Trust me, nothing can ever prepare you for the Aurora Borealis

This article was created for The Travel Project by Rachel Abbott, a creative arts student from Wollongong, Australia.

It's hard to explain how it felt to stand on a frozen lake in Finland as the Northern Lights danced above me. Coming to the north of the country by myself (via a 12 hour bus trip) was always going to be an adventure, and seeing the Northern Lights has always been a dream, but never did I think that such a dream would turn into a reality that would shift by whole perspective on the time that we have here on earth.

Braving the -22 degree weather, I went with a private guide who knew exactly where and when to go. We walked through the forest in the dark so our eyes could adjust to the dark, which actually happens surprisingly fast. There were two other girls in my group from Hong Kong, and their joy was hard to contain.

Rovaniemi, the town where I was staying, is fairly touristy, so I was glad I went with a small group. The peace of the moment can so easily be disturbed by large groups of over-excited tourists. I was so lucky to personally experience the lights in all their glory, and the clear night sky with perfect timing and a bit of ambition is all to credit.

The Aurora Borealis has many legends attached to it in different cultures. In Finnish, it's called 'revontulet' and is associated with the arctic fox. People say the fox runs through the mountains at night, kicking snow up into the sky. Where the moon shines on the snowflakes, the Northern Lights are created.

Hearing this while they slowly appeared above me, it wasn’t so hard to believe. They change so rapidly that you don’t notice they are changing. They move so slowly and graceful, it is truly a remarkable sight to watch. What began with a light green glow humming above the trees developed into remarkable bright and vivid colours. I couldn’t believe that what we were seeing was real, how forces of nature could make something so incredible look so gorgeously effortless, knowing it belongs there.

Before the lights appeared we lit a fire in a little hut. They are scattered around Finland and built by the government at popular places like this one, which is actually a ‘beach’ in summer (you can see a volleyball net if you don’t believe me). We cooked traditional salmon and vegetables on the fire and drank hot chocolate while telling each other about our lives. The guide spoke about how Finns believe fireplaces are where people first communicated, where languages were born. He said that he couldn’t believe I was only 18 with such a mature-mindset; I quickly credited it to the impact of travelling.

Finnish Lapland has taught me a few things. One of the most important was that just because something looks like snow, doesn’t mean it’s not a frozen river that will crack when you walk on it…

Whilst in the country I ticked off so many things from my bucket list – seeing the Northern Lights, crossing the Arctic Circle, meeting reindeer, travelling entirely on my own, and I enjoyed every single second. Taking a gamble on nature is one of the greatest risks of all, and the fear of disappointment did cross my mind, however I believe that the bad things in life just make you even more appreciative of the good, and the chance to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis for even one second was worth it to me.

That feeling of standing in the middle of a frozen lake with the sky insanely lit up above me is something I'll never forget. We live in a beautiful world, and we shouldn't take it for granted. Don't let the fear of things get in the way of what you have always dreamed of doing. Surprise yourself.

Have you had an experience with the natural world that has changed your outlook on life? We want to hear all your stories about how travel has made you a better person. Submit your ideas here, and you could see your content published right here on six-two.

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