December 30, 2019

"The extreme isolation and hardness of the landscape is what drew me here, too. I took the trip with my partner Noah."

"Both of our marriages had recently ended, and in our 40s, we were suddenly rootless, dislocated in a way neither of us had expected. It was as though we’d sat on the shoreline, watching a glacier crumble into the ocean. We’d found each other, but our relationship was still new and untested. Perhaps we’d been drawn to the Arctic to see if anything permanent in the world still existed.... We booked a room at Funken Lodge.... We’d made New Year’s Eve dinner reservations at Huset... The main course showcased local reindeer two ways... accompanied by strands of salty kelp harvested from the island’s shoreline and microgreens provided by the island’s sole greenhouse, a pink geodesic dome visible from the main road.... A few minutes before midnight, Noah and I pulled our coats and boots on and half-stumbled, half-skated to the edge of the parking lot between the restaurant and the high wall of the glacier. Some of the kitchen staff lit off fireworks...."

From "Greeting the New Year in Earth’s Northernmost Settlement/In Svalbard, above the Arctic Circle, you can’t be born and you can’t be buried, but you can find renewal in the dark of winter/The northern-most greenhouse dome in the world provides microgreens to a local restaurant" by Kelly McMasters (in the NYT).

Later, the author and her companion Noah enjoy a sauna and — this is how the article ends — "My sweat felt like all the stars in the sky were wrapped around my body in a blanket, little spears of heat and ice, and when I turned to Noah his skin was bathed in silver, as if his body was part of the aurora itself."

Here's the top-rated comment: "As someone who has unbridled passion and respect for the Arctic, I am truly disappointed in the lack of respect and depth you seem to have of your Svalbard experience. Having been to to Svalbard and the Arctic in many countries around the globe, you fail to capture or even seriously understand the incredible value, beauty, uniqueness and importance this precious place has on our earth. I am not a scientist, simply a traveler who seeks to grow and learn about myself and this world with respect. The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

Oh! But all the stars and spears of sweat and Noah's silver body and the reindeer two ways!

82 comments:

Polyzen said...

The top rated comment embodies the social media template; “your life or experience is inferior to mine: please try and come up to my level or go away”

Temujin said...

The NY Times really needs to go away. It holds sway for so many people. And I'm not sure their writers are up to that task.

JPS said...

"I am not a scientist, simply a traveler who seeks to grow and learn about myself and this world with respect."

And to look down on other travelers who aren't doing it right.

stlcdr said...

I hear the polar bear steaks are to die for!

Ann Althouse said...

@Polyzen

Yes, exactly.

Everyone's saying: I should travel. I do it right. But you're doing it wrong. Stay home. You're embarrassing yourself and ruining the world.

I myself am easily embarrassed, so I already tell that to myself. You can't do it right, so don't do it at all. (Better than nothing is a high standard.)

Phidippus said...

Well, one can always choose not to talk about one's personal life on "social media".

Is that solution too simple to consider?

Ann Althouse said...

"The NY Times really needs to go away. It holds sway for so many people. And I'm not sure their writers are up to that task."

The emerging problem is that they're bringing in very young writers and the audience is actually pretty old. It's like Instagram in prose, but for people who aren't enamored of Instagram and rankle at the immaturity in the writing.

Actually, I couldn't figure out how old the author is. There's a lack of numbers in the article, because I also noticed that it never says how cold it was, just talks about the kind of outerwear they put on. So was it 10°? 0°? 20 below... or what? Makes a big difference in the nature of your "arctic" experience. I live in the north, but I know it's not too rugged.

RigelDog said...

So...this woman was not entitled to travel to a particular destination because she had wrong-think about her experience and its meaning?? I think our current world would be much improved if such overreach and snobbery were to continuously countered with some version of "sod-off."

traditionalguy said...

If they only have a mountain bike trail there, Althouse may be traveling again soon. Is this Norway?

traditionalguy said...

If it's Greenland, Trump will make a deal for it.

Dave Begley said...

Since climate change is the most important issue of the day, how could they burn all that carbon to visit the Artic. Do the NYT readers take them to task?

Back when I would buy a hard copy of the Sunday Times, I was astounded by the travel section. Big ads and big revenue.

Today the hypocrites at the NYT still encourage travel but want to beat us over the head with CAGW. But they know the real story. So do the Obamas. It is a SCAM.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Ann Althouse said...

