The woman who lived in the Arctic circle
While many have been forced into isolation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, others have sought out the solitude that can come from being alone.
Valentina Miozzo is one of those few, deciding to move to the Arctic Circle both during the pandemic and as the 24-hour polar nights were just about to begin.
“December and January were two months of just darkness,” she said.
Traveling from the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna she usually calls home, Ms Miozzo made the decision after the pandemic turned her life upside down.
Working as a nature and walking guide who accompanied Italians on trips abroad, she was just as affected by the pandemic as so many others in the travel and tourism industries.
Once Italy came out of a harsh lockdown and had the virus seemingly under control in the summer of 2020, she jumped on an opportunity sent to her via Instagram to run a guesthouse in the Arctic Circle.
“Was I scared? No, I saw it as a beautiful opportunity to visit places I would maybe have never chosen off my own bat,” she said.
“Since I couldn’t do my travelling work anymore, this was a way to travel and to live another reality - in a more static way, of course, but in a part of the world I didn’t know and was fascinated by.”
Two days later, she accepted the offer.
Within a month, she was touching down in Kongsfjord, about 3,826km from her former home.
Moving from Modena, with its population of 185,00 people, to Kongsfjord, with just 28 residents, was one the many differences Ms Miozzo contended with.
“In winter, there were 120 km/h winds and ice everywhere, so it’s hard to get around,” she said.
“I didn’t have any expectations - I purposefully didn’t create them as I was curious to discover.”
But she did have some sort of an idea of what to expect.
“I knew I was going to a very, very isolated place - they’d wanted me. I knew it was extreme, and I knew it was in the arctic tundra, but I had never been to Norway.”
“Shortly after my arrival, the polar nights arrived.View this post on Instagram
“It was an incredible experience, living two months entirely in the dark. It wasn’t disturbing - in fact, it’s harder to live with the light.”
Isolated and facing the extreme weather, Ms Miozzo learnt something extremely important during her stay.
“When I went to hot countries, you take energy from outside, from others, from the climate, the atmosphere. You’re interacting with other people, and there’s the sun,” she said.
“When you find yourself in a place like this, completely isolated, what you learn to do is to find energy in yourself. And it’s an amazing discovery - especially when there’s no light for two months and you need to wake yourself up.”
Ms Miozzo has found the Arctic Circle to be a place unlike anywhere else in the world.
“The climate, light, the dark - it’s all different. Here, it’s real tundra. Trees don’t grow - it’s really a wild landscape. We have red and arctic foxes, and there are reindeer everywhere,” she said.
“There are whales, dolphins, orcas, and lots of seabirds - it’s known for its birdwatching. And there are seals, which are lovely.
“I haven’t lived in Norway. I’ve lived in the Arctic tundra.”
Images: Valentina Miozzo / Instagram