Weary-eyed, with a full heart, watching the Aurora Borealis

by Friday, August 31, 2018

I write to you with weary eyes as I’m staying up late in Fairbanks, Alaska, to see if I can see my first Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Tired eyes aside, I’ve such a full heart after an incredible trip travelling through the wilderness and Inside Passage of Alaska and Canada before that.

You know those rare occasions when the travel stars align and you finish a trip on a total high? Not everything goes to plan. You have to chuck the itinerary out the window. You get thrown daily curve balls, but you are privy to another world that… I don’t know, just makes you feel very grateful for the little things.

The whales turned up. I caught salmon even though I always talk too much and normally scare them off. The sun came out on Mount Denali – which only happens for 1 in 3 travellers. All of The Big 5 Alaskan animals showed us their face in the Denali National Park and Preserve. Santa just happened to be home when we visited his house in the official North Pole town. The locals were all really nice and, against all odds, our plane took off and we scored a Certificate to say we’d crossed into The Arctic Circle.

I’m so darn tired. We’ve had almost no Wi-Fi on this trip, and I believe we have a new PM back in Australia (contrary to public opinion it didn’t rate a mention over here) but I know we’ve filmed some wonderful stories for you that you’ll adore.

I only spoke to one person this whole trip who felt it didn’t live up to their expectations. They had anticipated seeing as many animals as they’d spotted in Africa, yet they didn’t sign up for one extra excursion, such as whale watching, as “They can’t guarantee the animals”. I felt this person had missed the whole point of visiting this wilderness region. You’ve got to put yourself out there to reap the rewards and, for heavens sake, no one ‘guarantees wildlife’ as it’s just a legal disclosure, but that doesn’t mean the aforementioned whales won’t show up! We saw them within 25 minutes of our special trip in Juneau.

Sometimes, the joy of travel is when unexpected things do happen. When you put yourself out there. When you’re quiet and learn something wonderful from the local sitting next to you (I cannot wait to put my podcasts together for you). Or, you’re able to just appreciate a small, serendipitous moment.

I suppose that’s how life is, isn’t it? Being aware of those little magical moments; making an effort to reap the reward; and being grateful for when that magical moment arrives.

Excuse me for raving, it’s all this fresh air. I’ll sign off now, I’ve got some Northern Lights to look out for. My fingers are crossed you travel well this week, wherever life takes you.


“This beautiful ski area peaks above Serre-Poncon Lake. One can admire stunning views over the Ecrins National Park on one side and the Parpaillon mountain range on the other. The resort is set amongst a huge larch forest. It really is a treat skiing down runs that seem to go forever,.” READ MORE

Chef Concierge Ali Sungkar has been with Hotel Windsor for 10 years and this June, Ali was awarded Concierge of the Year at the prestigious 2018 Tourism Accommodation Australia VIC Awards for excellence. A member of Les Clef’s D’Or Society for over 23 years, Ali personifies The Windsor’s commitment to service excellence. Born in a city called Solo – Surakarta (Central Java), in Indonesia, Ali relishes the opportunity to meet people from all around the world, and says there’s “…nothing quite as rewarding as hearing a ‘thank you’ and receiving a smile at the end of the day”. READ MORE
“Last year, topped with my green fedora, I led an 18-day tour of gardens and cultural icons of Spain with ASA Cultural Tours. It was a hoot! Not only the must-sees like the Alhambra in Granada, but dreamy garden landscapes with olives and wild flowers not normally open to the public. Afterwards my wife Lynda and I visited Portugal for the first time. More heat, history and romance.” READ MORE

In this week’s episode of Journeys to Come’s podcast, Catriona Rowntree speaks with some of the legends of Australian travel: Ann Peacock, Glen Moroney, Nicky Oatley, Ann Sherry, and Tony Wheeler. LISTEN HERE
P.S. Catriona’s Scoopon Deal o’ the Week – Boutique Waterfront Apartment Escape at Gippsland Lakes