Thoughts on Snow and Going North | Tromsø

Snow fascinates me. Where I grew up, we only had two seasons: the summer and the rainy season. If it didn’t rain, it was perpetually hot, and if it did rain, then the coldest it would ever allow was up to twenty degrees Celsius. My country is just above the equator, so we get a lot of sunlight and our yearly temperatures don’t change too much and too often.

Growing up, I was accustomed to more than ten typhoons a year coming into my country, anticipating suspension of classes due to signal number three typhoon warnings and the risk of strong winds and flooding. In the summer, we’d have an abundance of beaches and islands to choose from. In the rainy season we’d be stuck at home or in school, with the possibility of cancelled classes and brownouts (blackouts, really, but back home we call them brownouts, heh).

So while some people consider coconuts and island hopping and napping in the shade by the sea exotic, I consider snow – and lots of it – exotic. It’s one of the most interesting things I’ve ever come across, by virtue of the fact that I’m not used to it. The sound of crisp, fresh snow crunching beneath my boots is exciting. Lying on it is weird and comfortable, and how do you even play with snow? I don’t even know.

I’m a fairly normal tropical girl (I think I need a yearly dose of vitamin sea to function properly for twelve months), but I can’t get enough of the cold. I love the cold. I love being cold. I love cold places and the thin line between knowing how it is to be freezing and knowing the minimum amount of warmth to get by. Earlier this year, somehow I ended up going further north than I’d ever planned to go in my entire life, in order to chase some astronomical phenomenon of lights in the sky. Obviously, it came with a lot more snow than I could ever imagine.

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For each time that I travel, I make sure to assign a theme song to the trip and listen to that song mid-flight. That way, that song is forever linked to my memory of that time; I’ll always be able to remember the feelings leading up to that trip – the anticipation, the finiteness of the moment, the disbelief that I was actually going, the loneliness (and simultaneously, my happy solitude).

This trip got Always In My Head by Coldplay – I had the fantasy of putting on my headphones when I saw the lights dancing across the sky and listening to this song, just because I thought it’d make a fantastic background anthem to the aurora. (Of course, my phone conked out because it couldn’t take the extreme cold, but it was okay; all you needed was a lot of quiet to properly focus on the lights.) I listened to this song over and over again as we flew through the arctic skies. I remember having thought that in this part of the earth, the blue of the sky was so different from the blue I was used to seeing by the equator. Above the clouds, it was rich and raw and too, too pure.

When I looked down, all I remember seeing was an expanse of snow-capped mountains and bitterly cold valleys; how awful it would have been to be stuck down there, I thought. Here, snow was everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.

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In this place, I had my first taste of a proper afternoon snowstorm. I had my first encounter of perfect, freshly fallen, powdery snow. The sun set at three in the afternoon, and I learned I could cope with negative eight degrees, but couldn’t take negative seventeen. Movies weren’t kidding when they showed people shoveling snow everyday to clear the roads, and one had to choose freshly fallen snow instead of melted ice to walk on to avoid slipping.

There was one clear day wherein I was able to go take the cable car at Fjellheisen Tromsø and see the prettiness of this arctic city from a vantage point. From there, the view was amazing. There were no clouds in sight, and you could clearly see Tromsø was this teeny human spot sandwiched in between snow-capped mountains and waterways. This was as exotic and otherworldly as it would ever get for me.

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Of course, out of my entire stay, I only enjoyed one clear blue sky day. The rest was cloudy, rainy, and snowy and I was probably the slowest pedestrian walking around just because I wanted to make sure I was going home accident-free from the ice and snow. I remember my guide being surprised that I had braved one snowstorm-y afternoon and ventured out into the town the minute I arrived, but then I thought to myself, ‘When was I ever going to experience another snowstorm in the near future?’ I even braved walking across a snow-laden car park lot just to take a photo of the other side of town (was it even officially part of Tromsø? I don’t even remember.), and I remember laughing to myself about how alien it was to have my boots sinking into fifteen centimeters of snow and mapping my way back by retracing my footprints in the snow.

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Sometimes I think I may have left a bit of my heart there, buried in the snow. I’ve grown terribly fond of that place up north, despite the unforgiving cold (and the crazy cost of food!). My friend says it’s my heartland. I only wish I could be lucky enough to go back one day, soon!

Getting There: Oslo > Tromsø via Norwegian Air. A round trip ticket cost me about S$200-250 when I bought it four months prior to my trip! Most of my awesome, awesome stay and activities in this city were all thanks to Chasing Lights.

Photos were taken with a Fujifilm x100s and an iPhone |

post-processed via Photoshop

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