Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interesting People: Greenland & Iceland

Of all the people I had the pleasure of meeting this trip, four stood out. 

I had lunch with a couple in Greenland.  A French Woman who used to be pretty high up with the WWF and a Danish Man who currently works for an oil company, preparing patents for maps of the ice fields in the Arctic. 

Turns out the WWF used the Danish's Man's company info yearly to show and prove their point that the ice fields are shrinking at an alarming rate.  And ironically diminishing ice means higher accessibility to off shore oil fields...

His company has high interest in Greenland's untapped resources.  Even he had to admit when you compare the last 10 years of maps, it obviously pointed to non reversing shrinkage.  In the March issue of  Greenland Today, a significant amount of the magazine was dedicated to how Greenland will deal with all the worldwide companies wanting in on their resource development.  And how their new government, elected a couple of days before I arrived will handle things.

Then the topic turned to travel.  Whoa, did I feel like a small player compared to those two.  The French Lady had been pretty much everywhere, couldn't speak more highly of Africa, especially Serengeti and Botswana and encouraged me to go there ASAP. 

The Danish follow is an experienced trekker and his current favourite areas to hike were Annapurna (Nepal) and the Atlas Mountains (Morocco), having done Kilimanjaro twice and base camp Everest once and most of everywhere else you could think of.  Their combined knowledge base of the world is downright stunning.  Felt like I wasn't thinking big enough, that I lived a very sheltered life.

The third person was a young man from Switzerland.  I remembered him from the departures area at Reykjavik airport, looking just spent.  I found out later it was because he had gotten "Air Iceland" mixed up with "Icelandair".  So he thought his flight to Greenland left from Keflavik...Which is at least an hour away...and he only had 1hr 45 min layover...

He spent his time couchsurfing with a local in Ilulisaat.  Talked of how his host cooked whale -- Wrapped in bacon and in a slow cooker for the day -- Was unbelievably tender.  He had a couple of great pictures of the Northern Lights.  And was offered a job as a summer guide with the company I used.  He too was disappointed that dogsledding was unavailable.

He was on the last leg of a 1 1/2 year backpacking adventure that took him to Asia and South America.  His current favourite place was Kathmandu because of the locals.  From Reykjavik, he was heading to the Faroe Islands, then Copenhagen, then hitchhiking all the way back home.

We spent the duration of the flight back to Reykjavik (3 hr) talking about his adventures.  I told him how I longed for an extended period of time off (1 yr+) and how I cannot see how that could be possible without retiring completely, which I was not quite ready to do just yet.  That I couldn't imagine even a month off whereas he cannot imagine taking a trip that was less than a month's duration.

He was ready to go home and start on his next phase of life, which will consist of further education as he wasn't interested in going back to his previous career.  He encouraged me to go sooner than later (especially to China for the pollution is only getting worse) and to rent my house for the duration.

That after even a year, my thinking would change so much, nothing I was clinging to or worried about right now would really matter.  Perception of obstacles will shrink.  That's how much growth I would experience.  It was his mindset and conviction I was most fascinated with. 

Interestingly enough, he felt very strongly that keeping hold of a home base or core possessions was important.  Without it, he would have high difficulty mentally, knowing he had nothing to come back to. 

I had a difficult time understanding what he really meant by that as I see coming back to a clean slate incredibly exciting.  A chance to create.  If I was going house hunting right now, I would not chose the house we're living in because I've changed in the last 6 1/2 years we've been living here.  The only thing holding me back is inertia, not wanting another mortgage or other related costs.

Last and certainly not least, our guide and superjeep driver in Reykjavik.  He had some real interesting stories having been a commercial fisherman (tough job!) and as a driver for a high end private tour company.

His favourite celebrity was Roger Moore, described as incredibly polite, gracious and completely "Bond" all the way.  Least favourite was Jude Law, whom he found to be very full of himself.  He also had a chance to meet Kirsten Dunst (found her to be really shy) right after Spiderman 2 premiered as well as Angelina Jolie and her children. 

This summer, he is taking a superjeep for a couple weeks to tour northern Iceland.  He also listed a bunch of movies that were filmed in Iceland and confirmed that the beginning of the movie "Prometheus" was indeed Iceland! 

When D and I went to see it (I had no idea it was the prequel to the Aliens franchise...otherwise I would have never gone...don't like anything that resembles horror), I leaned over and said to D, "That has to be Iceland!  No other place on Earth looks like that...". 

Icelanders, like the Norwegians,  love their country and cannot wait till summer to explore it themselves.  It's in their blood.  Looking forward to the day I stand at Dettifoss myself.  He told me the sound and power of it is unbelievable...I was ready to go right then and there...

***Forgot to mention in my last post that should you wish to do away with all the planning and gear that comes with cold weather travel, just go in the summer like what over 80% of visitors to Greenland do.  You will have to bring some serious bug protection though ie.  bug suit as I hear they are rampant and will eat you alive...Personally, I would take the cold over bug bites or bug suits any day but then again, I'm a mosquito magnet.***

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