Everyone's saying: I should travel. I do it right. But you're doing it wrong. Stay home. You're embarrassing yourself and ruining the world.

I myself am easily embarrassed, so I already tell that to myself. You can't do it right, so don't do it at all. (Better than nothing is a high standard.)


No one can travel for the consumption of others and do it "right". Travel for yourself.

Paul Snively said...

Eh. Look, getting divorced in your 40s when you genuinely expected to spend literally the rest of your life with your spouse has got to be incredibly emotionally dislocating. A certain kind of personality (that I admittedly can't identify with, but that doesn't mean "can't sympathize with") seems like they respond by undertaking what, from the outside, looks like some sort of performative experiential trip, with strong overtones of "the meaning of my life is 'out there' somewhere, and since it isn't what i thought it was, I must now go find it." I don't think this is necessarily bad, but I strongly suspect it isn't true, either, and I'm never surprised when the experience, whatever it is, is ultimately disillusioning.

But exposing the experience in public takes a kind of courage (or at least a kind of naívete), and yes, some will predictably latch onto the "performative" aspect, even when the principal audience of the performance is ostensibly the self. Naturally, you get comments like the top-rated comment, and God alone knows how that affects the author, who is already suffering considerable emotional dislocation. I don't see a lot of value in performative-experience-as-therapy, but I don't see a lot of harm in it, either, so I end up having some sympathy for the author, who probably didn't expect to be attacked for writing a piece that probably feels very vulnerable to have written, even if some of her readership will interpret it as shallow and vain.

DAN said...

The writer begins by telling us she and her friend had seen their marriages fail. The image of watching the glacier crumble is a beautiful one that I'll remember beyond today. The #1 commenter appears from this distance to be like Joe Friday in Dragnet, "Just the facts, m'am."

mccullough said...

She comes across here as someone who is into chasing experiences.

All these travel essays, columns, and articles have that implicit tension of What’s Good For Me vs What’s Good For The Planet.

Jupiter said...

"Having been to to Svalbard and the Arctic in many countries around the globe, you fail to capture or even seriously understand the incredible value, beauty, uniqueness and importance this precious place has on our earth."

I'm not getting it. What's the issue? You're not supposed to fuck above the Arctic Circle? I can understand some random puritanical nebbish getting bothered about other people's vacations, but the "top-rated comment"?

Ann Althouse said...

"No one can travel for the consumption of others and do it "right". Travel for yourself."

But the voice in my head is also me! I believe it can't be done right, not by me or by anybody. I'm both the "I" and the "you" in " I should travel. I do it right. But you're doing it wrong. Stay home. You're embarrassing yourself and ruining the world."

tcrosse said...

I can't help but envision a shoal of rotting penis fish glowing in the arctic moonlight.

Ann Althouse said...

When I was 35 to 45 years old (or so), I would take trips and think of them as personal, spiritual journeys. It was hard, and I was very demanding of myself. Now, I just don't even believe I can do it or that it could ever be done and that I'm best off doing what I can within normal life, keeping it small.

chuck said...

And don't forget to take the rifle when visiting the outhouse. Yes, it is a thing on Svalbard. Polar bears can be troublesome.

Roughcoat said...

Travel, and men in shorts: is there no end to these?

That said ... I will never ever travel to the arctic. That region, at least, has nothing to fear from me.

Roughcoat said...

Now, I just don't even believe I can do it or that it could ever be done and that I'm best off doing what I can within normal life, keeping it small.

That sentence could well have been the last line (spoken by Dorothy, of course) in the Wizard of Oz.

Picture the scene. It works.

I am not unsympathetic to the sentiment, btw.

SDaly said...

Does the phrase "spiritual journey" derive from actual pilgrimages? If so, today's "spiritual journeys" are, like most things, pale reflections of the past.

Automatic_Wing said...

She overdid the Creative Writing flourishes. Next time, dial it back a bit.

Freeman Hunt said...

Here's the top-rated comment: "As someone who has unbridled passion and respect for the Arctic, I am truly disappointed in the lack of respect and depth you seem to have of your Svalbard experience. Having been to to Svalbard and the Arctic in many countries around the globe, you fail to capture or even seriously understand the incredible value, beauty, uniqueness and importance this precious place has on our earth. I am not a scientist, simply a traveler who seeks to grow and learn about myself and this world with respect. The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

Don't let that be a voice in your head. Everybody hates that guy. The writer should respond: "Just for that, I'm gonna start a snow globe collection!"

gbarto said...

