Pointing North

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Pointing North
Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia


It’s often said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Conversely, my first step begins with journeys of thousands of miles and the frequent flyer points they earned me. In my near-penniless state, I’m hoping to ride the coat tails of my former glory all the way to the Northern Lights or as close as they’ll get me.

So here’s the lowdown on the Northern Lights according to Wikipedia: “An aurora (plural: aurorae or auroras; from the Latin word aurora, “dawn”) is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere).” What it doesn’t mention is how unutterably awe inspiring the phenomenon is or how desperate I am to see them. To do that, I need to get as far north as possible into the deepest, darkest realms of the Northern Hemisphere winter.

And here’s the lowdown on my One World Alliance Frequent Flyer points: Just to get to London or New York would be around 130,000 points return BUT for 140,000 points, I can get a 5 stop multi-city ticket! I’ve checked the fare rules and that doesn’t include connections – only places I spend more than 24 hours. I can go in any direction but have to fly Qantas once and with at least two other member airlines.

Although it’s very difficult to chose only 5 stops (the last presumably being Sydney), I think my ideal itinerary would be:

  1. London, UK
  2. Reykjavik, Iceland
  3. New York, USA
  4. Vancouver, Canada
  5. Sydney, Australia

But I have to remain focused on the Northern Lights agenda and first consider my best viewing options. Looking at the One World Alliance map, I believe they are these:

  1. Fairbanks, Alaska
  2. Reykjavik, Iceland
  3. Lapland (various locations dotted on the map), Finland

(there are other places in Northern Russia that would be amazing but probably not on a cash-strapped-coming-from-Australian-su mmer-solo-mission)

I humbly have to admit that I’ve been to all these places before and would happily return to any of them. They each have a lot going for them in terms of my own private motivation.

Fairbanks, Alaska: This is where I saw the Lights 11 years ago, actually just a little further north at Chena Hotsprings. It was September and -12 degrees in our puny pop-tent with flimsy $10 sleeping bags. Although I have no regrets about that coldest night of my life, camping will NOT be an option this time. It’s reputed to be one of the best viewing spots but the most compelling argument for the Fairbanks solution is that it would almost invariably involve a visit to Vancouver. Readers of my last blog will know that Vancouver is something of a ‘spiritual homeland’ for me with more than a few of my heartstrings permanently tied and constantly pulling me there.

Of course, the other place on Earth I feel that same intuitive sense of belonging is Reykjavik, Iceland. To see the Northern Lights in that wild, weird and wonderful landscape would be so many dreams come true that I’d be afraid I’d never dream again but I’d be willing to risk it!

And then there’s Lapland, Finland – home of my first white Christmas and pretty much the first time I saw snow – I’ve been in it’s thrall ever since. Had i known about the Northern Lights then, I probably could have stuck my head out of the sauna and seen Santa’s sleigh backlight by a brilliant, shimmering curtain of light! Here again, the most persuasive argument for Finland though is the jumping off point – London. You guessed it – another bloody homeland but in quite a different way to its competitors. There’s no less of my heart strings in the hands of its residents but perhaps the strongest pull comes from someone I haven’t even met yet – my non-blood-niece, Ida-Mae … she has blood, she’s not a vampire, we’re just not related by blood but rather by the bond of friendship with her parents Vic and Pete who gave me a place to call home for months on end last year. In fact, Ida-Mae only came into being after I left so she’s really my replacement. I just want to see if she really is cuter than me!

So you see my wonderful conundrum! Of course it’s all pie in the sky at the moment and warrants further investigation with the good people at the One World Alliance. I’ll do some homework and let you know what I discover. I suspect (and kinda hope) the decision will be taken out of my hands by what’s possible but none the less, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter. I intend for this blog to be far more interactive than in the past and also integrated with other social media:

Facebook: Patches McGee page (that’s me with the mustache for Movember)
Twitter: patches_mcgee
Instagram: patches_mcgee
I’m on Pintrest too but I haven’t sorted that out yet. I’ll get back to you on that one.
Until then, happy travels!

Naomi Doyle, aka Patches McGee is a writer, traveller and phone-ographer in desperate need of your help to make her next trip to see the Northern Lights a reality. Join the journey here by subscribing to this blog, on Facebook at Patches McGee, Twitter @patches_mcgee and Instagram @patches_mcgee


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