There are certain things in the natural world that make you believe in magic. Even with our faces constantly bathed in the glow of our devices, The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, still manages to capture our collective imagination.
In days gone by, North American Indians whispered messages to these mysterious celestial visions to deliver to the dead. Ancient Japanese and Chinese people believed children conceived under them would be blessed, lucky and super good looking (which explains my parents sneaky trip to Alaska 9 months before my birthday). Across ancient Europe, if the lights turned red it was a sign to prepare for bloody war.
Our legendary, travel-addicted friend Maggie Slomiak, of ‘Maggie Vs Map‘ fame, was lucky enough to check them out recently, so we thought we’d get the inside info on this mystical phenomena from an eye witness.
DSM: We know you love heading out all over the map, but where are you actually from?
M: I’m originally from Poland, but living in Australia. Which has made me really appreciate four-season weather. I miss that so much and makes me crave cold, snow, minus temperatures and winter more than ever before!
Also, I found this very strange thing happening to me whilst living in Oz. No matter where you want to go, everywhere is so far from here. So you might as well just go for it! That actually opened me up so much. No place is too far, because every place is far! If that makes sense? Except Bali! All the Aussies go to Bali because it’s the only close place!
DSM: Where did you hear about the Northern Lights phenomena originally?
M: Probably at school as a child. I remember when I was trying to memorise the name ‘Aurora Borealis’! But it was always one of those things I never thought I’d see. It was the same as knowing about Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but never thinking I’d ever be lucky enough to see it with my own eyes.
M: I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t plan it so much! I was home in Poland for Christmas and my Mum got an email about (VERY!) cheap flights to Tromso on the Arctic Circle… Next minute, we got the tickets! It was just couple of hours flight and it would be silly not to do it!
DSM: What’s your travel background? What drives you to get out to all corners of the map?
M: I guess it comes from early years, when we’d go on low budget camping or sailing trips with my parents and my sisters, and it just continued.
“It’s almost impossible to see a little bit of the world and not crave more!”
Once you know, you realise how much more is out there and how much you might be missing on right this very minute! And then the ‘big trip’ came. I’d been living in UK for 7 years already at the time and realised it wasn’t my place. I couldn’t find anyone to travel with more frequently or on a budget, so I decided to do a round the world trip on my own. Did Asia, got to Australia… and kinda stayed here!
DSM: So what exactly are the Northern Lights? What causes them? Aussies have no idea!
M: It’s actually hard to explain, as I am no scientist! But it’s sort of charged light particles being blown around by solar wind and I think it’s related to magnetic fields. I hope I’m right! I’m just gonna say, please, rather than believing me, just google it, because I’m probably wrong and shit at explaining things! (Or click here!)
DSM: What was the main challenge of getting there to see them IRL?
M: We rented a car and went for a hunt, but we had NO IDEA how they actually look like in real life.
“You know all the photos online, I had this assumption – they are all photoshopped and there is no way this thing is that intense and that colourful…”
So we drove out of the city to avoid the light pollution and kinda just kept on driving not knowing what to expect. We’d never seen them, so literally had no idea where to look even!
DSM: What was it actually like when you finally saw them with your own eyes?
M: So we were driving around on some random road which in fact I found on instagram location of someone posting a photo of the lights, trying to look up. And all of a sudden my Mum screams in excitement, almost driving off the road! And she’s like “Look!!!! I think this is it!!!” And you would actually have to be blind not to see it! So obviously – we pull up the first possible place, get out of a car and… we just starred at it! I couldn’t say a word!
“It started sort of forming those shapes, like it was dancing! It was incredible! And then, part of it turned pink… So obviously I did what every normal person would do – I started crying!”