In my growing years, I remember getting these constant dreams of waiting at an airport for my flight with the boarding pass in my hand, at times waiting at a platform about to board a train and sometimes sitting at a steering wheel looking at the flawless winding road overlooking a beautiful valley.
I grew up believing I would be a traveller someday but turning into a travel storyteller was something that just happened along the way. The myriad of emotions that I encountered during each trip of mine was something I could not contain in my heart alone. It had to be shared with my own people to begin with and then with the whole world to be able to feel that same adrenaline rush that I would experience each time I strapped my loyal backpack and set upon a new path to ecstasy
From a very young, I aspired to be a Travel Show Host and travel the world. It’s like I was born with wheels under my feet, staying put in one place was never my thing and imagine not being allowed to step out of the house without anyone… Pure Torture!!
My experience as a solo backpacker
To be able to travel as much as I do, includes a lot of investment in terms of finance, time, proper planning and effective execution. To begin with, It certainly isn’t easy to willingly choose not to do a lot of the conventional things that are expected out of any standard non millennial guy from India so I’ve had my share of ups and downs too to be able to reach a point of Nirvana (as I call it) today. There was some initial opposition from the familial front however when they realized where my passion lies, they came around rather quickly and now support me in every possible way they can. In fact with all the souvenirs I bring back and with every new trip of mine, my mom is the happiest lady as the collection of magnets on her fridge door keeps going up which makes her neighbours envious of her which kinda gives her a kick I feel!
I am not very religious however I do believe there is a supreme being who runs the entire show for us. I consider myself as one god’s favourite children as even though I may have been an average student at school and college, I have been fortunate enough to have bagged a great job that includes travelling nationwide as well as internationally which I thoroughly enjoy. One thing apart from other learnings I have imbibed from my parents is to be dedicated and devoted to whatever I may take up or am assigned which is why I consistently excelled at work and kept climbing the ladder of success which earned me a lot of trust and respect of all the stakeholders at my work place. This quality of mine was a blessing in disguise which helped me in nurturing my long drawn passion of being a Traveller.
Over the last few years I have been able to cover around 40 countries (a few with friends but otherwise mostly solo) I am a wanderer by heart and travelling gives me a high that no kind of intoxication can get even close to. This year on my travel list topped the viewing of “The Northern Lights”. While there is a greater probability of seeing them up in the Arctic Circle in Norway, Sweden, or Finland, I ultimately chose to visit Iceland instead because the climate there is more temperate and there would be incredible activities and exploration options during the day. While they say you can never guarantee that the Northern Lights will ever show up, I took my chances and headed to Iceland for 5 days during the last week of December 2018.
WHAT ARE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
In short, they are the bright lights that are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that break through the earth’s atmosphere. When people refer to the lights dancing, you’re actually seeing the particles move through the atmosphere. The green light is the most common colour you’ll witness, but the lights can also be red, yellow, purple, and blue. It’s a breath taking and all natural. It’s like nature is putting up a unique light show for all of us to witness. Truly a one of a kind spectacle to experience!
Imagine looking up to the dark midnight sky and seeing white and green stripes appear out of nowhere. It's like nothing you've seen before and you have to see it to believe it. The lights can be shy or really show off, but either way it's a sight to see. You can actually see them moving, swaying and swirling across the sky. They're thin and become thicker as they charge up and then may hide, but then come back again even stronger. Trust me, you'll want to make the trip to see them.
A GUIDE TO WITNESS THE NORTHERN LIGHTS –
This was my first time to view the Northern Lights and even though I read up several blogs, articles and did a thorough research related to my stay and do’s and don’ts that would ensure a flawless experience, I did come across a few things that I may not have been prepared for. Sharing below a few guidelines that will help any solo traveller have a blissful and memorable time in Iceland.
IDEALLY, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR?
There are two main factors that must align in order to see the lights: a clear sky and aurora activity. The clear sky is the toughest obstacle to beat in Iceland, with the continuously changing and hard to predict weather. Consider yourself lucky if you are welcomed with a clear sky or else simply find a tour company that can really understand the cloud movement and guide you further
There are three main components to look out for -
• Cloud Cover - You want to look for areas without clouds (white) in the forecast from 9pm-2am. Like I mentioned above, the forecast is very hard to predict, but this will give you some indication of a good area to head to.
• Aurora Forecast – You should be looking for a Kp indicator of 3 and above. That being said, my guide told me he’s seen a beautiful light performance with a Kp 1.
• Magnetic Field Observations - As soon as the lines start deviating from the centre point, the lights are active. The Aurora Forecast for Europe can give you a general idea of the Kp index for the next 3 days, but use with caution as it changes frequently
TRAVELLING RIGHT !
It is so cold and you’ll be standing outside most of the night waiting for the lights to appear. You don’t want the cold to ruin your night and take all the fun out of the hunt.
Here’s a list of what to wear and the absolute must-haves
• Thermal, Woollen and winter wear to survive in very extreme cold conditions
• Scarf and/or neck warmer (helps protect your face tremendously)
• You can rent great high performance snow boots from the available stores in Reykjavik
• A high intensity flash light from a renowned brand (I have mine from Go Travel)
• A sturdy backpack (Mine is from Victorinox, the VX Touring Backpack Anthracite and I totally vouch for it in terms of quality and space)
• A Swiss knife (No Compromise there) for any emergencies or last minute hacks
You may think this list looks aggressive, but the cold and the travel condition is no joke. Make sure to always keep moving and allow blood to keep flowing throughout your body. The travel conditions are tough yet the thrill of this trip was unmatchable and absolutely exhilarating. The marvel that you get to witness at the end of all of this cannot be expressed in mere words. You gotta see it to actually know what I am trying to tell you. I am so lucky I got to witness it randomly as I looked out of my Hotel window at around 2:00 am one night and captured a few shots as a memory that I shall look back on after I get back home
An unforgettable journey that shall remain one of my favourite as that’s the place I felt closest to the showman, the almighty himself!