Northern Lights; Poor Man’s Bucket List Checklist

Are the Northern Lights on your bucket list? But you don’t think you’ll be able to afford a cruise anytime soon? Don’t despair. Here are my tongue-in-cheek suggestions for a Poor Man’s Northern Lights simulated cruise experience. You can do this anytime, anywhere, as long it’s night-time, the skies are clear and you are happy to go outdoors.

Invite a friend. It will be a good idea to choose someone who has a good sense of humour.

Decide on your outside venue. It can be anywhere; best would be out in the country, somewhere quite remote – maybe on a beach, a lake-shore? Or just in your own garden – or on a rooftop?


Bucket list checklist:

  • 2 large buckets to pack your things in
  • A solar powered lantern, or other lamp
  • A blanket
  • Cushions or pillows
  • A plastic sheet
  • Your favourite tipple – lots of it
  • Large plastic glasses to schlurp out of
  • Your favourite nibbles – lots of these too
  • Paper plates to scoff off
  • Your favourite music – optional
  • Paper serviettes
  • Binoculars
  • A small telescope – optional
  • A compass


The Experience

Choose a clear night, preferably on a weekend as you may well be hung-over afterwards. Happily, no need to book, as you would for a cruise. Dress according to your local weather conditions. Remember this Northern Lights experience can be enjoyed in summer or winter, northern or southern hemisphere. So, if it is a very warm night, you might even choose to be in your swim-wear – or nothing at all. Head off to your chosen destination – happily swinging your buckets, which are a fraction of the weight of the suitcase you’d be carrying if you were going on a Northern Lights cruise.

When you get to your destination, unpack your buckets; spread out the blanket and the plastic sheet.

N.B. Resist the temptation to look up at the sky – anticipation is key for this experience.

Focus on food and drink at this point – or would that be drink and food? Arrange your nibbles attractively on the plastic sheet, emulating an exotic buffet, like those on cruises. Settle yourselves down on the blanket. Have your favourite music playing. Or you might just prefer the night noises of your location; waves breaking; frogs and crickets, traffic…. Fill your glasses to the brim. Toast each other and the fact that your drinks are not costing an arm and a leg as they would on a cruise ship. Knock these back and refill.

N.B.  Do not look up.

Tuck into your ‘buffet’ with gusto – go on pile your plates up high, just as you would if you were on a cruise ship. Be a pig. You’re allowed. You’re not going on a cruise after all, so you have saved all that money.  Finish off your ‘buffet’ and pack away. Drink some more. By now, hopefully, you will be feeling pleasantly tipsy, things around you shifting in and out of focus.

Almost time to look up, but not quite.

Find your compass and align your cushions/pillows so that you will be facing North when you lie down. Keep your binocs handy. Okay, lie down. Hopefully you will feel a swaying sensation, as if you are aboard a cruise ship. And now, look up at that sky. Isn’t it wonderful? There are so many millions of stars it boggles the mind. Look out for shooting stars. If there’s a moon, have a look at it through your binoculars. Unwind, relax completely and simply revel in the experience. You might set up the telescope and have a look through that too.


Does this feel like an anti-climax after the build up? Console yourself with these thoughts:

  • You have to have an ideal set of circumstances for The Lights to make an appearance. Given that you have to book your dates well in advance, there is no guarantee that this will happen.
  • Even if there is a solar flare and The Lights do make a showing, for many, many people, seeing them is often a let-down, because unless it is a very strong one, you will only see them in black and white, not the brilliant greens, reds etc. that you’d been expecting. This is something that isn’t widely known and so most going on these cruises don’t know about it. I certainly didn’t.


Read my post on this here:…ight-bulb-moment/ ‎

Yes, it was a wonderful experience, but it’s not the b-all and en-all. There is so much to marvel at just by looking up into the night sky – wherever you are in the world – and you don’t necessarily have to be bundled up in winter gear either!

I would certainly recommend Hurtigruten’s Northern Lights Cruise above all others.

Also, there is far more to the cruise than just the Northern Lights. Look out for future posts on this.…ge-ride-kirkenes/ ‎











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