Paddling the coast of Norway from Jakobselv to Vestfossen
By Anders Thygesen
In the summer of 2011, Anders paddled the entire Norwegian coast in a skin on frame baidarka of his own making. Two friends joined him on this epic voyage, and it became the adventure of a lifetime. 3000 km were covered by paddle during the 73 days the trip lasted.
Ten years ago I paddled the hole Norwegian coastline in a homemade skin-on-fram baidarka. Alot of things has happened since then, in the paddling community, to paddling equipment and not at least to myself. I always liked to keep it simple when paddling. Just to carry what I need and nothing else. This tale you are about to read was written ten years ago. It was a dream come true, the adventure of a lifetime. I am going to do it again!
The Norwegian coast from border to border
This is an adventure with long traditions, and it was only natural to do research on who had done similar voyages before. One of the most famous is Jim Danielsson from Sweden. His book «148 dager i havskajak» (or, in English, «148 days in a sea kayak») is recommended. A simple, open, and well-written account about a retired estate agent from Stockholm who in the winter of 1986 began the adventure of a lifetime. When you read Jim Danielsson you will come away with the idea that the Norwegian coast is incredibly dangerous. And, of course, it can be if you do something wrong. I never talked to Jim, but I did talk to several long-distance paddlers who had done the whole or part of the voyage. One of them, Fredrik Ness from Storkmarknes, had paddled south to north one summer. He recommended I not repeat his mistake. He had headwinds from beginning to end. There is something to be said about people from the north. They can say things so calmly but with such conviction that I lose all ability to contradict anything. Thus, the adventure was planned from Grense Jakobselv by the Russian border to Svinesund by the Swedish border and not the other way around, even if it meant some minor logistical challenges.
My next big deliberation was timing, whom to paddle with, safety, food, and equipment – in roughly that order … The choice of kayak was never an issue. Even before I knew about the adventure I knew I was going to paddle a home-built baidarka.
Finished baidarka ready for a long voyage on a beach by Kiberg, East Finnmark.
What is a Baidarka
The word baidarka comes from Russian and means «little baidar». A baidar was a type of skin boat the Russians used when they colonized Russian America, today the state of Alaska. The natives used, as all the Inuit people, kayaks. These the Russians called «Baidarka». A baidarka was, until recently, a rather unknown type of kayak. In its time it was both a hunting and transport craft for one, two, or three persons. The original inhabitants of Alaska could paddle long distances with high speed in these kayaks. It dominated the sea both with its speed and seaworthiness. A baidarka has more room than any other type of kayak I build, so for me, the baidarka is a natural choice for longer voyages and adventures.
But a skin-on-frame? Thin canvas stretched over a wooden frame – is that actually safe? Well … In my almost 20 years of paddling, I had yet to experience a puncture of a kayak. So why should it happen on this voyage? Logic, experience, and reasoning were obvious, but still – the doubts still wormed themselves into my mind. It would be quite a sight if I had to cancel the adventure because of equipment failure. And what of my reputation as a kayak builder? To be honest, I had never had a kayak wet and in continuous use for three whole months before. What if the canvas couldn't withstand the rigours? I didn’t know, but still wanted to do the experiment. I carefully considered the external measurements of my kayak. I imagined calm days with the mirror-like sea, where Jim Danielsson would have paddled 70-80 kilometres without leaving his kayak. I ended up with a narrow thing – 540 cm long with an almost as long waterline – and only 51 cm wide. I worked a lot with the sitting comfort and equipped it with spacious packing hatches and a well-considered deck rig to hold both equipment, safety equipment, and different conveniences.
The view from inside my baidarka before skinning it.
The kayak is rigged. My children decorated my spare paddle. Advice against homesickness I learned from Børge Outland.
Crew and preparations
When it came to crew for the expedition, I was very unsure. I didn’t really want to paddle by myself, but on the other hand, I didn’t feel like I could ask just anybody. I had quite a few criteria, such as: Knowledge and experience with seamanship, paddling and outdoor life. You also had to be sociable, have a good temper, determination and share my basic values. You had to have time, money and desire, and preferably own your own home built skin-on-frame baidarka and the wish to use it on the voyage. These criteria did of course narrow it down! Luckily I knew of two people on the planet who could fit the bill. I asked them both, and both said, miracles above miracles, yes – and the planning of the adventure was a reality.
