The Arctic Adventurer – Do you have it in you? Could you see yourself as an adventure guide in the Arctic’s wild nature? Are you at your best when you lead and inspire people in the outdoors, giving them the experience of their life? If you want to spend more time in the most awesome and challenging, yet vulnerable nature imaginable, you can stop looking. With the one-year Arctic Nature Guide education in Spitsbergen, we guarantee you a year of adventures. Followed by a working life outdoors, where you meet nature every day, in every way. What’s there not to love?
The text above is taken from the Arctic Nature Guide study program description. This unique program is led by Sigmund Andersen, an inspiring teacher and guide guru. After my more theoretical master’s degree in nature-based tourism, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, again, broaden my horizon, and learn practical outdoor and guiding skills in one of the world’s wildest natural settings. Longyearbyen, the capital of the Svalbard archipelago, situated on its main island Spitsbergen, is located just 1,300 kilometers from the North Pole. Upon arrival, in August 2013, Svalbard was barren, sunbathing under the midnight sun. From November until February, we lived in the Polar Night, under a dark sky, 24/7, only lit up by the occasional Northern Lights, while the sea froze to ice and heaps of snow covered everything in temperatures down to -30 degrees Celsius. I will never forget seeing the first beams of sunlight hitten my face after months of darkness, just weeks before the sun again would just circle around in the sky for months.
Svalbard’s landscape is difficult to describe. Although governed by Norway, you feel isolated, far away from the rest of the world. After all, Svalbard means “the cold edge”. Its Dutch name Spitsbergen means “pointed mountains”. Amidst glaciers, snow-filled valleys, partly abandoned Russian settlements, polar bears, reindeer, whales and walruses, I met new outdoor friends from Norway and other parts of the world. In this magical environment, we learned about the history of Svalbard, rich in heroic arctic explorers, trapping, and entrepreneurial adventures. Glacier guiding, first aid, polar bear safety, sea ice rescue, avalanche risk assessment, dog-sledding, snowmobiling, ice caving, and ski expeditions were among the topics covered.
By far my greatest adventure was living in a “gamme” tent for 6 months, with fellow students and adventurers Morten, a Danish cryonicist, and Louis, son of the Bishop of London. Weaponed and guarded with trip wire systems and WWII Mauser rifles, sleeping on field beds with reindeer hides, warming ourselves around a wood stove, we lived a vagabondic existence.
My time on Svalbard led to life-lasting friendships, out-of-this-world experiences, and a hard-to-match sense of adventure that made me feel as happy and thankful as I have ever been in my life. It made me realize how beautiful the world really is, what you can achieve and experience if you just dare to step out of your comfort zone, how much outdoor experiences contribute to interhuman bonding, and how much I wanted to start my own outdoor company.