In the summer of 2010, Anubhav Vacations, a travel company just over one-year-old in the outbound tours from India crossed the Arctic Circle with a group of 20 people. The trip was planned around the Mid Night sun and the sun at midnight we did see. Our first group above the Arctic circle was not only our first one but also the first ever from India. I did not know this in the beginning and perhaps the fact that we were an Indian travel company with Indian people born and living in India was seen in the Lofoten islands, Norway as completely out of mind. The idea of going so far up north was as surprising to the locals who spoke to us as it was for the people in the group. That trip in the summer of 2010 and the lessons I took home from it decided the future course of work for Anubhav Vacations in a very significant way. We started taking the route of the countryside to show the country and over the years the scale has tilted in favor of a stay in the villages to staying in huge cities.
The reason for this brief introduction above is that without learning how to travel in summer in Scandinavia, planning a trip in winter wouldn’t have been possible. I think it was for about a year that I heard stories about the Northern Lights in Tromso. Facebook and internet marketing was still new but articles had already started to appear in travel magazines around Europe. SAS, an airline based in Scandinavia had a piece on the Northern lights in the north of Norway and I would think that it was in one of their in-flight magazines that the trigger to go and check Tromso in winter occurred. So in the winter of 2012, laced with whatever woolen clothing I possessed, I decided to take a SAS flight crossing the Arctic circle for the first time in winter. I think in that personal trip the Northern Lights was not so much of an agenda as was to understand whether a 60 + year, Mumbai living individual can take the cold. The warm clothes that I wore on that trip made me look like a Russian grandpa, with all the heavy wool. I was sitting at the window on my flight to Tromso and the cloud cover below was pure white. It was only after the sudden touch down did I realize that it was really the snow cover and so much of snow that even the roofs of the houses were white. I remember saying to myself, “I don’t care if I see the lights or not, this is so good”.
That winter two things happened, one, my bond with Scandinavia grew stronger and two an itinerary took shape. The same itinerary which gave us the first group tour to be ever done from India. Over the years, the image of the Northern lights though is a postcard image of winter, the real thing is to experience the Arctics in this time of the year. When a family of four rolled on a snow-covered river and got up only to see the sky change color, as if dawn had just gotten to be dusk in 30 minutes, the expression on their face said it all. Maybe they had a more ‘aww’ of an expression when the saw the Northern lights later, but the calm they had earlier was different.
As I write tonight from my hotel in Stockholm having finished the first group and waiting for the next group to come, I am happy that I am here for yet another year. I keep learning from Norway and in general from Scandinavia, summer or in winter!