We planned the journey well over a year in advance. We were all determined to meet regularly and paddle a lot. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen all that often. We didn’t manage to paddle ourselves fit, practice packing the kayaks, practise safety and rescue together or do many of the things we agreed was important before such a long journey. Each of us did some shorter paddling trips and tested our gear. While we had a few meetings and short trips together without camping, we were more than busy with our own lives and saying goodbye to everyday life in the time leading up to the journey.
It was decided Grense Jakobselv was to be the starting point. The date was set to July 15th, 2011. The equipment was transported by car and the first camp was set up by the mouth of the river. There we did our final planning and packing. It seemed impossible to fit food for three weeks into the three long, narrow kayaks. The frustrations bubbled to the surface as we had to cut down on the equipment even before we had taken a single stroke. It wouldn’t be the last time. We also got to realize each other's differences before the journey had even begun. I and Tor wondered if it really was necessary for Bao Quoc to bring two or three of everything. We thought it would suffice with, to mention a few items, one cooker, one tent, one axe, one camera tripod. After all, we had to carry the kayaks every once in a while. Me and Bao Quoc was sceptical if Tor would need his map – Norway 1:100.000, an emergency beacon weighing in at 4,5 kg and if it really was such a good idea to paddle the coast of Finnmark in anorak and wool-tights? These differences in opinion came somewhat late, but we were focused on the goal, talked well together and didn’t create problems from the differences.
We were also different – Tor, 49 years old and from Arendal/Oslo, an investor and company owner. I, 39 years old, from Denmark/Vestfossen, a professional kayak builder and Bao Quoc, 29 years old, from Vietnam/Horten, a chemistry student. What we had in common was the joy of being outdoors, love of nature, midnight sun and that the adventure finally had begun.
From the left: Bao Quoc, Tor and Anders.
Finnmark – uncertainty, a mishap and fantastic nature
We used a whole day, July 14th, to pack our kayaks. It was hectic activity. We also had to use some of the 15th to finish packing and it was on the wrong side of lunch before we finally could carry the heavy kayaks to the water and finally say goodbye to civilisation. It can’t be denied – we were anxious for the beginning of the journey. We had to get going, and we would soon find out if we had done any errors in the planning. I had never been to Finnmark, and if we should followed other peoples opinions we should have skipped the whole county and rather begun in Tromsø. Finnmark was, according to «people,» a dangerous place. Great distances, steep cliffs, biting cold, extreme tidal differences, currents and storms coming from nowhere were only a few of the lurking dangers. Jim Danielsson was no exception. He was scared shitless by Finnmark and almost died there in his 1989 expedition. When Bao Quoc told some old sailors about our adventure before leaving they immediately said «Son, are you that tired of life?»
With all respect to experienced sailors and their tales … We also had some experience. On an adventure on Greenland in 2005, Tor and I proved for ourselves we actually enjoyed inhospitable and totally unknown nature. Finnmark could not possibly be more dangerous than northwestern Greenland? And this was of course proven the first night in a tent by the Grense Jakobselv river. It wasn’t a scary place waiting to kill us, but a nice place with soft grass, gorgeous view, beautiful sandy beach, clear water and plenty of room.
The first stroke felt sluggish. The kayaks were heavily loaded. It was quite a bit of wind, and we had to re-pack the kayaks for better trim. And it was not a particularly impressive first day of paddling – 15 kilometres! The mood wasn’t all that good when we looked for our next campsite as evening drew close. We saw a small, green spot in a bay, and decided to check it out. The opening to the bay was not all that wide, and the current was not easy to see. I noticed it a bit late, but then Tor had already been swept inwards, sideways. He missed a bracing stroke and suddenly he was swimming next to his kayak. Luckily we managed to persuade him to wear his drysuit, and now he thought it was the best idea ever.
You never capsize on an adventure. Well, almost. A really promising start for a three-month-long adventure …
On our second day, the mood improved some. The wind calmed down, and the sun peeked out from the clouds. We managed to paddle a long distance and even meet some people – something as rear as two sunbathing ladies who had their Sunday constitutional from Kirkenes to Bøkfjord lighthouse. This day’s paddling ended on a rocky beach on Skogerøy. We felt like sons of the wilderness, alone in the world.
