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I briefly thought about spending 3 months in Svalbard. If you are aware of the archipelago half way between mainland Norway and the North Pole, you are likely wondering why I would think about living there? Svalbard is a group of islands where polar bears roam, where the global seed vault is located, and over half of the archipelago is glacier. Svalbard lies between 74 and 81 degrees north, bulging into the Arctic Circle. Despite its extreme northerly location, the islands are not as cold as other areas of the world that are further south. The other 40 % of the archipelago that isn´t glacier is covered with beautiful mountains and fjords. You may think that was a reason to want to live there. Wrong again.
When I was explaining to a friend that I had to go home because my work visa was denied, she said `Hvorfor ikke dra til Svalbard?´ ´Why not go to Svalbard?´ The letter I received from the Immigration Office stated that if I wanted to come back to Norway, I would have to remain outside of the entire Schengen area (which is most of Europe) for at least 3 months. However, Svalbard is a ´freezone´ of sorts. Anyone can live and work there without a visa. It goes back to the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 which limited the Norwegian governments ability to collect taxes to that of financing services on Svalbard. I guess the government doesn´t care as much about who is there and who is working or not if the government can´t collect taxes. That is why I pondered moving to Svalbard for a short while. If I had a friend to go with me besides my dog, I would have thought more seriously about it.
I actually became good friends with a Norwegian-Canadian who lived on Svalbard for about 3 months. And not for any political reason, but just because he wanted to. He was by himself and wanted an adventure to start a series of traveling adventures. My friend said that it was an excellent, quirky little place. It got a bit lonely at times, not only because he was by himself, but because they are so isolated up there. He did make a number of friends and found interesting things to keep him busy. Then he moved to Tromsø, which is where I met him.
If you were in my shoes a few months ago, would you have gone to Svalbard?