Why do we find comfort in shared discomfort? Knowing someone else went through hard times or even just slightly uncomfortable times that we have also gone through seems to dull the edge a bit. You don’t feel like you’re alone, like you’re unusual, or that what you’ve had to endure is all that unusual, because someone else has known that same feeling.
That’s a big reason why I wanted to start writing this series. If I can show you how bad I am at travel, how easily I get lost, and things still seem to work out alright in the end, it might help reduce someone else’s anxiety or even just let them nod along while reading thinking of their own similar experiences. Plus, who doesn’t like hearing about places you might not have ever visited, or maybe haven’t been in a while, or even somewhere familiar that’s viewed through a different set of eyes?
I love Norway. I’ve been fortunate enough to get there on 3 separate occasions, and it never ceases to amaze me. For one, the scenery is beautiful, the history is rich and deep (they’re the homeland of vikings, after all), and the people are incredibly nice. Plus, they seem to have figured out a lot of the problems other countries around the world still struggle with on a daily basis.
Universal health care? Check.
Free college tuition? Check.
Top 10 happiest citizens in the world? Check.
I’m sure having a federally controlled oil fund worth over a trillion dollars helps keep people happy, healthy and educated too. That being said, the 25% sales tax and price of anything in that northern region is a shock to the system for anyone not used to it, so there’s good and bad to anywhere.
With all this goodness in Norway, it didn’t escape the opportunity to cause my travel plans to be disrupted in each and every occasion to it’s great land. so let’s dig into a few of the most fun opportunities.
On the first trip, sometime around 2015 to teach a workshop with Tony, we left Prague and flew to Oslo on a relatively later flight compared to what we would normally prefer. You might remember Prague from my previous travel woes post. As you can tell this whole trip was a “roll with the punches” type of flavour.
Now the flight itself was easy enough. A few hours, minimal turbulence, whatevs. The interesting part of it all was the fact that the flight crew were all apparently on strike, which meant once passengers had boarded, the attendants announced they were there, but not really there at all. The plane couldn’t legally fly without them, but as they were on strike, they weren’t going to do ANYTHING they would normally do unless there was an emergency.
This meant no in flight service, no tv turned on for anyone, no wifi, and they just sat in the galley waiting to land.
Again, not a big deal, but kinda unusual.
We landed around 11pm at the Oslo airport, and unbeknownst to us it’s about an hour drive from the airport into the city depending on construction. Not knowing if there were buses, shuttles, or the like running to downtown at that time, or even where they would stop relative to our hotel, we opted to get a taxi.
This was a pretty cool taxi driver. He was pumping Dr. Dre and Tupac while telling us simple facts about the city and countryside as we passed by in the dark. I think he realized we weren’t from around there and didn’t have any idea where we were going, so he might have taken us on a few extended roads to eventually get to our hotel. Price shock kicked in right away when the taxi bill came in at around $200.
We did find out a shuttle went from essentially one block from our hotel right to the airport, so that was our return option.
We got to the hotel at around 1am, and the clerk greeted us with “Halo Mr and Mrs Somerset!” I asked how they knew us and his reply was that everyone else who was schedule to be there had already shown up, and we were the only outstanding reservation to check in. A good guess on his part.
The rest of this trip was great. We got to walk through a medieval castle that we pretty much had to ourselves, tour a viking ship museum, and generally enjoying being in a Nordic country.
The second time I was able to be in Norway, I was speaking at the AFPT Conference. This is a fantastic event and if you’re ever looking to attend a wonderful conference in a great place, check out when they’re hosting other events.
Prior to the conference, the organizers invited us to stay at a resort in Holmsbu, about an hour south of Oslo and about 90 minutes from the airport conference centre where the event would take place. They set up a trip to a farm, sailing along the fjords on a sailboat, plus some amazing dinners.
I got in a day late just because of scheduling so I couldn’t partake in the farming element, but was able to get on the sailboat with everyone, jet lagged as I may have been.