In the Bertie Wooster stories, Jeeves is always reading an improving book. I guess, likewise, that you're supposed to take improving journeys. These are the same people who can't just eat good food; they have to ponder its authenticity, where the ingredients were sourced and who the chef studied under. Improving books, improving trips, improving meals... Still, if you're reading the travel section, you might want to hear about travel, rather than 40-somethings glistening in the sauna. What the NYT needs is to create a "Me-stories" section and put articles like this in it.

Sal said...

"As someone who has unbridled passion and respect for the Arctic, I am truly disappointed in the lack of respect...

No one else appreciates it the way I do. Shame on them!

lgv said...

A pretentious article. A double pretentious top rated comment. Give me a break. Vegans should be all over the reindeer two ways thing, too.

American Liberal Elite said...

That commenter must be fun at parties.

Tomcc said...

Top rated commentor is quite the self-righteous prig!
I've lived in Alaska. I've visited Barrow on multiple occasions. I've stayed at the Top of the World Hotel! The best way to enjoy the arctic is with deep reverence for the ability to extract oil from its figurative womb.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

Everyone is afraid he won't be accepted. One must be demonstrative with people.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

But the voice in my head is also me! I believe it can't be done right, not by me or by anybody.

Well, if nobody can do it right, then nobody can do it wrong.

But you're doing it wrong. Stay home. You're embarrassing yourself and ruining the world."

How can you be embarrassed when your a stranger, especially in a strange land?

Whit Stillman had I great bit about that in the film Barcelona.

Earnest Prole said...

Top-rated comment: “You’re beneath my contempt because you’re not doing it right.”

Skeptical Voter said...

Gag me with a spoon. Valley Girl is now writing in the NYT.

Ambrose said...

NYT's top rated comments almost always begin with "As a XXX" The writers believe they must establish their credentials by first stating what they are. The stated opinion then follows and it must be accepted at face value because of the credentials.

Oso Negro said...

I’m reading this in the middle of the night in upcountry Laos. I can’t sleep because I bashed my head on a beam in the outhouse (the Khmu people are a lot shorter than Americans) the first time I got up to pee because my hosts served a lot of beer. Sometimes a traveler has to wonder if he’s just gone too damn far. At least I didn’t have bring a rifle for fear of polar bears.

jaydub said...

You are a worse scold than Greta Thunberg but more authoritarian. I have and will continue to travel the world until I can no longer do so. Over the last 75 years I've visited 47 of 52 states plus well over 500 cities, towns and villages in 65 countries, including Andorra, Anguilla, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Borneo, China, Crete, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Diego Garcia, Dominica, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Grenada, Greece, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Luxembourg, Macao, Malta, Malaysia, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Montserrat, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, St Croix, St Kitts, St Johns, St Thomas, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican, Vietnam. I did every one of them the "right way" - Every Effing One of Them! It's called FREEDOM, and even retired professors need to come to terms with it. There is precious little you can tell me about travel and the world because I've experienced it on my own - your prejudices and opinions are just that, prejudices and opinions. You would do well to drop the bull shit travelogue lectures and stick to something you know something about.

bagoh20 said...

The problem with travel for me is that there are people there waiting for me to arrive. People and stuff waiting for me, expecting me to do what they have planned for me. That ruins it. I want to just sneak in unnoticed, un-greeted, and I don't want to kill Schrödinger's cat.

exiledonmainstreet, green-eyed devil said...

"As someone who has unbridled passion and respect for the Arctic"

You shouldn't visit the Arctic if you just kinda, sorta like it. No, only "unbridled passion" will do.

I had unbridled passion for Bobby Sherman when I was 11.

Earnest Prole said...

The emerging problem is that they're bringing in very young writers and the audience is actually pretty old.

It’s more than a stylistic problem. Take it from Ben Rhodes, the man who sold Obama’s Iran policy to the elite media: “The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns . . . They literally know nothing.”

ga6 said...

TOO MUCH MONEY

Narr said...