On day three we had to do our first but by far not the last, crossing of a fjord – Varangerfjorden. It is always a good idea to have a break before crossing a fjord. You can stretch your legs, eat, pee, check the weather forecast and inspect the fjord for dangers. When we stopped at Bugøynes I noticed a little water in my kayak. Closer inspection revealed an inch long tear in the canvas below the waterline. I couldn’t believe it – a tear in my kayak after all these years. The disappointment and despair were palpable. I had trusted the canvas completely. The kayak had been lying on some driftwood during the night, and there must have been a nail in the log. In actuality, I was impressed by the kayak. Even when paddling for a couple of hours, no more than a litre or so of seawater had entered the kayak. No time for tears; time for duct tape. A Primus quickly dried the canvas and the band-aid tape was thoroughly applied. The whole repair was done in fifteen minutes, and we could continue our crossing. But I couldn't stop thinking that if this happened every three days, I would arrive at Svinesund in a duck-tape kayak.
Emergency repairs - duck tape band-aid.
And thus the days went in Finnmark. We got into a routine. We paddled short and long distances, we experienced fantastic nature and fauna. We paddled, and together we experienced the joy of outdoor life, progress and all the exciting places we saw that very few people are privileged to experience. We met Hurtigruten almost daily, where people with other desires could experience the coast a different way than us. We were joined for a few days by a local kayaker, Bjørn, who became a welcome addition to the team with his local knowledge, tales, and unbreakable good spirit. We also experienced several problems underway. Tor developed tendinitis and had to cancel his trip. He brought his kayak on Hurtigruten from Kjølleford to Tromsø in hope of continuing the journey after some rest.
Bjørn also had to get back home to his family, and four became two. It was a big sensation when the compass reading started pointing more or less south. Me and Bao Quoc enjoyed the progress and we were lucky with the weather in exposed areas, like the infamous Lopphavet.
Lopphavet is ahead of us …
Troms - we start believing
The optimism crept upon us as we got close to Tromsø. We had paddled some of the most notorious stretches of the Norwegian coastline in a rather good style. The respect of the few people we met rose when they got to know we had paddled all the way from Grense Jakobselv … and intended to paddle all the way to the Swedish border. The time frame also seemed to hold – we had guessed three weeks to Tromsø, and it’s exactly what it was going to be. The equipment worked flawlessly now. The kayaks were easy to pack – the equipment had kind of found its place and it is easy to pack and unpack when you don’t have to ponder to0 much each time. The trimming worked very well. The placement of water was the most important, and we thought about leaving the skegs along with other unused equipment when we arrived at Tromsø. We had often hit rocks and reefs without the canvas taking much notice. The tent, cooker and other equipment did the job without problems. My down sleeping bag, which had been met with so much objection from my fellow paddlers, made all the negative objections to shame. Never moist and always nice and warm was a general experience thru all 76 days of paddling. As an acquaintance once said: "isn’t the whole point of the outdoor life to keep the sleeping bag dry?"
Lunchbreak in nice weather, Troms. Everything moist has to be taken out and dried at these opportunities.
Before the journey we had talked a lot about rhythm, how long to paddle each day and how many days of rest. In reality, we ended up not following any schedule. We paddled when we could paddle, slept when we could sleep, ate and relaxed when the opportunity presented itself. The rests came naturally with wind and difficult paddling, and the long paddling days came when they offered themselves. No schedules, but the nature and goal defined our daily rhythm. We met a happy and well-rested Tor when we arrived at Tromsø on August 4th. Bao Quoc and I had a day of rest, even though the weather was nice and begged for paddling. We picked up a depot of dry food and ate a lot of fresh food. The kayaks were emptied and all the equipment controlled and assessed. Smaller adjustments and repairs were done and some parcels of unused equipment were sent home. On the 6th we continued our journey. We followed the inner sea route of Senja. August 8th was a special day. I always thought I was going to have a big party the day I turned 40. This day I had the smallest birthday party of my life. My celebration consisted of a fantastic afternoon sky and view of Astafjorden, a light breeze, a campfire, a pipe and the companionship of two friends. It was one of the best birthday parties I could ever imagine.
My smallest, and best, birthday party ever.
