s machines). I really didn’t want to get stuck with a middle seat in front of the exit row, and truth be told, I wanted to see out the window to Greenland when flying overhead. It’s a little ritual of mine.

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Regarding the luggage fee, 5 kg of hand luggage is included in the ticket price. One can elect to purchase an additional 7 kg allowance for a fee, or else check a bag for a fee.

The Experience: 

So what had me saying “Wow“? Plenty!

* Hand-luggage only travelers are the new Business Class. WOW air offers a separate check-in line for those traveling with hand-luggage only. Therefore, I got to bypass a line of around 50 people when I arrived to the airport, which I found to be a so lovely surprise!

* There are electrical outlets under each seat. This was maybe my biggest WOW moment, in fact. Not even Icelandair offers this in economy class!

* The planes are perfectly fine, just like all other Airbus machines. Maybe I was expecting a matchbox for some reason, but the economy seats are just like any others I’ve been in, and the seats themselves are very comfortable. I flew in their new Airbus.

* They’re funny! Anybody whose business model includes launching a gigantic purple people eater into the sky has to have a sense of humor, right? And, a la Southwest Airlines out of the United States, when you take away in one department (think: the free sodas and snacks) you have to add in another. Check the Vomit-meter on their Sick Bag in the seat pocket!

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The Critique:
There’s literally only one thing that made the experience a drag – WOW air does not service IAD (Dulles International Airport) outside Washington, D.C.! If WOW air flew out of IAD I would be hooked. Hands down.

Instead, flying into/out of BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport) creates some logistical nightmares for anyone trying to connect with D.C. or Northern Virginia, like me. After 9 hours of flying, this is the absolute last thing you want, especially in this area. Not to mention, there’s no TSA Pre-Check line at BWI security. Huh?!

45 minutes on the B30 Metro Bus from BWI to the Greenbelt Metro Station before riding 1 hour on the Metro from Greenbelt to Vienna, plus an Uber, to reach my destination in Northern Virginia, which otherwise would have been just a 22 minute Uber ride from IAD. That’s what it took for me to get home after landing at BWI.

And I’m a lucky one with a Global Entry status. I don’t even want to think about how much time I would have used if I had had to wait in the standard customs line.

These public transportations cost just an additional 21 USD, so clearly the pricing still makes a compelling economic case, but somewhere on the Metro I found myself wondering if crashing on my bed still fully clothed and dead tired due to an extra 2 hours of transit was worth saving approximately 275 USD. What do you think?

Aside from that big ticket item, there are a few things that could polish up the experience to match the competition in terms of value proposition, but nothing that’s a huge game-changer for me.

* It would be fantastic to have wi-fi onboard. I would gladly pre-purchase it along with the laundry list of other add-ons. What’s another 10 USD?

* A self check-in kiosk would be great!

The Facts:
WOW air flies to Reykjavík from Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and Baltimore in North America (and soon from Los Angeles and San Francisco, too) and from 17 European cities including London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, and others.

WOW air advertises their base fares and then offers a whole host of optional fees and charges, plus various taxes. For example, at first glance my 294 USD ticket looked like it was going to cost just 129 USD. And really, many of the “electives” are virtually unavoidable so you have to pay extra no matter what. Is it really realistic to travel across the Atlantic with only a purse?

WOW air offers a wide selection of food and beverages on board for 250-1500 ISK (2-11 USD, or 2-11 EUR). Note that even non-alcoholic beverages like water, soda, and coffee/tea must also be purchased for 300-350 ISK (2-2.50 USD, or 2-2.5 EUR). The pricing is nearly exactly the same as you’ll find in the airport stores, at least it was for the wine, water, sandwich, and yoghurt I bought, so no need to nearly miss your boarding call to try to save some pocket change on refreshments.

All in all, given the late notice of booking and the distance traveled, I would say the 294 USD on Wow air is well spent. But given the circus involved in getting between BWI and the DC Metro Area, I would say there’s definitely grounds to think long and hard whether the cheaper airfare is worth the extra transit steps.

Travel Lifesavers: Tips to Simplify Travel

P1010469 Air Greenland propeller plane overhead Sermitsiaq mountain in Nuuk, Greenland. Maybe there’s one or two things that can be a set-back to air travel in Greenland, but a difficult airport experience is usually NOT one of them!

Simple travel… What a misnomer, right!?

When I took on a new role at my job which created opportunities to travel throughout the United States, my first thought was how excited I was to be an ambassador for travel in Greenland on my home turf!

