Joan Larsen’s Travel: Shore Party in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Posted on February 20, 2013


By Joan Larsen


Life holds the most unexpected surprises, the forever memories, to those who are open to them.  Isn’t that true?  But, on this day of astonishing splendor that, truly, only a few countries in our world can offer, this journey — to the edge of the world that was Norway —  had been a bit of scenic heaven far beyond our dreams.


3-brudesloretPassengers exhibited a palpable sense of amazement on deck, hardly believing the exquisite beauty we were quietly sailing past.  The two of us found ourselves in a Zodiac raft under the thin veils of waterfalls dropping from cliffs so towering that we looked like ants.  This was Geirangerfjord – considered by most to be the most beautiful fjord in the world.

I wanted no more than that.

But the ship’s captain suggested that the view from the top equaled the view from the bottom.  After 180 exciting hair-pin turns upward by bus to the mountain top, I found the view down the fjord was one of astonishing splendor.



But – I must tell you — my own lasting memories will be of a small moment in time on the top of that mountain that proved extraordinary.   First you must know it was quite cold at the top: definitely ski jacket weather.  So when another bus disgorged a group who were dressed in their Sunday best, it quickly got my attention.

It was like watching a flashback from the 1930s to see women dressed in dresses of that time – or skirts and blouses of silk and dressy sandals, no makeup and uniformly a bit overweight.  They were from Latvia!!!  Right out there, one suddenly burst into song and others joined in as we all stood in that dirt parking lot on the top of a very high mountain.  One song followed another.  Then two people hooked arms – followed by more – for an informal dance.

By this time, I had long forgotten the view I had come to see.  These women knew what the simple pleasures were wherever they went.  These people knew how to laugh from the joy of just being together.  Suddenly a circle dance took form and I was gathered in in a warm embrace, finding myself doing intricate side steps, whirling and spinning at a rapid pace.  The Latvian women’s laughter was so contagious that I was laughing also, the people welcoming me with the most warm wonderful smiles.  And hugs.

6-Latvian dancers

Latvians, warm as people could ever be – who made me feel that I was in another world on that mountain top – made it feel a more real world than we now live in.   How can I express the feeling to you?  Again, we were women – women come from different lives, worlds so different – and yet I felt taken in and cared for by them.  Into their lives.  Into their hearts.  I felt us become one.   They too have left indelible footprints on my heart, enriching my own life in so many ways.

I relive these moments in my mind forever.

I know fully well that your own thoughts on life may be far different than mine.  I accept that.  But I can only say that my heart is so full of joy, fed by the experiences that I feel have made for a very full life.  And so, to those who read this, I feel that if we do not get out of our own comfort zones, our world grows smaller and we lose our sense of wonder.

And so I hope that others will begin to take the chances and follow the voices that call them to worlds outside the cocoons we often live in.  It is only there when we experience a sense of forever… and, with it, the landscape of the soul.


Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”