Maps and navigation
Maritime charts are usually preferred for an adventure of this kind. Many paddlers also swear by a land map on a 1:50.000 scale. What worked best on this journey was actually «Cappelens tur- og veikart», a road atlas, on a 1:325.000 scale. The maps are not particularly detailed and very handy for taking out a general direction. When you paddle 40 km a day it’s not all that important if you don’t know exactly where you are. For emergencies, we had a small handheld GPS of the simplest kind. Every once in a while it could tell us if a direction could be paddled or not. The road atlas contained information of abandoned places in Northern Norway where we could go ashore and set up camp for the night. When the coast consists of thousands of small islands it doesn’t matter much whether you have a super detailed map or not – you just have to take a general heading and paddle according to the terrain. What I’m trying to say is I think very detailed maps are a pain in the …
Nordland – a long and paddle friendly county – halfway...
The adventure took another turn just north of Bodø. Tor’s tendinitis acted up again and got gradually worse without the rest of us not quite understanding how bad it was. Tor is not one to be affected by pain. On a day with the heavy wind, we were about to cross an arm of a fjord. A short distance, but still a crossing, and when crossing a fjord you are extra attentive. The paddler's safety is the shore, and the nightmare is land-wind with the unintended drift towards the open sea, Greenland, England or worse. After almost completing our crossing we suddenly got hit by a strong land-wind. Tor was in pain and had problems controlling his almost six-meter long kayak. Bao Quoc and Tor were seemingly calm - after all, we had rescue lines and several other ways of making our way forward. But basic safety precautions are always, even with backup plans, that each paddler is in control of the circumstances at all times. This break of safety protocols really stressed me out, and I got rather irritated with Tor, something I soon regretted and tried to apologise for. Luckily, Tor also realised the unbearable situation and wanted to cancel the journey. With great trouble, we managed to make landfall at a beach of idyllic Mjelle.
Mjelle was anything but idyllic this day. The sun was shining, but the wind whipped up a sandstorm even Sahara could envy. It wasn’t tempting to stay. To continue paddling was for Tor, not an option. His forearms were like sausages stuffed with wet flour. We called Jim Ness from Bodø Kajakklubb. Jim dropped everything and met us with a car and beer. After a short round on the town, we settled down in the club’s boathouse in Kvalvika. We rested a day to reorganize the journey, do some shopping and say goodbye to Tor for now. Tor was sorry to have to quit but grateful for all the wonderful paddling he, after all, had experienced. Bao Quoc and I were still full of confidence. We were on a roll, and there is nothing better than a warm and dry cabin as a change from living in a tent. In front of us the coast of Helgeland beckoned, for me at least a familiar place and by itself a dream goal. It wasn’t too far to Brønnøysund neither, with plenty of friends and known areas. Again we cut down on the equipment and prepared for a new chapter of the adventure. We started early on August 17th in hope of crossing Saltfjorden during the morning calm.
A couple of days later we noticed a strange line on the map. I was the first to realise what the line meant. «We’ll paddle thru the polar circle,» I happily shouted to Bao Quoc. Bao Quoc was not so enthusiastic. «Yeah, so what? It's just a line on a piece of paper». But when we actually noticed a big, globe-like object on a holm all the misgivings were gone – we had to go up and take a selfie. In the logbook, I noted for this day: August 20. 1400 km paddled. We are about halfway. The occasion was celebrated with a pint of nordlandspils and a couple of pipes of tobacco the same afternoon.
Polar circle at 66°N - we are almost halfway.
Southern Helgeland was, as expected, a blast. Plenty of quays, endless sandy beaches and flat, tent-friendly islets are typical for this part of the cost. The weather was for the most part nice, and we met a lot of friendly people. We stopped at Havnomaden on Herøy, where we were welcomed with open arms. Brønnøysund didn’t disappoint either, and it was with a certain sense of loss we left Helgeland and crossed the border to Nord-Trøndelag.