My second thought was immediately to the hassle that I typically experience traveling in the United States. Immense crowds. Concourses located at least 5 miles from each other. And security… I can’t even. I think I let out the groan of disgust heard around the world…

BUT FOLKS! I have just seen the light about how to simplify travel, and wild horses couldn’t drag me back to the old ways of last month!

I just finished a trip to Snowmass, Colorado for an adventure tourism conference, and it was a complete breeze thanks to these four lifesaver travel tips. Some of them are on no-brainer status, but when used in combination, it’s literally like having a red carpet rolled out for you!!

1. Only take hand luggage. It’s helpful on so many levels because you save time, avoid crowds, and save money!

  • Save time twice because you don’t have to arrive to the airport as early as if you were checking luggage, and because you don’t have to wait at the Baggage Claim once you arrive.
  • Avoid crowds because you don’t have to wait in a pesky Baggage Drop line.
  • Save money because you don’t have to pay Checked Baggage fees.

2. Print your boarding pass at home. Self check-in makes life pretty easy, but what if I told you that you could simplify simple!?

This tip is most effective when coupled with #1. If you have checked baggage, you will still have to wait in the Baggage Drop line.

3. Get TSA Pre-Check approved. This one is the TRUE cornerstone. There’s never a line in the TSA Pre-Check lane, but even if there were, it would move 10x faster than the 200-person line in standard security. The land where everyone has to strip down to their skivvies and then redress and repack on the “other side”.

Instead, keep the shoes on. Keep the liquids in the carry-on. Even keep the laptop in the satchel! All for the minuscule (lifetime, I think) price of 100 USD.

4. Use Uber for the airport getaway car. When you arrive to your destination, you don’t have to vie for a taxi cab with the crowds while getting close-lined by someone else’s shoulder bag. You don’t have to find your way through the maze of Doors 1-39, Pickup Zones A-D, etc. to find the taxi stand.

Instead, be picked up wherever you happen to exit the terminal. Know exactly which car is coming for you – down to the license plate and driver’s name! Pre-enter your destination address so the driver doesn’t even have to ask “Where to?” And if you shell out the big bucks for UberBlack, be treated to cold refreshing waters, gum, and whatever else the driver wants to do to work for his/her 5 star rating.

So there you have it! Four little ways that can make your travel experience dare I say, easy!

What do YOU do to simplify travel?

Be a #GreenlandPioneer!

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Photo credit: Mads Pihl – Visit Greenland

#GreenlandPioneer – learn it, love it, live it!

Use #GreenlandPioneer to find the largest collection of inspiring photos, stories, and news on social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you name it!

What is a #GreenlandPioneer, you ask? Everyone is welcome to his or her own interpretation, but we at Visit Greenland consider a #GreenlandPioneer anyone who travels to this great northern land to discover for oneself the true meaning of experiential travel. And it’s not only those who traverse the backcountry who count; travelers in search of culture-based holidays are every bit the Greenland pioneer, too!

Like what you see in the photos and stories tagged #GreenlandPioneer? Then splurge! Take the plunge! Come see Greenland with your own eyes!

The immense nature and the Pioneering People who live in and love this country are waiting for you 🙂

Brand Loyalty – Food for Thought

You often hear about travelers having brand loyalty to a particular airline or hotel company… And you often hear about avid cruisers having brand loyalty to a particular cruise line, or even ship…

But how does that brand loyalty start?

Does the traveler actually do detailed research, meticulously compare all the options, and finally select the brand that is right for him/her?

Or does the traveler more or less stumble upon the brand, have a satisfactory experience, and simply stick with it?

Using an example from my own personal experience in Reykjavik, Iceland, I fall into category 2. For my first trip to Reykjavik, I chose Hotel Klöpp based on location and price. I’m not an “amenities woman”; I just need a comfortable and convenient place to sleep with a bit of breakfast in the morning. This hotel fit the bill.

For my second trip to Reykjavik, I chose the same hotel because I knew it was a positive experience. Upon arrival, I discovered I had been upgraded to their Hotel Þingholt , a much swankier hotel with beautiful fresh orchids in the lobby and rooms furnished with horse-hair rugs, black leather upholstery, and chrome fixtures. This was more than I needed, but damn it was a good experience, too!

Now on my third overnight trip to Reykjavik, I chose the upgraded hotel! Maybe that was the company’s ploy all along?! But in any case, my newfound brand loyalty to them came out of pure luck.

Another question – can the concept of brand loyalty be applied at the destination level?

