It's my birthday today, and I'm waking up in Svalbard. On purpose. Deliberately. I'm as far away as possible from everyone that I know and love. I'm as far away as possible from everyone that I could plausibly describe as a vague acquaintance. Just me, in Svalbard, on my birthday.
I like birthdays - other people's birthdays, not mine. There's no trauma attached to it - nothing as dramatic as that. I'm just a bit of an introvert. I don't mind being adjacent to the centre of attention, I just don't want to be the centre of attention.
There's something about my birthday that triggers my fight-or-flight defence mechanism. I choose flight - I always choose flight.
This year, it's Svalbard. Svalbard is an island that's about a two-hour flight north of Tromsø. If you're looking at a map of Norway, Svalbard is north of there - right up the top. It's pretty much the northernmost inhabited island in the world.
People come here for that quintessential Arctic experience. In winter, it's pretty dark and cold. It all feels very frontier-land. During the summer months, there's a lot more activities on offer, but one of my goals for this trip is to see the Northern Lights. I've also signed up for a trek to an ice cave - I'm starting to think maybe that one wasn't such a great idea. There's polar bears on this island - I know that I taste delicious.
I'm not being a total grinch about the birthday. There's been calls, emails, messages - I know that I'm loved and celebrated. But sometimes a bit of time by yourself, staring hopefully into the night sky - looking for something, looking for anything - reminds you that your instinctive flight response can lead you to some unexpected places.
Svalbard. A birthday at the edge of the world.