Featured Travel Diary

Surviving Our First Holiday Together

10th July 2017

Some of my fondest memories of the past few years are from the time I’ve spent traveling with my husband. Although looking back on our first holiday together, I’m amazed we survived. Never mind went on any more.

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The World’s Most Northernly Holiday Newbies

The first trip we took was to Tromsø. Home of the World’s most Northerly University (Although the more I’ve traveled around that part of the World, the more I’ve realised that’s a title which gets banded around a lot. I’ve visited the most Northerly aquarium, stayed in the World’s most Northerly hotel and even passed the World’s most Northerly vets).

We picked Tromsø as a destination as we had some extra cash and annual leave to use. We wanted to see the Northern lights and whales, but some quick research made it clear Northern Norway would be a safer bet than somewhere more obvious like Iceland.

I didn’t bank on it being one of the most magical places in the entire World. But I also didn’t dedicate much thought at all to what it would be like.

I made assumptions.

Cold Pockets

The night before we went to Go Outdoors to get some outdoor clothes which would be suitable for sub freezing temperatures. Whilst there I picked up some of those pocket hand warmer things which I’ve still not used (But take on every cold trip we go on, like some sort of weird good luck charm).

Then we hopped on a plane, full of intrigue and excitement. But utterly unprepared. Not taking into account the aforementioned pocket warmers. Because when faced with hypothermia in the Arctic, everyone knows pleasantly warm hands are a real life saver.

A First Glimpse At The Aurora

During the last half hour of our flight, the pilot told us the Northern lights were visible from the plane. I couldn’t see them but my biggest fear about the holiday had already been alleviated. They were there.

As we disembarked and queued to get inside the airport, I looked up and saw a green stripe spanning across the sky. They were faint, but undeniably the Northern lights. If I’m being totally honest I felt a prang of panic. Having dreamed of seeing the Aurora my entire life, I didn’t want to think they weren’t as good in real life. That the footage and photos I had seen was exaggerated. Or not visible with the naked eye (We would be lucky enough to see the Aurora properly just a day later. They were so much better than I could have ever even imagined).

We went and collected our hire car from a nice man who looked like a real life Viking. Then set about finding our hotel, which was just 20 minutes from the airport. Our first holiday together was properly underway. However, as it would transpire we wouldn’t reach the hotel for nearly three hours. Past midnight. Hungry, tired, cold and frustrated.

No Signal

Assuming 3G would just work, I didn’t bother hiring a sat-nav. The 3G very much didn’t work, no matter how many times we tried to connect to various Norwegian networks. I had no maps synced offline. And by the time this really sank in, we had long left the airport.

In what can only be described as the most optimistic plan ever, we figured we would just wing it. It was only 20 minutes away after all. I assumed we would come to some sort of main street with all the hotels on. What could go wrong?

Norwegian Roads

The icy roads were a challenge enough, but the most worrying aspect was the width. It felt as though the car barely fitted on the lane. With nothing on either side but snow poles to stop us plunging to our death, the driving quickly became terrifying.

We drove in silence, besides occasional outbreaks of bickering about whose fault this was. Or what we should be doing differently. Bracing ourselves every time an oncoming vehicle passed.

Eternal Darkness

In late November, I knew it would be dark. The sun only rises above the horizon briefly giving us around 3 hours of daylight. What I didn’t expect was just how dark the night would be. With no light pollution outside the city, everything surrounding the road we were on was pitch black.

With no visual references, we drove around the same small area for literally hours. Without once realising we had been there before.

What we didn’t realise was how incredibly different that skyline looked in the day. Huge snow capped mountains spanned the horizon in just about every direction. It was a challenge not to get distracted by the beauty whilst driving along. Yet the night before in the dark, we were completely oblivious.

The Tunnels Of Tromsø

The people of Tromsø are very proud of their tunnels. They’re apparently known for it. Something I didn’t know before but realised pretty quickly.

