Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Beautiful Places I Want to Go (...for novel research)

Hello all! Official decree that when I inevitably skip Saturday posts, I will no longer mention it in the Wednesday post. We will just understand that I am bowing my head in shame.

So, I didn't know what to write about for today's post, but then I remembered what I've been doing sporadically throughout the day: working on The Wishmaker! For those of you who don't know, The Wishmaker (Italics? All caps? What's the proper formatting for WIPs?) is my novel-in-progress. I started writing it the winter of tenth grade, finished the first draft the winter of twelfth grade, and have been working on the second draft ever since. Yeah. I procrastinate a LOT.

Anyway, so in this book, my protagonists travel around a lot. (This is going to be kind of a spoiler warning, but not really, because I'm not giving away plot points, and the locations really don't tell you much about the plot, except that my characters wear winter coats for most of the book, haha.) So naturally, I have to research the locations that they go to. Not only that, I have to research the travel methods. It's a nightmare. It's almost worse than planning an actual vacation, because on an actual vacation, you don't have to seek out remote scenes for magical battles, nor do you have to hike into the middle of nowhere, nor do you have to... do a lot of stuff that real people don't do, and that travel websites do not consider. For example. I wanted to find out how long a flight from Valdez, Alaska to Iqaluit, Canada would take. Do you know how long it took me to find this information? Almost as long as it would take to take the actual flight. (5 hours, 12 minutes, by the way.) Every freaking website wanted to know what date I was taking the flight. I AM NOT TAKING A FLIGHT; MY CHARACTERS ARE GAAAAHHH. DON'T TELL ME NO FLIGHT IS AVAILABLE. IT IS A FICTIONAL FLIGHT!

OK. Breathe, Ariel.

The more enjoyable part of all this research is learning a lot about beautiful places and the things you can do there. I haven't learned too much about the culture or night life or whatever of any of these places, because my characters don't do any of that, they just gallivant out into the woods and do philosophical nonsense. But I have learned about how FREAKING PRETTY these places are! And all the hiking and fishing you can do there, blah blah blah, LOOOOK:

Valdez, Alaska
My characters don't get to check out much of Alaska, but they do head to this little port town surrounded by gorgeous mountains: 
Ugh. I love mountains. Especially mountains covered in snow looming over a small town. And there are excellent hiking paths leading out of the town, if you like hiking. You can do a bunch of sports there but I hate sports. People who go in the winter mostly go there to ski. But I'd probably just take the hiking trail that I spent an hour trying to navigate on Google Street View and have now forgotten the name of, and check out these views:

Joey Howell hikes the ridgeline under Little Matterhorn peak on Thompson Pass near Valdez, Alaska on April 2, 2014.  Howell and James Roh spent over three weeks exploring the Valdez portion of the Chugach Mountain Range.  

(yes those are people I am sorry to these people whose photos are now on my blog; legal people who read my blog, tell me if this is illegal)

Look at all those snowy mountains, stretching for what seems like forever. It would be so cool to go here.


My characters get around in Greenland. So naturally, I got around all the Greenland tourism sites. There are quite a few. Let me first just say: Greenland is SO COOL. The history of Greenland is very interesting, but I won't get into it because I'm not really an expert and I don't want to embarrass myself. The culture is interesting. And the landscape is fantastic. Most of it is covered in uninhabitable ice basin, yet just today, I learned that Greenland is home to the world's largest national park, up in the Northeast, home to no one but a small group of researchers, and a vast variety of wildlife. There's stuff growing up there, not to mention the walruses, seals, polar bears, and more. Not only that, but Greenland has fantastic natural phenomena to observe, such as the Northern Lights and the midnight sun. Just... GREENLAND. I want to go to there.

Anyway, my characters' first stop is the capital, Nuuk: 
Yes, those are really the buildings. When not coated in snow they look like this: 

Nuuk is pretty cool, but next stop is Ittoqqortoormiitt, a name that I will take a while to get the hang of typing. It's next to the aforementioned national park, and it's the most isolated town in Greenland. With only 450 residents, it makes most of its income on hunting and tourism. The tourists are adventurers, scientists, and explorers, coming to see the far north. And it's a difficult journey, but it looks worth it to me:
And I cannot resist a glimpse at the wildlife of the national park:

I repeat: I want to go to there. I know that it's cold and a difficult journey and it'll probably be uncomfortable, but some things are worth discomfort.

Final stop in Greenland is the Peary Land. The northernmost settlement of the world, it was discovered by some guy named Peary, and it's depressingly desolate up there. That one's not so much on my bucket list.

(P.S. Look at this video of the northern lights in Greenland.)


Next we head on to Finland. Finland is a dazzling land of beautiful, wonderful culture that I love with all my heart and I want to go there someday, but my characters don't get too involved with that culture. Instead, they venture into the wilderness of the Lapland. The Lapland is the term for a large expanse of land that covers much of Northern Scandinavia, and is also the term for the northernmost region of Finland. It is an excellent place to go hiking, camping, or mushroom foraging in the summer. In the winter, you'd best only go there if you're an ultra-experienced hiker. I read one blog post by a guy who'd hiked like everywhere in the world, and a trip into Finnish Lapland in the winter sent him home early with his toes freezing off. This is the fate I have chosen for my characters, because I love them dearly and they need to be punished, naturally.

Despite the difficulties, Finnish Lapland in the winter is utterly, utterly beautiful. The fells, reindeer walking across them, covered in snow:

The forests and lakes:
The heavy snowfall:

The woods at night:

And the Northern Lights:

I'm beginning to realize this is dragging on, so I'll wrap it up. I just want to conclude by saying that I know there are people attached with all of these lands. People with real cultures who have made their homes in these places. They're not just vacation spots or daydreams; they are the places where people live and work every day. So I don't mean to romanticize these places as unattached from the people that live there. I just wanted to admire the beauty of the places I've been researching, but I acknowledge the people there as well.

In addition: tomorrow at 8 PM EST there will be a Ch1Con Chat about Road Trip Stories. If you're interested in stories full of traveling, like the one I've been rambling on about this whole blog post, you should come watch it!

Thanks for reading,


  1. Oh my gosh, so many beautiful pictures. I wanna go toooo.

  2. How in the world did you choose Lapland for your characters to go to? Did you know about it ahead of time or did you spin a globe and blindly stubbed it with your finger? What plot twist caused this particular place to be chosen?
    Just curious. I enjoyed reading this post because I learned much from it and your descriptions are, as always, amazing. Pics lovely, too. Next time send cats and babies, please.... :)