When your loved one takes off for the Great White North, there are a lot of emotions, worries and fears. However, as with any difficult situation, there are preparations or reminders which make the entire experience easier.
Before your loved one takes off into the frigid unknown, you can talk with them frequently, but at the same time it is important to remember that the period before the field season is often almost as busy as the field season itself. Every year before Lisa leaves for the Arctic, we are both cognizant of the fact that we won’t be able to visit for months, so I will call her a couple of times a week for a few minutes to check in. It’s nice to hear how she is doing and also to listen to all of the preparations she is making for her long stay in the North. Together we count down the number of days we have to talk to one another before she leaves.
These conversations also serve to remind me just how perfect Lisa is for her job. Regardless of whether your friend or family member is leading a team, researching or acting as a tech, it helps to keep in mind that your loved one has been chosen because they are skilled, well trained and able to take on this adventure. Ask about what your friend or family member is bringing to the Arctic and why. Each year Lisa sends all crew members a link to her blog post which lists the gear necessary for her crew to survive on the tundra for three months. Because of her crew’s careful preparations, despite the unseasonably cold temperatures last year, no one got chilblains on their face last season.
Once your loved one takes off for the North, it’s tempting to use the satellite phone number you’ve been left to call and check in but lots of contact with home actually increases homesickness. Ultimately you want your loved one to prosper and be successful up North, so in lieu of calling repeatedly and attempting to have long static filled conversations about how much you miss one another, take heart and remember that no news is good news. Admittedly some people are better at remembering the truth in this adage. Sometime around July, I tend to crack and call Lisa’s Mom. “I haven’t heard anything!” I’ll wail into the phone. Lisa’s mother will then cheerfully trill at me “Well dear, we haven’t either, you must remember that no news is good news”.
Although contact is infrequent and sometimes unreliable at best, the crew can be medivaced to safety if there is a serious problem. These types of emergencies are rare because of how well the researchers, techs and everyone, takes care of one another up there. It sounds funny but Lisa wants to know tidbits as basic as when each of her crew poops because these very mundane activities are indicators of health and wellness.
Even though phoning every day (or sometimes every month) is out, there are other forms of communication available to both you and your loved one. Writing letters or cards can be a cathartic and effective way to feel connected with your Northern explorer while they are away. In addition, they are a nice surprise when the crew receives a supply drop every other week.
Keeping pictures of your friend or family member or favourite items of theirs around the house or office takes the sting out of missing that person. My favourite thing of Lisa’s to keep is her dog Maddie. The past two field seasons that Lisa has spent up North, I’ve taken care of Maddie for a period of time. Having a furry bundle of joy definitely makes the time apart easier to manage. Although I imagine that albums or beloved objects would do the trick too.
When all else fails, knowing that the season is only three months long, and that they will be back soon, can be a comfort. As can planning a fun activity to do together when they return. Last year Lisa and I went back country camping. The year before that we crafted and wrote. What will you do to celebrate your adventurer’s return? – from The Great Unwashed
(the best friend a girl could ask for)