Whichever route we took, we somehow ended up back underground in this sprawling tunnel system. It went on for literally miles. Like an underground maze with no landmarks or signs we could read. Huge fans like airplane engines hang from the ceiling, circulating air and dust.

I’ve since discovered there’s a gym down there and massive car park. I assume for people like us who just reside themselves to the fact they’ll never leave.

I’m not sure how long we collectively spent in those tunnels, or how we ever found our way out. But we did. Eventually orientating ourselves on the map from our hotel booking.

Hotel Woes

Unable to find anywhere decent to park (and desperate to get out the car), we stopped at the first chance we could and set off in search of our hotel on foot. Keen to put the shaky start to our holiday behind us, my only thoughts were food and bed.

I have no idea what made me book the hotel I did. I didn’t check it’s proximity to anything, or it’s facilities. But it turned out it was a hotel for business travel, with no restaurant. Utterly defeated, I went to bed starving.

That evening I started to wonder if we had done the right thing by coming. If we were going to have a horrible time. And if I had been silly to think we could have pulled this off.

Learning The Hard Way

Whilst I appreciate that picking the wrong hotel and getting lost in a built up area doesn’t exactly make me Ernest Shackleton, that horrible first day in Tromsø was the making of our trip. The start of what I imagine will be a life long fascination with the Arctic. And the first of many experiences whilst traveling which have changed the course of my life.

Everything we did after that felt like an achievement. Everything we saw even more rewarding. Our first day wasn’t the last hairy moment of that trip. But it was the last day that we let it get to us. We started to embrace the adventure of it all and ended up having an unbelievable time.

So much so, when we had to transfer in Tromsø on the way home from Svalbard, I desperately tried to convince my other half to just stop there for a few days. He refused and practically carried me onto the plane as we had work. I’m glad at least one of us is responsible.

Enjoying Every Moment

Now years later we’ve been on many more trips. Using what we learned in Tromsø to plan each one. Two weddings, a renovation and pregnancy later, we’re definitely no longer worried about engaging in some casual bickering (hell hath no fury like a pregnant woman hangry). And we’ve driven allover in blizzards, ice and roads of varying fear factors. Although Tromsø still takes the crown for the scariest.

When I get a major bout of wanderlust it’s not just the standout experiences I miss. I love airports. Reading on long plane journeys. Looking around supermarkets in other countries.

Laughing about the times when things didn’t go to plan.

  • A Very Sweet Blog
    10th July 2017 at 6:16 pm

    oh my gosh amy! hahaha what an ordeal! i’ve heard about the Northern Lights. well don’t feel bad, that is definitely how my trip would’ve went as well. glad you guys got home safely and years later can laugh & reminisce about things.

    • Amy
      10th July 2017 at 9:49 pm

      Haha it was a hectic start! The Northern lights are still the most amazing thing I’ve seen so it was worth it. But yeah, these things happen haha X

  • Hannah Cornish
    10th July 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Sounds like a REAL adventure haha! I’d love to see the Northern Lights but I’m the same, I get so hooked on internet photos that I have super high expectations! I’m glad you guys survived and carried on to more adventures! 😉


    • Amy
      10th July 2017 at 9:48 pm

      I should have added that we were lucky enough to see them almost daily and they really were more amazing than I could have imagined. The photo accompanying the post is a blurry one I took but they really were that vivid! Thanks Hannah! 🙂 X

  • TheStyleRawr
    10th July 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Awww, I loved reading this post! You’ve been to some incredible places. I definitely remember all the things that went wrong… fondly – like the time we missed out stop in Malaysia and sat by the roadside all night long. Or the time we got a combo of boats and local buses to a remote island in Fiji (it took 36 hours). I can just imagine how you felt when you realised there was no restaurant at the hotel… Reminds me of the time I stayed in Rome and had to get a ‘meal’ from Blockbuster. Haha! T xx

    • Amy
      10th July 2017 at 9:52 pm

      That sounds like an absolutely nightmare but what an adventure! I hope the stars came out at least. Popcorn and Coke are solid choices for dinner haha X

