Chapter 24: King of the North

Just spent a week 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Check it out.

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Northern Lights. Polar Nights. Tromsø, Norway is an incredible city. The views are nuts, the day/night cycle is like nothing that I’ve ever experienced, and I saw a pack of reindeer trotting around.

Tromsø is really far north. Like really, really far up here.

The island to the left? That’s Iceland. I’m a whole Iceland above Iceland. Why did I go to Tromsø? Because I googled “best place to see the Northern Lights” and saw this picture:

Well I thought that picture looked pretty damn cool. So now I’m here. This place is, in fact, pretty damn cool. Let’s get into it.


Thursday, November 18th

Early morning in Stockholm with a 9 AM flight. I threw on my clothes and headed to the train station to catch the airport shuttle. The shuttle stopped at multiple terminals in the Stockholm airport, but I didn’t know that. So I got off at the wrong spot.

Missing two flights in two weeks would be tragic, luckily I made it to my gate well before take off. Coolest thing about Sweden? No masks on the plane, baby. I flew to Oslo, where I had a four hour layover before flying to Tromsø. I was sitting by a Swedish couple heading to Edinburgh for the weekend. Good folks, we chatted all about Scotland for a good hour.

When I landed in Oslo, I was able to walk through the airport to my new gate without anyone checking my passport, vax card, or literally anything at all.

Which means Devin and I could have flown to Sweden, then turned around and flown right back to Oslo. Which means we could have totally visited Tromsø.

Sorry Dev :(

The flight into Tromsø was freaking sick. Tromsø is located on an island surrounded by mountains, so on the approach the pilot curved the plane tightly around some of the peaks. Great flight for a window seat. We landed around 5, and it was dark. Like really, really dark. Some would call it advanced darkness. I caught a shuttle to the town square and walked to my hostel. The city was alive and well. Tons of people walking in the streets, riding on a Ferris wheel by the water, and hanging out in bars.

I knocked on the hostel door before walking in when no one answered.

“Ummm hey I’m here to check in.”

Some guy with a shaved head and long beard walked out and said, “I’m Lucas, just bring your stuff in, and we can figure out the check in later.”

“Okay…?” I thought to myself.

This place felt more like a college house than a hostel. Homely kitchen, a living room with couches against every wall, music playing over the speaker, and five bedrooms.

Lucas said, “Jack, right? Weren’t you supposed to be here a week ago?”

“Yeah… my friend got deported from Norway so we had to leave. I talked to the owner and he said he would credit my payment to this visit.”

“Okay sounds good to me. Want a beer?”


I like Lucas. Also, I later found out that he was German. Looked like a Viking though.

I met Angelique, a French/Spanish girl, and Ezekiel, an Argentinian guy, in the living room. They were planning to walk 25 minutes to try to see the Northern Lights from a nearby lake, so I threw on some layers and joined them. Their English was a little better than my Spanish, but most of our conversations existed somewhere on the Spanglish spectrum.

We got to the lake, and I pulled out my speaker and started playing some Christmas music. After an hour and a half of sitting in the cold, we decided to walk back to the hostel. Right as we started walking down the road, the lights appeared out of nowhere.

We sprinted (cautiously, road was icy af) back to the lake and whipped out our phones.

Something that I didn’t know about the lights: they aren’t super visible to the naked eye unless they are going bonkers. It looks like faint greenish waves. However, they stand out well through a camera/phone (as you will see in my pics).

After 20 minutes, they dissipated and Angelique and I walked back. On the way through town, we saw them again in the distance.

When I got back, I met the owner, Robin. I thought he was an American because his English was so good. He was a 30 year old guy who lived around the corner, and he brought his dog, Burger, to hang out at the hostel. We chatted about the hostel business, COVID restrictions, and a bunch of other stuff before he said, “Wanna go grab some beers at the bar? My wife is with our 1 year old and I need a break from dad duty for a bit.”

I obliged. We walked five minutes down the road and put down some overpriced Norwegian brews. Next thing I know, it’s 2:30 AM and the bar is closing. As we go to leave, this massive, long-haired beast of a man walks up and says, “Hello allies. Would you like to go fetch women with me?”

I wish I was making this up.

