TL;DR: Sparkloft Discovery Trips are an opportunity for education, relaxation and global perspective-altering experiences. By taking time to slow down and appreciate other cultures, and their natural and beautiful resources, employees come back refreshed with a new perspectives to continue to grow Sparkloft's global perspective.
Enjoying a work-free weekend, let alone traveling internationally, was a foreign concept to me for the majority of my professional career. In fact, my previous job in the sports industry didn’t lead to many off-days, even in the offseason. Now working at an agency that specializes in travel and tourism, Sparkloft encourages its employees to get outside and explore, whether it’s in our own backyard or aboard.
Choosing a destination wasn’t as difficult as I expected. After traveling with my wife to Iceland in 2016, we both quickly fell in love with the solitude and scenic beauty the country offered. Knowing we both wanted to explore somewhere new, we decided to try and replicate those adventures in a similar venue. After a little research, Norway emerged as our destination. Fjords, seafood, waterfalls, beaches, and endless peaks to hike? Decision made ✅. And it was this research that ultimately served as motivation as I ascended up each and every one of those mammoth mountains.
The best part about discovering what a country or region has to offer are all of the surprises along the way. Technology, the internet, Instagram and countless other resources have made it incredibly easy and accessible to research potential destinations to get a feel for what you’re getting yourself into. But to truly know what it’s like, there’s nothing better than first-hand experience.
There’s always that one moment when I’m traveling internationally, where the realities of just how far away I am home from sinks in. To fully appreciate the journey, I need to retrace our steps to Lofoten.
From Portland we flew to Reykjavík and into Bergen before hopping on a short two-hour flight to Bodo. Once we arrived, a four-hour ferry ride was required to arrive at Mosaquenas — one of the many islands that comprise the Lofoten Islands. Despite already being on an island in northern Norway, another ferry was needed to cross Kikrefjord, where the hike to Horseid Beach was located. It was there nearly a week on the island — we had hiked, explored the majestic and tropical colored beach — when it finally hit. We were waiting for the ferry back to Reine and two pre-teen girls, likely locals, showed up at the dock, one with a wheelbarrow in hand. I noticed one is wearing a baggy tee with Snoop Dogg’s face displayed prominently on it and couldn’t believe a little slice of Americana was here in this tiny island in Lofoton, Norway. Even more, when the ferry arrived the captain was holding mail and packages that he dropped into the wheelbarrow for the girls to deliver to the townspeople. We were on an island so remote that it took two ferries just to arrive from the mainland and this was how they delivered the post to one another. We were really out here!
After visiting Iceland, I had it in my mind that the food in Norway would be similar: expensive and decent. Well, one of those rang true. The food is incredibly expensive, but, it was all worth it! Norway’s seafood is world renowned, especially its fish. We stayed two nights in Hamnøy and ate at the same restaurant both nights. We were recognized the second night, and the waitress insisted that I had the halibut, which the chef said was the best halibut he’d ever prepared. Essentially, I would be kicked out of the restaurant if the halibut was not ordered. Needless to say, I had the halibut, just one of many where I left the table so happy and content.
I also learned quickly to never, ever trust the online Scandinavian hiking guides’ measure of a hikes difficulty: Norwegians grow up on the trails and begin trekking up and down the mountain at a young age; I’ll never forget this older gentleman in slacks cruising right past my wife and me as we were huffing and puffing our way down the mountain toward Horseid Beach. While it’s a Sunday stroll in the park for a Norwegian, a moderate hike can easily consist of more than three kilometers of pure elevation and multiple instances of second-guessing decisions along the way.
All Norwegian people are incredible. From the same group we crossed paths with — the chef and waitress at Krambua to our Midnight Sun kayaking guide, who was full of knowledge about Norway’s history and Gulf influence on the waters — each was so proud to show off their country and share what they see, hear and do on a daily basis.
Discovery Trips have taken Sparks all over the world. Read operation manager Kristin’s escape to Costa Rica where she learned about the country’s efforts toward sustainability and the Pure Vida lifestyle.