Trøndelag – and another one leaves the team
Trøndelag is also magnificent and in many ways similar to Helgeland. Bao Quoc was in his local area and we had nice meetings with both friends and familiar places. But, the paddling went slower. I wondered why the speed kept decreasing the further south we got from Trondheim. In the end, it became clear. Bao Quoc was reluctant to continue. We had a talk on September 2nd just north of Kristiansand, where it all came out. By returning to Trondheim now, Bao Quoc could avoid missing a whole year of university. It was difficult to argue against it since it was very reasonable, but for me, it was still very inconvenient. I had put a lot at stake for this trip, and until now it had never occurred to me to do any of the journeys all by myself. In all the years I have been teaching sea kayaking I have preached safe paddling. Unsafe paddling was, according to me, solo paddling. And the statistics were topped by men in their forties solo paddling! I had great misgivings of going on just by myself, and I didn’t quite know what to do. On one hand, I had come this far and was on a good flow. Everything seemed perfect, and I was in extremely good shape. In the end, I decided to continue without Bau Quoc. But the Swedish border now seemed unachievable. I thought I’d just paddle south for a while, and see how it went. Maybe into a fjord. For instance Sognefjorden. To Lærdal? From there it was a short way home. Maybe I could get someone to pick me up?
In Kristiansand, we met a very nice couple who invited us home. We had a shower, ate, did some shopping and had sightseeing in town. At night we slept well in our separate guest rooms. I had already packed the kayak. The baggage was again reduced to almost nothing. I had to. From now on I had to pull and carry the kayak full of all my equipment all by myself. Every day, from the water onto land and back again the next morning.
I got up before dawn the next morning. Bao Quoc wished me bon voyage and just as daylight broke, I left Kristiansand on September 3rd. It was with mixed feelings. In principle, my opinion is not to paddle alone, because of the extra risk involved. On the other hand, I felt like I was in the flow, and mastered my world 100%. And, some of the most demanding parts of the coast was already behind me, so … In spite of all reasonable arguments, I still thought it was a bit scary to paddle all by myself on an unknown stretch of sea. This day I had Hustadvika before me, and it is an infamous place among sailors. I paddled fast, the weather forecast was good, and with some luck, I should be able to get well beyond Hustadvika and into more protected waters.
I was so focused on effective paddling and to reach my goal, I almost didn’t notice a group of people on land by Hustadvika who obviously was interested in me. When I arrived in Bud I realised why – I had four unanswered calls on my phone. The group was friends and acquaintances from Oslo Kajakklubb on a walk from their cabin. I was of course invited for a better dinner with everything. Solo paddling wasn’t so bad after all.
Nordvestlandet – solo paddling – about meeting people
I soon found out paddling solo is the most social thing you can do. I easily got in contact with people and met a lot of nice people in the next few weeks. I often got invited to food and a bed and enjoyed the hospitality of the coast. It was welcome, since Nordvestlandet is known for wind and rain, and my kayak adventure was no exception. I also realised how much faster I could travel by myself rather than in a group. The daily distances increased, on average, from 30-40 kilometres to 40-50 kilometres. Without exerting myself, just because there was no waiting, and because being on land was boring and thus I ended up spending more time in the kayak.
The autumn was here, and I had a faint hope I could paddle a longer and longer part of the original route. Maybe I even could manage to get all the way to Bergen. This tale is not all good commercial for Vestlandet as a paddling destination. Sorry, Vestland. You are magnificent and beautiful with friendly people. Wind and rain shouldn’t be a surprise, but why should it be so damned difficult to find a tiny square of ground to put up my one-man tent! A hammock would have been a much better solution. On the stretch between Kristiansund and Mandal, I tried a lot of alternate «campsites», like marinas, gardens, pastures, rock, sand, cabin porches and even a public toilet!
My most important piece of equipment was the sou’wester! I paddled, stopped, put up camp in drysuit and sou’wester. Then into the tent and directly out of the suit and into my sleeping bag. But Vestlandet was by no means tiresome. I enjoyed the voyage and even the rain. I often managed to avoid the wind, and I met so many friendly people. Bergen was a highlight. It was windy, and I indulged myself in two days rest at Ronni’s in the kayak shop God Tur. I’d actually reached Bergen, something I never thought I’d be able to! The kayak was completely emptied and dried for the first time in two months. I changed the wear-tape along the keel and my body was (somewhat) restituted. I got to optimise my equipment a bit and shipped a package with unnecessary stuff home. I prepared for the final stretch because now it was obvious - I could actually manage the whole journey as planned. Until then I had paddled from one day to the next, all the while being open to quit if needed. Just north of Bergen I also got a very encouraging message from a kayak buddy from home: «I’m coming to paddle! I can join you for a whole week, and meet you in Stavanger!» Even if I enjoyed my own company just fine, I knew this would be great, and I might have company all the way to Kragerø!