As an infrequent mostly historical-cultural traveler (that's for Ambrose) my tastes and capabilities are not that extensive. I have read a lot of the modern travel classics (see my profile) but rarely been inspired to go to any of the places they went, that I wasn't already fairly interested in, and I lack the time/money/stamina to do anything very demanding.

That said, I have my next European trip outlined already . . . maybe in 2021, before I lose my awesome, almost superhuman, driving abilities.

Narr
No jungles nor arctic glaciers--that's flyover planet ;-)

JMW Turner said...

Top rated NYT comment: oh blah,blah,blah...as if only you hold the keys to the truth of this existence. How dare this Philistine of a woman express a different interpretation of the arctic that runs counter to your, no doubt, Ivey League sensibilities.

Angle-Dyne, Servant of Ugliness said...

"I am not a scientist, simply a traveler who seeks to grow and learn about myself and this world with respect."

Ah, another "I'm a traveler, not a tourist" tourist.

"The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

Says the guy who feels the need to jump into public NYT comments to tell everybody how cooler than thou he is.

NYT articles and comments: the world's greatest collection of "bet you never thought a human being could be this lacking in self-insight" writers.

FullMoon said...

Jeeze guys, I never expected my NYT comment to be upvoted and then posted on Althouse.

Freeman Hunt said...

I am skeptical that anyone truly has unbridled passion for the arctic.

FullMoon said...

Oh, wait, nevermind.

Francisco D said...

I wonder what percentage of NYT writers and readers are pretentious, insufferable twits.

Is it something in the Manhattan water?

FullMoon said...

The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

Doesn't want the Arctic cluttered with touristy types. I can understand that. Personally crossed climbing Mt. Everest off my list due to it becoming too crowded and commonplace.

FullMoon said...

I am skeptical that anyone truly has unbridled passion for the arctic.

Even polar bears try to escape on iceflows.

Laslo Spatula said...

"reindeer two ways".

I won't.

Sorry.

No.

I am better than that.

I am Laslo.

Kevin said...

The NYT commenter really doesn't understand.

The point of writing down her experience and submitting it to the NYT is to up her social status by documenting an experience others haven't had and likely never will.

Otherwise there is absolutely no reason to make her private encounter so public.

DanTheMan said...

I've been north of the Arctic circle, and I must confess my respect for the Arctic is bridled.

mesquito said...

Can’t read the whole thing because of the paywall. I reckon the next sunrise in Longyearbyen to be about the middle of February. So I think could get the same experience in Duluth.

Phidippus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phidippus said...

jaydub: I see you skipped India. Good decision. The place is filthy, and they'll steal your electric shaver if your luggage isn't locked.

True story from my trip to Hyderabad and other points South: I noticed that all the rupee notes had a large hole in the center. Now rupees are about the size of Monopoly money, but they are greasy, floppy, and semi-transparent. They don't seem to replace them very often. Maybe they just print more as the old ones dissolve. Anyway, after changing some dollars at the hotel, I asked a native about the holes. She explained that between the hotel and the bank, there would always be a few notes missing unless they stapled the whole pile together.

It was a real third-world experience, and I was only in the good parts.

(Second try, my first attempt to post this comment was lost in the ozone.)

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seeing Red said...

NYT Might have a bunch of young writers, but I bet in a few years they are going to bitch that they have no money at all and we boomers need to hurry it along and die .

Danno said...

The good thing is we are all free to choose whether we do extensive travel. Personally, I am not impressed by someone's long list of travel destinations nor do I feel any peer pressure to travel to be with the in crowd. That said, I have no animosity to the person who does.

Seeing Red said...

So in about 20 years, that writer might also be having a mid-life crisis, but secure in the knowledge of having reindeer 2 ways.

RME

Skookum John said...

Pretty sure that I would heartily dislike both the author and her top commenter.

Seeing Red said...

Glory Days"

I had a friend was a big baseball player
Back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
But all he kept talking about was

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Well there's a girl that lives up the block
Back in school she could turn all the boys' heads
Sometimes on a Friday I'll stop by
And have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed
Her and her husband Bobby well they split up
I guess it's two years gone by now
We just sit around talking about the old times
She says when she feels like crying
She starts laughing thinking about

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
And I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

gspencer said...

I've admired the far North. From afar.

Skookum John said...

Pretty sure I would heartily dislike both the author and her top commenter.

