When I'm traveling, I'm met with temporary spaces: hotel rooms, hostels, and Airbnb apartments. After dropping my bags off onto the floor, I put a bit of effort into making the temporary space feel like home. I’ll unravel the sheets, pour myself a glass of water, and make sure the temperature is just right. In every living space, comfort is a priority.
In September, I packed a duffel bag with five outfits, a pair of trusty hiking boots, and a rain jacket for two weeks of worth of travel. Bergen, Norway was my first stop. I sought out a place where I could find silence and solitude. I chose Norway specifically to escape from the noise of the city and a place to be simply left alone.
Airports are one of my favorite places. The idle time sitting in airports leaves room for people watching and observation: parents calming their children, couples falling in and out of love, over packers, minimal packers, and eavesdropping on interesting conversations. When we allow our minds to wander we discover something unique about ourselves. Traveling has the power to soften my understanding and eliminate preconceptions I have about the world. It allows me to engage and connect with other people for short periods of time. Small talk conversation in airports can be viewed as mundane, boring, and even callous, but they have a potential to bloom into something unexpected. I have exchanged laughs and cries over stories from strangers on my travels. Stories are one of the best souvenirs you can take home. As humans, we are wired for story. They’re tiny delights that carry on.
I prefer to travel alone. As an adolescent, my worldview was built from fantastical places I read in books and watched in movies. Upon my arrival, I was met with the Osterøy Bridge basking in its afternoon glow. Every aspect of what I was seeing felt fictional. I was met with the deep mountain ranges and bodies of water surrounding it. Everything was illuminating with radiance. When I am at home, there's a sense of hardness comes along with living in a city: ambulances, police sirens, public transportation delays. It goes on. As I have gotten older and more mindful of the effects that environmental stress has on our bodies it becomes an inherent need to retreat to natural places to escape.
A sense of immediate calm rushed over after stepping out of the airport. I was greeted with the crisp, cold air. There wasn't a trace of anyone feeling rushed. I took the Skyss Bergen Light Rail from the airport to the Airbnb. I spent the half hour journey on the train eavesdropping on other people’s conversations in foreign languages. I studied the architecture of homes: colorful, cozy, tucked away from stress. I admired the mountain ranges surrounding the city. I wanted to study the mountains, become their friend, and leave no trace.
After settling in, I spent the afternoon tracking down a grocery store, pharmacy and explored the Fish Market. If you decide to visit, I would advise that you don't breathe in too deeply while walking through the Fish Market. The smell is pungent. You can find fresh salmon, caviar, roe, live crab, crab legs, and anything else you can imagine. I tried the fish stew with salmon and it didn't disappoint. I was also surprised and happy to see how many people were outside eating McFlurry’s and soft serve ice cream.
The next day I packed my backpack with a bottle of water, a notebook and pen, and some snacks for my 2-hour train journey up north to Myrdal. Hazy eyed, I tried my best to stay awake before the train conductor came to inspect my ticket, but I ended up falling asleep and missing a few views along the way. I arrived and embarked on my walk through the trails without a sense of direction. No one was around. I didn't know what I would find through the steepness of the trails. Along the way, I was met with untouched wilderness, roaring waterfalls, and an incredible view of the rich fjords. It was a place to be still and quiet.
On my third day in Bergen, I took a boat tour from Bryggen's Hanseatic Wharf. I stood on the top deck of the boat in the pouring cold rain for 3 hours photographing the fjords. I seemed to be the only one on the top deck while everyone remained inside. It was worth it. If you decide to visit, I advise that you pack a reliable rain jacket and a plastic bag to protect your camera. The fjords through Mostraumen resembled a fairytale. The cascading waterfalls graced behind tiny red, white, and yellow houses and cabins. I wanted to linger for a while.
My trip was dwindling down and I wasn't quite ready to leave. On my last day, I hiked up Mt. Ulriken, the highest mountain in Bergen. As I made my way up the mountainside, the fog came rolling in and I lost sight of where I was going. I discovered grazing sheep, unoccupied cabins, and endless streams. I felt joy and gratitude. The rain came in and the trek got muddy. After getting a little lost, I was ready for a hot chocolate and some warmth. Luckily, there was a small cafe on top of the mountain with pastries, tea, beer, and hot chocolate.
Travel can humble our everyday experiences and make us realize the things we take for granted. Traveling allows me to experience something that’s out of my control: the passage of time. It allows for me to practice patience and reflect on the ways I utilize my time. It has the power to enable the possibility of giving ourselves room to grow and discover second chances. When we allow this door to open, we can begin to uncover things we didn’t know not only in ourselves but in others.