Robin and I glanced at each other and looked back at him.

“Sure… where are you fetching women?” I wanted to see how far Fat Thor would go.

“Oh we have an afterparty. It will be glorious.”

Robin said, “Ah then where is everyone else?”

“Oh they’ll be there alright.”

“Okay man, you go and we’ll catch up.”

“Aye aye, comrades.” Fat Thor exits the premises and stumbles down the road.

“A thousand years ago the Vikings terrorized Europe. Now that’s all they have left. What a shame,” Robin said. Damn right. We headed back to the crib and I caught some shut eye.

Friday, November 19th

I got up around 10 (aka sunrise) and headed 30 minutes down the road to the tip of the island. The view from the bottom of the island was awesome, miles and miles of sea with a snowy mountain range in the back. The sun peaked around 11:30 AM at a height that would have looked like a sunset anywhere else.

I explored the bottom of the island for a bit before heading to a local gym. I had purchased a month gym membership for $25 (not bad), and needed to get back on the grind. After hitting my highest altitude squats ever, I went back to the hostel to hang out.

A Dutch guy named Wietse was checking in on Saturday, but he came by a day early to pay. We exchanged numbers and planned to meet up later.

I hung around the hostel before heading out to find some food around 9. After dinner, I passed Wietse on the main road. He was headed to a bar called Prelaten with a French girl (Helene) from his other hostel. I joined them inside. They had a group of 7 people from the Netherlands, France, and Belgium. After an hour or so there, Wietse, Max (Belgian guy) and I headed to another bar.

Side note: COVID rules are sorta weird in Tromsø right now. Everything is open, but you have to be at a table to take your mask off anywhere.

I can’t remember the name of the next place that we went to, but it was much more open. After grabbing some drinks, Wietse asked if I wanted a cigarette. I didn’t want a cigarette, but I also wouldn’t let a soldier venture out to the cold alone. So I half-smoked a cig with him.

A 40 year old American guy, Justin, heard my accent and started chatting us up. He’d lived up here for 11 years, and he was pumped to see a fellow Yank. Drinks were on Justin allll night for the rest of the night. He insisted. We ended up hanging out with some Norwegians, and Justin bought drinks for them too. Dude probably dropped $600 on our crew. Nice.

Saturday, November 20th

Woke up, gym, breakfast, back to the hostel. When I got back, another French guy, Bastien, had checked in. He was a 30 year old single guy working remote, and he’d been traveling for a few weeks. That afternoon, Bastien and I made plans to take the cable car to the top of the mountain overlooking the town. We walked 30 minutes across the bridge to the other side of Tromsø and paid $20 to ride to the top. Best $20 I’ve spent all trip. I could see why Tromsø is called the Paris of the North. It looked like a million bright lights reflecting back on us.

There was a cafe at the top of the mountain, but we walked out of the building and ventured into the snow-covered ground outside. Helluva view in the Arctic Circle.

I stayed in the cafe for a few hours to write. It wasn’t snowing when I started to head back, but as I approached the (really long) bridge, it started snowing. Then the wind started blowing. Five minutes later I looked like a walking snowman. I went in the first burger place I saw back on my side of the bridge to eat and warm up.

Wietse met me back at the hostel, and we bounced around town for a bit. We originally went to Prelaten, but it was kinda dead. One of the bartenders recommended “Heidi’s Bier Bar”, so we went there next. This place was cool. The servers all wore traditional German outfits, the dance floor was open (with everyone masked, of course) and the place was popping. My Dutch friend and I chatted up some Norwegians for a while before heading back at 2ish.

Wietse unfortunately lost his phone at the bar lol. My dude is down bad.

Sunday, November 21st

Sunday was a chill day. I wrote a lot of words, drank a lot of coffee, picked some heavy objects up and down, and went to bed around 9:30. Dogsledding in the AM, had to be rested up for the puppies! I didn’t realize half of my hostel went out until the next day lol.

Monday, November 22nd

There is a sauna next to the water in Tromsø, and I planned to take an Arctic ice bath at some point this trip. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, idk) I never got around to it.

