Thanks to this fellowship I’ve been to places I could never have been and done things I would never have done.
I bought myself a big red easy glide suitcase and with a large amount of fear and excitement, I went.
I went to ice lakes in the middle of summer, mountains, valleys, islands, cities and in-the- middle-of-nowhere’s. I swam in many, many fjords, burnt my skin off swimming in glacial valleys, ran through forests in the rain, basked on volcanic rocks in the sun, hid from thunderstorms, played hide and seek on the roof and sat out in blankets round a fire watching the original booze cruise sailing off to Copenhagen in the dark.
I’ve met musicians and healers and herbalists, an activist thinker, an ex dancer turned plane re-fueller, an ex teacher turned graphic designer, an ex economist turned chef, an organic cooperative commune, a novel translator, a teacher, an architect, 2 full body death metal tattoo guys, a prostitute on a train, a Hungarian ex policeman, his wife and their dog, a student from Turin, a Swiss backpacker, a Viking re-enactor and a load of individual and wonderful kids with a shared love of Lego and YouTube.
I’ve travelled by boat, plane, car, ferry, bus, bike, train, tram and funicular. Eaten porridge with cinnamon and honey and butter, skillingsboller, sweetheart waffles with sour cream and jam, spice cake, moose, spinach soup, hotdogs wrapped in bacon with crazy onion, fish cakes, wild blueberries and cheese and cowberries and crackers with squeezy pink cod row Caviar.
On my last day I watched a tiny boat unhitch the diving jetty from the bay below and drag it away. Christian tells me that if it’s a bad winter the whole fjord can freeze and crush it in the ice. It’s the end of the season.
But not for me!
I’m not done yet!
Thanks to the incredible generosity and genuine kindness of the people I’ve met I’m eeking out the money as much and for as long as possible.
I’ve done the trips as a mix of Air BNB and Workaway – in an effort to avoid the tourist trail and properly get to know real people in real ways. I’ve been out twice so far and I’m hoping to go again in October, with the hope of hooking up with a school in the Lofoten islands and taking myself up North. Then maybe more North, maybe to the crazy world of Alta, north of the arctic circle, where people drive their dogs to visit friends and neighbours across a landscape of perpetual snow, only breaking for a couple of months in the summer, when the husky pups come.
As for what my subconscious has sucked up from all this, I won’t know until I start. But what I can say is that it has embedded in my brain an intense sense of landscape and people and place, impossible without this award and these journeys. Squirrelled away in me is a mine-store of memories and experience and who knows how they will appear. But I know that they will and they’ll do it in my next book, which I’m starting for Faber now.
As Bev said – go have an adventure! I have. It’s been scary and challenging and weird and wonderful and amazing. And it isn’t over yet!
The Julia Darling Travel Fellowship is now open for submissions until Friday 23 March 2018. Find out more here.