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Spotted from the Plane: The Northern Lights

While flying Finnair to Stockholm, Indagare's Bridget McElroy received a magical welcome to Scandinavia: the Northern Lights from the sky.

As if my welcome glass champagne, veal cheeks, chocolate cake, red wine and lay-flat space weren’t enough to put me in a most fabulous mood…

I was finishing up King Richard—terrific movie, by the way—when I peeked at the flight clock. Only four hours and nine minutes left. Shoot. I would be landing in Stockholm at around 6:30 a.m. with a full day of video shoots ahead of me for upcoming Indagare Studio productions. No time to rest, and I hadn’t slept a wink. When I fly business class, I have a hard time falling asleep. I don’t want to waste the experience by sleeping. I recognize the irony in such a stance… the exact luxury I am stuck on not missing is actually meant to afford a restful flight. Alas.

I was considering stopping the movie with 29 minutes to go. I’d sleep then resume and finish it during breakfast service. I was pulling my noise canceling headphones off when a flight attendant leaned over my cubby out of nowhere. I jumped, startled. “Oh sorry,” he said. “Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?”

What? I thought, slightly dazed, thrown off by his sudden appearance and very much in a tennis mindset.

“No. I haven’t,” I said.

“Follow me.”

Slightly confused and considering the fact that he might be pranking me or making some joke that was lost in translation, I stood up and followed him to the other side of the plane. Most of the passengers on board were well asleep. Along the way, he mumbled that he hoped they were still out now that he got me up…. I agreed, still not certain what exactly was going on but now hopeful. Throughout all of the preparation for my trip to Sweden, anytime anybody asked about my itinerary or my plans, I would end my spiel with “and fingers crossed I see some Northern Lights!”

He escorted me to the opposite row of windows, lifted one and gestured outwards, “There they are.”

My jaw dropped. A real genuine drop. One you can’t control, a drop that is brought on by the sheer weight of wonder. Wow. Oh my God. There they were, the most magical-looking waves of delicate emerald green, dancing right where I imagine the horizon would have been had it not been otherwise ink black as far as I could see. Ethereal. Wow.

I grabbed my phone to take a picture. I hesitated, feeling silly, and asked if that was even appropriate. Was I embarrassing myself? He laughed—not at me, but with me in my excitement. “Of course.” I snapped one and my flash went off. Good grief. I snatched my phone into my lap to cover the bright light. By this point a female flight attendant had joined the two of us and she laughed along. She told me she had just done the same thing in the cockpit. I was speechless. The only words that would come to me were “wow” and “thank you,” both phrases on repeat. I sat in the fortuitously empty seat 5A for around 20 minutes, filming and enjoying until the green lights dimmed to black—a subtle disappearance back into the night. I stood up, enchanted and feeling more lightheaded than I would have had I consumed another glass of champagne. I found the flight attendant who had since left me in my trance and thanked him again, this time able to form a few more words.

As we chatted, he told me that he was scanning at the passenger list and noticed my very non-Scandinavian name. When he saw the lights, he figured there was a solid chance I had never witnessed them, and he was right. Lucky for me, I was awake when he came by to check. You never know what you’ll see, who you’ll meet,or what will happen along the way as long as you’re down for the ride.

Contact Indagare or your Indagare Trip Designer to start planning a  winter getaway. Our team can provide expert travel advice and assist with custom itinerary planning, hotel recommendations and more.

Related: The Best Places to See the Northern Lights

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