While I didn’t hit the sauna, I did do something super cool today: dog sledding. Four Alaskan huskies dragging my sled all over the Arctic. I signed up for this last week when I saw it would snow a lot while I was in town. A retired professional dog racer (sledder? No idea what you call those guys) who had participated in the Iditarod several times, was now running a sledding business on the outskirts of Tromsø. A group of seven of us (a British couple, French couple, two German girls, and me) met at the town center to ride to the camp.

Here’s the set up: six dogs tied to a single rope line are pulling a massive red sled. One person sits inside the sled, while the other stands behind it with their feet on the legs of the sled. There are two foot brakes on the back, a plastic rake-looking thing that you step on to slow the pups, and a sharper metal rake that you kick down for hard stops. The partners would switch spots 45 minutes into our 1:30 ride. However, I was going solo. So I had four pups and no one in the sled.

A two-man sled is more balanced than someone standing on the back solo. We hit the first turn, I hadn’t slowed my dogs, and I went flying off of my sled into the snow. Naturally the dogs kept running.

The group behind me had a GoPro, and one of the girls is sending me the footage. I’m praying that she caught my wipeout lmao.

Besides that, we were all good. The ride was beautiful. We were behind the mountain range overlooking Tromsø, and the sun was peeking through the clouds (or at least what little bit of the sun we get).

Once we were done, we huddled around a campfire for coffee and tea.

A few notes about dogsledding:

  • The dogs smell awful

  • They don’t stop running to poop. They just do this weird duck-walk thing and keep moving. I braked a bit to make it easier on my four legged friend

  • If you make them stop for more than a minute or so, they start going crazy. These puppies want to run

  • Several of the dogs were retired athletes that had competed in Alaska, including my two lead dogs. Cool stuff

I got back to town around 1:30, and I hung out with the hostel folks for a bit. There was a 30-something American guy, Tim, in my room. We also had an Australian girl (Emma) and Austrian girl (Sandra), and guy from the Dominican Republic (Hector). I also found out that Jolta, a girl who I thought worked at the hostel, was just a traveler too. No idea how I never noticed that. Anyways, I hit the gym before heading to a cafe to write for a while. I got back to the hostel around 7:30 and hung out with everyone there. Now I had no intentions of going out tonight. Mondays in Tromsø aren’t exactly popping off, and I had a flight the next day. But I showered and changed, and the group said, “You ready to go out?”

So we went out.

We went to Prelaten, the same bar I met Wietse on Friday. The place was empty, but we were nine deep so it was cool. I made the fatal mistake of asking a random dude to take a picture of us. Turns out he was the local weirdo, and he would not leave us alone after that. For my Macon people, he was kinda like the weird dude who lurked around the Bird.

One by one, everyone started heading back to the hostel. I cashed out around 1.

Tuesday, November 23rd

Woke up surprisingly early after our last minute night out. I threw on some sweats, grabbed a 7/11 coffee and cinnamon roll, and headed to the gym (side note, a gym wit a view of the Tromso coastline was awesome, especially considering a one month pass was only $27).

I walked around town for a bit and grabbed another coffee and another cinnamon roll (I’ve been a coffee/pastry fiend in Scandinavia lol) on the way back to the hostel. I planned on doing some laundry before my 3:00 flight, but there was already a load running when I got back. Oh well.

I started writing for a bit, as I had an hour and a half before I needed to leave, but I couldn’t stop checking my email inbox. Young Money has been popping off lately (1412 subscribers and counting), and the little dopamine hits from new subs are akin to the feeling you get when someone likes your Instagram photo. While checking my inbox repeatedly can’t be healthy, it is pretty freaking wild that 1400 people, mostly strangers, are reading my stuff now. Pathway to monetization is alive and well.

I packed up and hopped on the bus at 1:30. Except I missed the airport, because I wasn’t sure where to get off. So I had to catch another bus back to the airport at 2:23. For a 3:00 flight.

I really, really didn’t need to miss my second flight in three weeks. Luckily the Tromsø airport is tiny, so I was able to make it to my gate by 2:40 as boarding began. Flight to Oslo was chill, then I caught another flight an hour later to Berlin.

So now I’m in Berlin. I watched the Barcelona game at the hostel bar with a Spaniard I met down there, and Hudson gets to town tomorrow. Catch you guys in a few days.


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