Just for fun I looked up the commenter's Twitter profile. Everything about xer is exactly as you might expect.

n.n said...

Wherever you travel, reconcile. If the polar bear wants to eat you, you eat the bear first. If the natives wants to have a beer, have a beer with them. Do what you can, when you can, if you can, within reason.

William said...

What are micro-greens. Are they teenie-tiny Brussel beads? Probably not much roughage in micro-greens....I hope the reindeer were killed humanely. They have a tough enough life without someone botching the killing. Still most creatures that live in the Artic desire an early death. Many creatures actively seek out polar bears to get the whole damn thing over with......Why would anyone want to go to the Artic to freeze their ass off and eat gristle?

james said...

"The only true traveller is the business traveller. Like Marco Polo, he travels with a purpose.

...

Most travel writing is bogus, unreal and superficial. It is bogus because it pretends adventure which, as Admundsen said, is simply bad organization. Wandering around the Hindu Kush is nothing to fighting your way around the Tokyo underground in the rush hour. Rafting down the Brahma Putra is a piece of cake compared with trying to sign a deal with a government minister on his knees in the middle of a mosque during Tabaski.

...

Business travellers ... hit the ground staggering. But immediately they hit the ground, they are part of the history and culture of the country. As soon as he arrives, the business traveller is absorbing and mastering the customs of the country, because if he doesn't he won't do any business. He also has to learn how to survive riots, curfews, coup attempts and management reshuffles back home."

Peter Biddlecombe _Travels with my Briefcase_

stevew said...

Good lord, that commenter is such an asshole. If you don't have her/xer/their exact experience, with all the respect that it commands and deserves, then you are just so... I can't even...

Iman said...

Just more horseschiff from the NYT. It’s important to learn from one’s mistakes.

Iman said...

Traveling is fun, but it seems no matter where my wife and I travel to, we are always very glad to go home. For us, there truly is no place like home.

Josephbleau said...

I’d like to go to Svalbard someday to tour the old abandoned Soviet era coal mine pits. The USSR demanded to operate the mines when Norway got title to the place. The two Arctics are great when there is something there to exploit, from Yukon gold to radar data on Soviet bombers, whale blubber, oil.

Phidippus said...

james: "...to learn how to survive riots, curfews, coup attempts and management reshuffles back home..."

True enough. I had it easy though, most of my overseas traveling was to Japan, a civilized country where violence and rudeness are almost unknown.

My trials were of a more prosaic kind, like learning to use chopsticks for the first time when I was in-country with the locals (pro tip: Don't choose yakisoba for that first-time dinner, those noodles are damned slippery).

JohnAnnArbor said...

The writer and the commenter are both full of themselves and deserve each other.

Fernandistein said...

This land is sacred to My People™.

Sebastian said...

"NYT, you can and should do better"

Hey, that's what Althouse keeps hoping.

Of course, the NYT can do "better" by progs by turning ever more mendaciously PC. Not so for Althouse and the rest of us.

The Gipper Lives said...

"The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

What a red-nose.

Rusty said...

Tomcc said...
"Top rated commentor is quite the self-righteous prig!
I've lived in Alaska. I've visited Barrow on multiple occasions. I've stayed at the Top of the World Hotel! The best way to enjoy the arctic is with deep reverence for the ability to extract oil from its figurative womb."
And the fact that once you step off the road and into the verge you have a good chance of becoming something elses dinner. " There's a whisper on the night wind. There's a star above to guide us. The wild is calling, calling, calling. let us go." But take a gun along just in case.

RigelDog said...

But, but, Ms. Althouse! If you were to travel to the Artic circle, your aesthetic comfort would be assured as there will be NO men in shorts. That meets the high standard of better than nothing!

Chris N said...

There she was, beautiful. Inquisitive in her gestures. A girl again. A girl I’d promised to protect. Graceful neck. Supple buttocks.

Tonight we would wrap ourselves in the blanket of love, or as I like to call it, the Aurora.

-A Rogering To Remember

Sebastian said...

"I believe it can't be done right, not by me or by anybody."

OMG. OMG. OMFG.

Blue@9 said...

That commenter is a hipster extraordinaire. "Pfft, I was in Svalbard before it was cool. All you posers don't get the serious and majestic beauty of the place. Why don't you just go drown in Jager shots on Ibiza like all the other posers?"