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A former design student from Norway gave up city life for a remote Arctic island after a boat trip rocked her outlook, and she’s never looked back, despite the huge adjustment.
Originally a city-dweller from Asker, Norway, 31-year-old Eveline Lunde has lived in an apartment in the small town of Longyearbyen, the northernmost town on Earth, on Spitsbergen Island in Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago for the past four years.
Just 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) from the North Pole, Lunde has grown used to permafrost, the northern lights, snowmobiles, the midnight sun, and a thriving polar bear population—a far cry from life at design school in Oslo.
“While studying … I discovered a newfound passion for outdoor life,” Lunde told The Epoch Times. “I moved to northern Norway after completing my bachelor’s degree to pursue a one-year study program on outdoor activities. During my time there, I got to know a group of guys who lived on a sailing boat, with their sights set on reaching Svalbard during the summer.”
When one sailor dropped out of the trip at the last minute, Lunde took his place. She had never seen Svalbard before but after spending six weeks exploring its many Arctic wonders, Eveline was smitten. Returning to Oslo, she grieved the loss.
“I soon realized that I had undergone a transformation,” she said. “The fast-paced city life no longer held the same appeal for me. Svalbard had left an indelible mark on me, prompting me to make the life-changing decision to relocate there.”
The Svalbard archipelago consists of several islands in the Arctic Ocean. The official discovery of Svalbard dates back to 1596, according to World History Encyclopedia, and became Norwegian territory through the Svalbard Treaty (originally the Spitsbergen Treaty) of 1920.
Most of its human residents live on Spitsbergen, and the main island has some unusual features, said Lunde, who works in tourism.
“Due to the permafrost, trees do not grow here,” she said. “Additionally, the harsh climate limits the diversity of animal life. However, the animals that do inhabit this region have adapted remarkably well to the conditions. It’s quite normal to see reindeer and polar foxes roaming around in Longyearbyen. During the summer, we are also visited by numerous geese.”
A town of around 2,300 people, Longyearbyen is also home to a “significant” polar bear population numbering several hundred. The bears are monitored and protected. Nonetheless, residents are required to carry a flare gun as a deterrent, and a rifle as a last resort, when venturing out on hikes or longer journeys.
Lunde said: “It is strictly prohibited to kill a polar bear, except in cases of self-defense. In the event of a polar bear being killed, a thorough investigation would be conducted, treating it with the same seriousness as if it were a human fatality.”
Innumerable natural wonders make life on the Arctic archipelago a magical, if challenging, experience.
“Experiencing the extremes of the polar night and the midnight sun evokes a mix of emotions within me,” Lunde said. “It’s both challenging and awe-inspiring. I appreciate the unique and distinct seasons that Svalbard offers. However, maintaining a sense of routine and staying positive are essential to cope with these conditions.”
During the phenomenon of the “midnight sun,” lasting from April to August, it can be a struggle to sleep with sunlight streaming in through the windows. But during the “polar night,” from October to February, the island experiences total darkness 24 hours a day.
To avoid depression, Lunde prioritizes routine, staying active, and maintaining a social life with the island’s close-knit community at local pubs, cafes, and high-end restaurants. She even hikes through the winter, with a headlamp and spikes on her shoes for the snow-covered icecaps.
Sunlight aside, the weather in Svalbard goes through rapid changes and frequent harsh conditions.
“During the winter, we often face intense storms,” said Lunde, reflecting, “[W]hat I find amusing is that we’ve become accustomed to such weather and continue with our daily routines unaffected, whereas, on the mainland, similar weather would lead to widespread shutdowns and be considered a serious threat. In Svalbard, it’s just another typical day, where wearing goggles for the walk to work is part of our regular routine.”
The Longyearbyen road network covers only about 27 miles (43 kilometers), and cars don’t cut it in winter. Instead, residents drive snowmobiles or dog sleds. In summer they use boats to access cabins and other settlements on the island.
There is one small emergency hospital in Spitsbergen for minor ailments only. Pregnant women are not permitted to give birth on the island and must relocate to the mainland around one month before their due date. Anyone who requires ongoing care or is unable to take care of themselves is not allowed to live on the archipelago at all.
Yet, the challenges of Arctic life amplify the “stunning beauty of Svalbard on those perfect days” by contrast, Lunde said. Locals enjoy hiking, skiing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling year-round, and even the occasional concert, art exhibit, and theater show. Not to mention, they have the world’s greatest light show, the Aurora Borealis, in permanent residence overhead.
The population of Svalbard comprises a diverse mix of people, not only Norwegians. The archipelago at large used to be a hotspot for whaling and trapping but has since moved through coal mining into tourism and Arctic exploration, research, and education.
Lunde cannot speak highly enough of her chosen home.
“As a local, I wholeheartedly recommend visiting this extraordinary place,” she said. “The opportunity to witness the pristine Arctic landscapes, encounter majestic wildlife, and immerse oneself in the unique culture and warmth of the community is truly unmatched.”
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