  • Rosy Ferry
    11th July 2017 at 10:06 am

    I loved this post Amy, It’s definitely the little experiences like this can can make or break you, and you can now always say to people “Hey, did I tell you about that time I got lost in the arctic” haha

    Rosy | Sparkles of Light Blog
    My Instagram | Instagram

    • Amy
      11th July 2017 at 10:52 am

      Thank you Rosy! Haha that’s a good point! X

  • Charlotta
    11th July 2017 at 10:45 am

    I loved reading this, as it was different to the usual travel posts. Travelling is definitely not always that luxurious, but somehow the misfortunes do make the trip even better. I remember, when a dog almost attacked me in Rhodes, for starters. Then on the same trip a goat almost attacked us and the trip ended with one of us having a food poisoning. It definitely wasn’t the best holiday, but I still enjoyed it.

    Reading about the dark, cold and snowy ride to the hotel, it reminded me of winter, here. There was this horrible snow storm and we had to walk from a restaurant to home. Our faces were so wet and hurt from the wind and the snow and it felt SO good to get back home, take a warm shower and just enjoy the warmth of our home.

    x Charlotta

    • Amy
      11th July 2017 at 10:55 am

      Thank you Charlotta! I’m changing things up a bit. I completely agree. That Rhodes trip sounded stressful but I bet it still had so many great moments.

      Wow I can imagine. When we went to Ivalo last year, we went via Helsinki and stayed overnight. I didn’t realise my baggage was going straight to Ivalo and had dressed in really light clothes for the plane. Just paper thin leggings and a t-shirt. It was snowing and the icy wind was touching my bare ankles. Walking from the airport to the hotel, was the most cold I can remember ever feeling. So a full on snowstorm sounds brutal X

  • Candice Petersen
    11th July 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Ah I’m so jealous! I would love to experience the northern lights!

    Beauty Candy Loves

    • Amy
      12th July 2017 at 9:14 am

      They were so amazing!

  • Elena
    11th July 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing Amy! I’d love to see the Northern Lights one day and it’s our plan to visit with hubby. Our first holiday together was in Greece, so you’d imagine it all went well but not really. Hubby burnt like a lobster and I felt so responsible although I could never imagine someone would burn like that ever. Since then we know he’s only made for the shade. That was one of many learnings which has made me wonder if that was a good holiday for him and whether I was a good host. In the end, he loved it and never gave up a trip to Greece or another sunny place with me :).

    • Amy
      12th July 2017 at 9:17 am

      Ah I hope you do! It’s funny how these things happen. It’s such a learning curve! But as you say, there are always great aspects of any experience to take away and you both had a great time regardless. My husband has a slightly darker complexion than me and grew up by the sea, so tans easily and never burns. In Lanzarote I lay on the beach reading for literally 10 minutes whilst he sorted out something and I burned my bum so badly I had to sit on a cushion in the car haha.

  • Lauren
    12th July 2017 at 11:02 am

    Sounds like a fabulous holiday to me, I bet the lights were gorgeous!

    Lauren x aHuggled

    • Amy
      12th July 2017 at 11:19 am

      It was & they were. Nothing could really have dampened the holiday when I take into account the amazing things we were lucky enough to see X

  • last year's girl
    12th July 2017 at 6:07 pm

    YES! It might not have been the most perfectly planned holiday, but if you’re still laughing about it now it definitely wasn’t a wasted experience. Loved this post.

    Lis / last year’s girl x

    • Amy
      13th July 2017 at 10:44 am

      Exactly! The rest of the holiday had varying degrees of mishaps but it remains one of the most amazing we’ve had. I wish I could go back and do it all again. X

  • Amy
    13th July 2017 at 10:44 am

    He’s a wise man haha.

  • Modern Flourish
    27th July 2017 at 1:44 am

    You made lemonade out of lemons! -Stephanie


    • Amy
      27th July 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Exactly 🙂