Good company and a new twist
I can’t describe how great it was to meet Alex. Without him, as a paddling partner, I’m not sure if I’d manage to continue. Sørvestlandet could be difficult. It was late in the year for crossing one of the windiest places on the Norwegian coastline. Alex wasn’t in great paddling shape, but I appreciated his company mostly as a break of monotony and loneliness – together with the actual progress. Alex soon got in shape, and his company just made everything better. We enjoyed the evenings and experienced fun things together. Alex was the one to insist on rounding Lindesnes lighthouse. We knew of the back way, and the weather was a bit complicated. Even though we paddled on the outside, and it was one of the greatest moments of the journey. For the first time, after paddling nearly 2700 kilometres, I finally believed I could manage to finish the whole journey to the Swedish border. It didn’t quite work out that way …
We managed to paddle around Lindesnes!
Alex kept me company all the way to Kragerø where he had to get back to work. I had looked forward to this final lap. Telemark and Vestfold is my paddle-world with more trips summer and winter than I can count. But now I felt something new: The homesickness started pulling. I began thinking of my kids, suddenly so close. I wouldn’t say I was stressed because I did paddle safely. But I paddled very fast and very far every day. I passed the whole Vestfold county in one day. And a new thought entered my mind – why paddle to the Swedish border? On my last night just south of Horten I made a decision: I’m going home!
It seems so simple – paddle from Horten to Drammen. From there up Drammenselva and into the tributary leading home to Vestfossen. I might be able to do it in one day, and I began my craziest stretch ever. It wasn’t only the 73 kilometres making the journey tiresome. Headwind and head sea on the Drammensfjorden, strong head current at Svelvik and extremely high water levels in Drammenselva made the paddling tiering. September had been very wet, and the turbulent water in the so usually calm river was hard to avoid. The darkness fell before I finally got close to my local kayak clubs clubhouse by Vestfosselva. People came home from Wednesday-paddling and a funny dialogue went something like this:
Anders: «You’ve been paddling?»
Paddler: «Yes, up Vestfosselva. Where have you been?»
Anders: «I’ve been paddling from Grense Jakobselv.»
… silence …
Anders: «But I’d better get going - someone is waiting at home – talk to you later»
I think Oddvar was the only one who understood I was serious. I got a hug and both of us dried a tear before I continued up the river. And it was the truth. I was so ready to get home, and it was only 20 minutes left to paddle. The homecoming can’t be described. I heard the voices of two boys in the shrubs. It was my sons who wanted to be the first ones to meet me. All the way up by the field a small group of friends were gathered around a fireplace. I was a bit late, so all the hotdogs were cold. But I got a lot of hugs and felt enriched like a few others. Besides an experience for life and being apart from my kids, I now got my kids back and everyday life in homecoming gift. I felt overwhelmed by the adventure and the experiences. I was even a little bit proud of myself, but it paled in comparison with seeing my kids and my closest friends again. I learned so much from the journey. And meeting so many people still warms my heart. The whole Norwegian coastline from the Russian border and home. 73 days and 3063 kilometres.
When I ask myself if I should have done anything differently the answer is, without a doubt, no. The planning worked out very well. I did have my doubts about a few things, like navigating with a roadmap and GPS. This worked well for this kind of journey. I knew our rough location at all times and could plan the route with no problems during the journey. The Greenland paddles worked perfectly and provided all the propulsion, steering and safety you could ever wish for. The Kelly Kettle gave copious amounts of hot water for food and washing without needing any other fuel than what we could find on all our campsites. In the first 50 days, we only used the Primus once. My down sleeping bag, ridiculed by so many, kept me plenty warm at night, even in the worst and wettest weather. And finally, the baidarka I used delivered 100% safe paddling and propulsion without any damage whatsoever. After the whole journey, the bottom only had surprisingly few scratches despite several weeks of solo pulling and carrying the kayak between water and the highest tide. The skeg I brought was not needed, because I managed to steer the kayak with my paddle. If I would do one thing differently, it might have been to drop the skeg.
The voyage has enriched my life in every way, and it gives me even more joy when I notice the journey also inspires others to seek the unknown. I’m sure I’m going to paddle the whole coast of Norway again. The Norwegian coast from border to border. I recommend the voyage to all who have the time. Spend three months to enjoy an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. Don’t think too much, just do it while you still can!