Greenland Travel with my Very Fit Teenager


When your teenager makes fun of your overall (lack of) fitness by pretending to be on a hike with you, planting both hands in his sides and exclaiming: “Beautiful view, he mom?….. MOM?…. MOTHER???” raising imaginary binoculars to his eyes and aiming them at somewhere far, grinning: “ah … there you are!”

Would you still embark on an active adventure with said teenager?

Two years ago I promised him: “when you turning 16, you can pick our travel destination. Well, he is turning 16 now and his pick is Greenland. He wants to see the ice cap before it melts (and not from the plane on our way to Europe as I so cleverly tried to suggest). No matter how hard I tried to change his mind: Greenland it was, and so Greenland it is.

If someone told you that something you’re looking to try smells like concentrated cat pee, would you still try it?

We’re stopping over in Reykjavik for a couple of days, before continuing to Greenland. And fermented shark (hákarl), invariably pops up as the #1 traditional Icelandic food. I wonder though: If it is that bad, that odorous and rotted, is it really still a national dish, or did it become something of a tourist tradition, with locals sniggering behind their backs as tourists gag? Regardless, (I think) I will give it a try. There is always brennevit to wash it all down, right? I must say that the other must-try that pops up does sound a lot better by comparison: ram’s testicles pressed into a block, boiled and pickled. Sure, why not: try them both! At the very least it is fast-track training for our tastebuds to appreciate Nordic cuisine.

So, we’re traveling to the largest island in the world (discounting Australia per definition of continent versus island). Only 5% of the land is habitable. The rest is ice.

I’m actually looking forward to the adventure. It’s him and me, and we’re flying into Southern Greenland to hike around fjords and Viking settlements, then travel up the coast by ferry to Nuuk and finally to Ilulissat and Disco Bay with its floating icebergs, the jumping-off point for the Ilulissat Icefjord, a Unesco World Heritage site.

And I am putting the teenager in charge of logistics (to a point: it’s been booked!). He’ll have to keep track of departure and arrival times, and where we need to go. This will not be a trip where he can stick his heads in the proverbial clouds—which for the modern kid translates as iPad or smart phone— and follow wherever I’m going. This trip, I will be following him. Is engaging the teenager on an adult level going to slow him down on the hiking trails? Nope—it’s just good for his growing-up morale.

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