day 1 – just afraid enough

this is the end of a very long day 1 of my epic scandinavian adventure. i am currently a little over a hour outside tromsø, norway, at this airbnb i found. the goal is to come up here and work on ottoneu for 5 days, maybe see the northern lights, read a bit, and relax a lot. after that, i’ll head down to copenhagen for a bit more of the same, though with more bars and restaurants and less smoked fish by myself in the middle of nowhere.

so, that’s the overview. day 1 started yesterday (2/15) around 3pm, when kacey dropped me off at dulles. though, to be fair, day 1 started when i started planning this trip. i wanted to see the northern lights and i wanted to travel alone – these were the big adjustments from my australia vacation. the thing is: i’ve never traveled alone before. i was pretty sure i could do it, but there are things i was (and am, to an extent) nervous about, headlined with being a brown person in a strange land. in america, fine. but in europe? for god sakes, there are nazis here! i mean, somewhere around here, i think. like, that guy could be a nazi. he could also just be YET ANOTHER TALL BLONDE SUPER POLITE GUY. whatever. see what i’m saying?

yesterday after i got to dulles, i started texting zach. kacey and i and zach and i have talked about this stuff, so it was rehashing old material, but i was telling zach that i was about to get on the first plane of my 3 plane trip to tromsø and that i was afraid. just afraid enough. i was nervous about the people, nervous about going alone (both getting lost and not sharing the experience), nervous, nervous, nervous. but i wasn’t so nervous to the point of paralysis. i was ready.

so i got on a plane and that was a long ass flight to copenhagen and then i saw the copenhagen airport which looks EXACTLY LIKE YOU THINK IT DOES and then i got lip from the passport control guy asking me why i’d ever want to go to norway (as if denmark isn’t a cold, dark, bleak country in february. listen man, it’s all cold and dark and bleak over here so why not fucking go for it?) and then i got on a shorter flight to oslo and then i ran into my first real resistance of the trip. oslo is where i needed to go through customs and re-check my bag. i had a 1 hour layover (i decided to make all the layovers super short, just to keep me on my toes i guess), and the bags took a while to come out here. upside: i got some really solid cuban cigars to complement the johnnie walker blue i purchased at dulles. downside: i got my bag about 15 minutes before boarding started for my flight. fast forward to a 20 minute security line after checking my bag, and a very polite security officer that apologetically had to open up the blue label box and had trouble getting everything boxed back up afterward, and i ended up being paged in norwegian for being the only person not on the plane to tromsø. at least, i think that is what i was paged for. it was in norwegian. i don’t know norwegian.

oslo was a bit stressful, but everyone is so polite and caring that it is impossible to be mad. this is a stark difference from america, where i try hard not to be mad at people who don’t care. i don’t know why this is, there is a whole shitload of stuff to unpack there, but there it is.

tromsø is a quaint airport and a quaint town and wonderful in every way. when you see it on a map, it is impossible not to think that someone decided to live here just to show that human beings can live here. then you SEE tromsø and how it is constructed and how the islands and mountains and water and everything play together and you almost forget for a second that it is always incredibly cold up here and you kinda see the appeal.

this last stage of the trip had the most peril, and it was entirely self-inflicted. i’m basically an idiot and got a bunch of the stuff i was nervous about out of the way at once.

  1. i put the wrong date in my rental car reservation
  2. tromsø is a small town, and if you are running europcar on a sunday and no one is coming in with a reservation, you don’t sit around at the airport
  3. i never got a sim card today. tomorrow i have a plan, but today was cell phone-less until i got to the house.

this combined to a situation in which i had to call the europcar people but had no phone, then when i borrowed a phone and thankfully got the car, i had no phone to help me navigate to where i needed to go, so i ended up guessing on 90% of the route, trying 3-4 times to get sim cards and failing, missing the turn to the road this house is on, then after correcting that driving up and down the road without an address just trying to find a house that looked like the thing i kinda remembered from airbnb.

somehow the first house i walked up to (and trust me, there are 4-5 boxy blue-gray houses on this street, and a lot more of those houses when its getting dark and you’re worried about sleeping in your car) was the right house. and now i’m in the house and i have wifi and a plan on getting food and a sim card tomorrow.

the neighbor came over a bit ago. he saw my car in the driveway and wanted to say hi. he helps the main owner take care of this place. within 5 minutes he was asking me if i wanted to go dogsledding tomorrow.

everyone here is so amazingly nice and the things i was nervous about are melting away, or alternately i’m finding out i can deal with the things i was worried about. i was in the middle of nowhere, above the arctic circle, trying to find a house from a memory of a photo and i got there. so, you know, i can probably deal with most of this traveling alone shit.

i’m going to delve into this way more in day 2 i hope, but it should be said that this entire region is one of the most beautiful places i’ve been to. choppy steel blue water in between stark, severe mountains, with clouds helping create an amazing golden hour and amazing sunset. blues and grays and a tiny bit of yellow. just wonderful. i hope i can capture it.

3 thoughts on “day 1 – just afraid enough”

  1. Safe travels, Niv. There’s something special about traveling alone that I think we rarely get a chance to experience for most of our lives. Enjoy it and keep writing. I love the running commentary!

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