Stories From Norway

I think my brother is one of the coolest people I know. So, that’s one of the reasons why, after two years of no travel, my first post-pandemic (or mid-pandemic?) trip was to Norway to visit Sam, my little brother.

It’s also why I’m not surprised that we ended up at an infamous Norwegian rock bar listening to a ‘cool’ underground Norwegian rock band sing a song about horses. Whilst drinking £12 pints of beer. (Well, they weren’t even pints, ¾ pints.).

Travel In a New World

I’d like to think of myself as a seasoned traveller. Or I was.

I’ve been in some sticky situations. Seen so many places. Arrived and survived at 2am in destinations with no place to stay. I’ve been travelling around the world on my own from the age of 16. There was the time I flew solo to Cambodia aged 17 for a summer of volunteer work, to the time I flew a group of 18 year olds to South Africa for a season of work. But in truth, jumping on a 65-minute city-hopper flight to Amsterdam – solo felt pretty daunting after not really leaving Derbyshire for the last two years.

It starts with the airport fear. We all face it.

Will there be a hidden liquid rolling around my carry on? Will Ryanair make me pay hundreds of pounds because I’m trying to bring my 1cm too big wheelie case onto the flight without paying for it? Will passport security stop me because I look suspicious, trying not to look suspicious, because I have nothing to be suspicious about. And of course, the main fear, not having enough time to buy a pint and a coffee, a decent meal, and browse Smiths before the flight. How many times have I had the opportunity to browse Smiths in my hometown?! Yet I wait, needing to get to the airport early, so I can spend money on an overpriced book. Ahh, the airport fear.

Flying In a Pandemic

This airport fear is heightened when you fly in a pandemic. Who would have thought? You wave your COVID pass to anyone who cares to look your way and wait in any line, just to flash your negative test to everyone. But why it’s really scary is because you have no idea if the rules will change whilst you leave the ground. By the time your feet touch the floor, the world could have turned upside down, again, and you could spend two weeks, and your life savings, in a quarantine hotel, which is really just a posh Travelodge with weird food deliveries.

These layers of fear, these layers of change, these layers of panic – all carry weight. We can only bear so much. We can only hold on for so long. Whilst the last two years may have looked different to us all, there is no doubt that our loads are heavy.

It’s like the infamous glass of water analogy. How long can you hold a glass of water for? It’s not that heavy, right? You could hold it for a while, but it’s not the weight that really counts, it’s the length of time you hold it.

What are you holding onto? How can you loosen your grip? Who can you ask to help carry the burden? What can you let go of?

The First Holiday

I felt like I was going to get in trouble. Someone was sure to tell me off. I felt sure I wasn’t supposed to be in another country. Abroad. Was it allowed? Should I be here? You know, because of Covid?

But it was amazing.

A person standing on a hill

No one wore masks, Covid seemed to have disappeared. It felt safe. It felt free. We spent days in the library. Walked the beach in sunshine. Talked. Drank beer. Chilled out.

I’ve always felt that comfort zones were made to be stretched. When they stop growing, they don’t remain static; they shrink. The elasticity rebounds. This makes everything immeasurably more difficult, because you’re not only fighting the shrinking walls, but you’re faced with all that energy that has nowhere to go. You internalise it. So, I won’t lie. It was hard to travel. To sit on a plane on my own. To navigate my old friend, the airport. To walk around a foreign town on my own felt scary. But I could also feel my comfort zones stretching back. I could feel muscle memory taking over and my smile remaining intact. I could feel the joy of the ‘new’.

When to go on your first post-pandemic (mid pandemic?) trip?

I can’t tell you. I can only say they’ll be a time when the reason to go outweighs the reason to stay. Whatever that reason is, you’ll just know it’s the right time. Like seeing my brother. Who will always be the coolest person I know. It was worth the wait, even if the wait was forced by closing borders, because everything fell into place.

As my plane touched down, the covid rules changed in Norway. Every flight after mine had to follow new covid guidance. Whilst I was there, in the wettest rainiest city in Norway, it didn’t rain. We saw sun. And then, less than 24 hours after my feet touched UK soil again, the rules changed. Isolation, PCRs = problems at work. Yet everything worked out perfectly for me. Like it was planned.

It will happen. That trip you want to take. The thing you want. The people you want to see. The goals you have. It will all happen. All in good time. All at the right time. Just hold on to the right things and let go of the rest.

Timing is everything, and most of the time, this is completely out of our control. I often think of my impatience for certain things, my questioning, but time and time again I’m reminded. Everything happens in its own time, at the right time.

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