Extreme Greenland: 7 Ways the Big Island Changed Me

November 21, 2016

Spectacular soaring cliffs, deep fjords, and icebergs carved by nature into frozen works of art are just a few of the elements that make Greenland as diverse as it is remote. An arctic expedition here can be wild and unexpected, but one thing is for certain: it will change you.

On a recent trip to Greenland, Raakhe Kapila, a Quark Expeditions® Polar Travel Adviser, had the time of her life. Here, she generously shares her insights about her journey with us, particularly about the long-lasting effects of arctic adventure.

Raakhe Kapila enjoys a comfortable charter flight en route to her Greenland adventure.

1. Get Inspired

Raakhe had an “aha moment” on her arctic expedition. Perched high atop a peak on the island, she saw that she was surrounded by completely different landscapes: a glacier on one side, mountains on another, rocks and lush vegetation behind her and a beautiful white sandy beach in front. At that moment, she says, she was overwhelmingly inspired by the sheer beauty of the place and felt a need to protect it.

“There’s history and beauty everywhere you look,” she recalls. “The fight to preserve it is important. Whether you’re talking about ancient Thule huts or rocks that are almost 2 million years old, these places have to be preserved for future generations.”

2. Reconnect with the World Around You

Raakhe did a lot of research as she prepared to travel to Greenland, but she says nothing could have readied her for the reality of her arctic expedition. The absence of distraction was something she hadn’t given much thought prior to her trip. Being away from computers, cell phones and televisions cleared a space for her to be fully present in her surroundings – and with herself.

The Arctic offers a completely unique experience, even for the most seasoned of travelers.

“I think there is an explorer in each of us, and it’s not until we’re out there with nature and wildlife that we have time to realize what a beautiful planet we live on,” she says. “Back home in the city, you’re so far away from what nature is and what actually means something in life. These true connections you can make with the people, nature and wildlife around you in Greenland are just beautiful.”

Visiting Greenland was a privilege, she adds, and also very humbling.

3. Meet the Real You

Sometimes, the negativity in the media and society can be overwhelming. Raakhe noted that it takes effort to find the things worth doing, but those are the things that make you a better person.

Her arctic vacation changed her point of view. “There’s something it does that makes you feel more like you,” she says. “You walk away feeling enriched and enlightened, wanting to make a difference.”

Raakhe laughed as she shared one of her lessons with us: “I came back and told a lot of people that I felt like I had fallen in love for the first time (with Greenland), and with myself all over again!”

4. Turn Down the Noise

Greenland's colorful tundra and pristine bays make for great polar photography.

At times, Raakhe struggled to put into words the depth of her experience in Greenland.

“The Arctic was like … I’ve been trying for quite some time now to capture what it is, as it’s so difficult to do. It’s like ripping open your heart and soul to tell you how it really is!” she explains. “It’s like turning down the noise of the things that don’t matter.”

Money, stress, superficial relationships, materialism – all that “noise” can be deafening. “This time you’ll spend with yourself and with [like-minded people] really reconnects you to what matters, and that’s important, because at the end of the day, if you’re not a happy individual, you can’t make a difference even in the circles you travel in,” says Raakhe.

5. Learn to Be Still

“One day, we visited this cove where I was surrounded by beautiful icebergs,” Raakhe wistfully recalls. “I don’t remember any other point in my life when my mind has completely shut down like that.”

Like so many of us, Raakhe had felt that her mind was constantly working. “Always something happening – my mind was constantly having its own conversation,” she says.

That day, though, she had an awakening. “I didn’t even realize how completely silent our group had become until our Zodiac driver said something to us. I actually jumped, and I didn’t know how long we’d been quiet! We were so in awe of this spectacular beauty surrounding us,” she says.

6. Be HumbledSpend more time exploring Greenland's history and culture on small ship expeditions.

On her arctic adventure, Raakhe got to visit 500-year-old houses and even older ancient Thule remains in Greenland. An incredibly humbling experience, it was interesting to explore the history of the region and imagine what life was like for early inhabitants, given Greenland’s climate.

“It was fascinating to see what a person can do when they don’t have a lot to work with,” she says. “You know, we’re really spoiled.”

7. Change Your Perspective

As a Polar Travel Adviser, Raakhe has long had a great interest in the Polar Regions. Her arctic adventure changed her perspective, though.

“I don’t think I could connect with people the way I do had I not taken these trips,” she says. “It looks beautiful in pictures, and you can read about it and watch documentaries and view pictures, but none of it does any justice to the actual experience. It’s amazing when you’re talking to another person who’s actually been there and you’re both just so passionately in love with the place! You gain a better understanding of the place, but it connects you and changes you, too.”

Explore Greenland by small expedition ship to spend more time in the field

Browse the itineraries of Raakhe’s life-changing trip and others like it:

Traveling Earth’s polar regions is a unique and unforgettable experience. Explore our adventure guides or contact us to begin planning your adventure today

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