Spring Break Svalbard! Or, the longest flight in the world

How much would it cost to fly between the furthest south airport in the world and the furthest north? How long would it take?

This was what I was thinking about as I lay in bed last night, in only my boxers, attempting to escape the Guadalajara heat.

But of course I couldn’t just let this question fester.

So I got to work.

ushuaia to svalbard

Too long to fit on Google Flights’ maps.

Our adventure starts on May 19th of this year in the wonderful South American city of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. Ushuaia is known, amongst other things, as the furthest south city in the world. Technically, Puerto Williams, Chile might be further south, but technically Puerto Williams might not be a city.

From Ushuaia we get on a $170 flight to Buenos Aires, where we stay a few days, dance a little tango, drink a little (we get mildly drunk) wine, and have dinner at 11pm, because that’s apparently the earliest it’s sociably acceptable to eat dinner in Buenos Aires on a weekend.

Now we need to get to Europe. So, we board a non-stop (!) flight from Buenos Aires to London, operated by Norwegian Air UK, on May 22nd, for just $574.

buenos aires to london norwegian

We’re getting close.

Fortunately, we only have one night in London. I say fortunately because London is expensive, and probably rainy. The very next day after arriving from Buenos Aires we get on this gorgeous, sleek flight from Heathrow to Svalbard with a sumptuous layover in Oslo, i.e, nine hours, i.e. long enough to walk to the gas station and get a hot dog, before heading to the Spring Break capital of Norway: Svalbard.

london to svalbard SAS

At 78 degrees north, Svalbard is one of the furthest north inhabited places in the world, and definitely one of the most accessible. It boasts the furthest north commercially accessible airport in the world, no work visa requirements for American citizens (as per the Treaty of Spitsbergen), and for having a law in which you must take a rifle along when leaving the city limits in case of polar bears. How many other cities do you know what have this rule? Exactly. Grab your bikini.

The total price for this jaunt, between the furthest south airport in the world and the furthest north, using the route I found last night, would be just over $900. If you bought the tickets all at once together it would cost over $2,000.

So again, grab your bikini, because: Spring break Svalbard!

 

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“When you like what you do, it’s really easy” A morning at Cafe Blé in Guadalajara, Mexico

ble cafeteria y panaderia guadalajara mexico

Photo credit: Blé’s Facebook page

I wake up at 7:11am, 19 minutes before my alarm’s set to go off. My alarm never wakes me up. I’m terrified of the sound, so I always wake up before it goes off. I lie in bed for a few moments, feeling confused. I get up to go to the bathroom, but there’s already someone there, and so I go back to my bedroom and brood. It’s a good morning for brooding. I didn’t sleep that well, I think because of all the caffeine yesterday. Yesterday I drank mate, which I had been drinking from time to time in my favorite cafe, El Rincon del Mate, but now I have a bag of the stuff, I can make it whenever I want, and so yesterday my intake was increased.

While lying in bed someone comes into the kitchen and starts making breakfast. I immediately want to strike them. How dare they make such noise. I think it’s Rodolfo. His phone beeps from time to time from (probably) messages, and I want to get up and scream at him to turn it off. But instead I lie in bed rating Instagram ads for Appen, the job I still haven’t been fired from. I rate six ads in 21 minutes, deliberately taking a long time to do so. If I rate the ads too fast I won’t work the full hour, and won’t get paid the full hour. So I take my time. I minimize my usage of my phone’s speech to text capabilities, since that generally makes things go way faster. While I’m rating I continue seething at what’s going on in the kitchen, the beeping of Rodolfo’s phone, the sound of whatever he’s frying, probably heated-up chilaquiles from the day before. And then when I’m done I get up and get dressed so fast I almost pull a leg muscle, and then storm out of the house in a huff.

And all is well.

It’s cold outside. Daylight savings just kicked in, which means what’s 7:30am used to be 6:30am, which means when I wake up it’s much colder, and in the evening it’s hotter longer. The temperature change came quick. In February it rained and I wore my hat everyday and sometimes even my wool jacket, and now every night while going to bed I lie on top of the sheet with no shirt on, covered by nothing, listening to whatever TV program my neighbors are watching. My neighbors are an older couple often visited by their wayward son who has a dog that might be a boxer or a pitbull. They  mean well, but I don’t know how conscious they are of how close I sleep to the entrance to their house. I essentially live in their living room. I can hear almost everything they say and do. I can hear when they yell at each other. I can hear the dog eating its dog food outside, and I can hear the woman filling up her bucket with water every night, though why she does this I still have no idea. I’m separated from them by a single plate of glass, and in the middle of the window there’s not even glass; it’s just a sheet of plastic. To say the neighbors and I live in close quarters would be a statement.

I get to Ble, the cafe I’ve been coming to lately, and say hi to Ulises, the owner. There’s no one there. I’ve only ever seen one customer there besides myself. We make two seconds of small talk and I order the matcha latte and slice of toast with butter and jam I get every time I come here. There’s good, hipster music playing on the speakers, which he quickly changes to something softer. I wonder if this is for my benefit.

The first thing I do when I sit down is deactivate Facebook, and then I start looking for flights. I think about where I’d like to go in 2018. I decide the following places are must-go’s: Svalbard, Norway, and Bergen, Norway. Svalbard I must visit because it’s the furthest north place in the world that has commercial flights. And Bergen because my favorite author, Karl Ove Knausgaard, lived in Bergen ( for 14 years?)  and wrote Book 5 of his series My Struggle about it. Those are the only two places I must go. There are other places I’d like to go. I’d like to go to Siberia. I’d like to get lost in a small, Russian town. I’d like to go to Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. I’d like to go to Vladivostok. I’d like to go to South Korea. I’d like to go to North Korea. I’d like to go to Bhutan. I’d like to go to Japan. I’d like to go to Little Diomede Island, and Big Diomede Island, and Quebec City, and Chicoutimi, and Ushuaia. But Bergen and Svalbard are the only places I must go.

I sit in the cafe staring out at the street, listening to the music, wondering what I’m going to do until I teach online at 2pm. I’m getting sick of teaching online. I’ve stopped planning the classes, and the quality has suffered because of it. I don’t care. These classes will run their natural course. My teaching career will run its natural course. I think I’ll always be a teacher in some capacity, from time to time, sporadically, but I think what I teach will vary, and that will allow me to keep my sanity. I think about how I have exactly a week until I leave for Lima, where I’ll stay for at least a week. I think about the chess video I’m going to watch when I get back to my apartment after Ble, the mate I’m probably going to drink, and the Instagram ads I’m going to rate. I wonder if something extraordinary will happen today. I decide it probably won’t, and the thought briefly makes me sad.

And then I get up to pay and leave.

 

A special thanks to EAW and RR for their contributions to this blog.

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