Can a traveler fall in love with a place and keep going back and back and back?

Or will he/she live by the motto: “The world is too big, and life is too short, to do the same thing twice!”?

Using another example from my own personal and professional experience in Greenland, I have to say that I think most people fall into Category 1… but they do have the potential to fall into Category 2 IF they find the destination(s) that truly fulfill all their motivations, dreams, and desires about travel.

Of course, I am a bit biased to Greenland having crossed the line from tourist to part-time resident, but I have found myself in Category 2. You cannot convince me otherwise that if I had experienced Greenland as a true tourist in 2012, I would have already gone back for trip #2 by 2013. And I would be planning ahead for trips #3, 4, and so on.

Greenland fulfills every hope and dream I never knew I had, and I can distinctly remember the feeling I had when I first landed in East Greenland on 26 May 2012. I felt as though I did not need to see another place on this planet to feel so fulfilled… And that feeling remains today.

I have cultivated brand loyalty to Greenland!!

What Is Your Travel Style?

WHAT IS YOUR TRAVEL STYLE?

TUESDAY, 19 MARCH 2013

Today a tourist was pulling my leg a little bit and asked me if the tables were turned, would I actually agree to be interviewed by a random person that came up to me in the airport? In most cases, I think I would, but of course my current job has a lot of influence on that answer! But, it made me really think about how I would answer the questions that I ask in my survey. Some of them are difficult and require thoughtful consideration, so my hat goes off to the 300-some tourists who have been so kind as to entertain my probing questions during their precious holiday time! And who are able to produce such coherent and insightful responses in a short time!

So here are my answers to some of the actual questions that I ask tourists in Greenland every single day. If any followers out there feel so inclined, I would be happy to hear your answers, as well!

What destinations are on your dream list of places to travel, and why?

I have seen SO little of the world, and even of my own country, that the short and easy answer is: everywhere!

It is easiest to first pinpoint what I am NOT attracted to. I am not interested in overly modern and industrialized destinations, so traveling in Europe is not a priority for me. Of course, it would be better than simply staying at home, but I would much prefer to see other parts of the world first.

Some may mistake me for a “nature person”. It is true – I do love being outdoors, going on hikes, being on the water, and so on. But what I really like is nature-based culture – human societies that have historically lived off the land, and preferably still do! I joke that I think I was born about 10,000 years too late… that I would have been perfect for the hunter-gatherer era! I am also very interested in linguistics and the evolution of languages due to interaction between different societies. I can thank Dr. Lise Dobrin at the University of Virginia Anthropology Department for that!

So now having thought through that, I have come to the conclusion that my dream list is more a list of cultures that I want to experience than a list of places I want to see.  I dream of traveling for the purpose of experiencing human societies that have maintained a life that is very in tune with the environment and to some extent, isolated from the modern world. I think most people would consider these cultures as “primitive”.  I debate the political correctness of that term and also the reality of it.  Yes, there are still foraging or nomadic societies, but the mere fact that we know about them indicates that they have been touched by modernity to some extent.

So, in no particular order, I would like to experience any societies in the Amazon Rainforest, but particularly the Huaorani in Ecuador; I would like to experience the Sami in northern Finland, Norway, and Sweden; the Maori in New Zealand; the residents of Tangier Island; and the residents in the Canary Islands that use a whistle language.  I would also generally like to see Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, and more of the Arctic.

On holiday, do you typically seek to experience the nature, the culture, a combination of both, or something else entirely?

Culture.

On holiday, do you prefer to observe the destination, interact with it, or immerse yourself in it?

I think what realistically happens is that I interact with a destination. But what I would ideally like to happen is that I immerse myself in it. In all actuality, I would like to do a mini-ethnography when I travel!

How many international holidays do you take in a typical year?

< 1 per year

Do you typically use a travel agent to make arrangements?

No.

Are you typically attracted to packaged itineraries?

No. But I will say that if I were traveling to Asia, specifically China, I would be extremely likely to purchase a packaged itinerary because it is my (ignorant) impression that that is just how tourism is done there. For instance, all the Living Social travel deals to China are 10-14 day fully planned trips.  They never advertise deals for just a piece of a holiday to China like most other destinations on Living Social.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the following aspects of holiday travel to you?

1 = Not Important At All

5 = Extremely Important

Spending Time With Family: 1

Connectivity of Destination (Internet Access): 2

Climate of Destination: 1

Learning Something New: 5

Doing New Activities: 3

Good Environmental/Social Practices (Sustainability): 4