The next morning we were all set to go to the conference centre. Everyone loaded into a bus and headed out.
Except for me. I was dead asleep in my room, unaware that my alarm was going off to wake my jet lagged ass up. The bus left at 8 and I woke up at around 9.
Realizing I was ridiculously late, I emailed the hosts, and decided to head down to the restaurant area for breakfast. I was the only person in the entire area. It was kind of weird.
A few minutes after sitting down to eat, one of the front desk workers comes into the restaurant, looks at me and asked “DEAN?” I nodded yes, and she handed me a phone.
No one seemed to notice I wasn’t on the bus until about 30 minutes into the drive when one of the other presenters asked “Has anyone seen Dean?”
There was a moment of panic where everyone looked around, couldn’t see me, and realized I wasn’t actually there.
The organizer was on the phone, and let me know a taxi would be coming to get me to drive to the conference centre. Shortly after, I was in a taxi and headed out.
The driver seemed to think I spoke fluent Norwegian as he kept trying to make conversation with me and I just smiled and nodded. We arrived at the conference centre, and I wound up paying $300 for the drive over. My mistake, my expense.
I met with one of the organizers who was very relieved to see me and know I wasn’t dead or lost or anything anymore. She told me I could check into my room and get ready for the event to start shortly.
My room? You mean we’re staying here and not going back to the resort we were at this morning? Oh, that’s a problem, because I thought we were staying there, and left all my stuff except my laptop bag back in the first spot.
I could almost see steam coming out of her ears. Stupid Canadian doesn’t know to bring his things with him? I’m sure there were some Norwegian curse words running through her mind at that point.
It was decided one of the other organizers would run back and get my gear for me. As the conference centre was right next to an Esso, I went and picked up a gas gift card with what I hoped would be more than enough money to cover the cost of any gas consumed helping me make up for my boneheaded move.
In spite of all of that, I managed to do a decent job with my presentation, scoring as the top presentation of the event based on feedback from participants. I also didn’t tick the organizers off so much that they wanted me dead, which is a lovely thing to aim for. They were even willing to invite be back again the following year.
On the third trip to Norway, things started considerably better. The AFPT Conference was happening again, and this time when the group was leaving the new resort, I managed to get on the bus on time. It helps that a lot of returning presenters were on the look out to make sure I didn’t miss out again.
The conference went well, everyone laughed at my jokes, and I was set to come home. However, being me, this wouldn’t be a trip without something going wrong.
When leaving Oslo, the plane boarding was delayed because of a “mysterious liquid” in the cargo hold. No further information was given about this. Was it gasoline? Shampoo? Napalm? Sometimes no news is good news, but this made imaginations run wild.
My transfer time in Amsterdam was about 2 hours, and the plane was delayed for, you guessed it, 2 hours. Mysterious liquid be damned, it wasn’t enough of a risk to prevent us from flying.
Amsterdams Schiphol airport is a sprawling monolith, so after leaving the plane, boarding a shuttle, driving to one terminal, walking through to customs, and then trying to sprint to my gate to make it back to Edmonton, I found out the plane had left 10 minutes earlier than scheduled, roughly 25 minutes ago.
Stuck in Amsterdam, I contacted KLM to rebook, and as the plane was delayed in Oslo they rebooked me for the following day, and gave me an airport food voucher worth 25 Euros.
What’s hilarious about this whole situation is the trip to Oslo also transferred in Amseterdam and I had mentioned wanting to spend some time here rather than just transferring. Now I got to spend a full day without even expecting it.
After booking a cheap hotel in the city centre, I made my way to town, dropped off stuff, and decided to wander this new space to see what this place had to offer.
It was delightful. Coming from a country that’s not even as old as many European buildings last paint jobs, seeing canals, castles, and cathedrals like those is a pretty remarkable thing to do.
The following day getting ready to head out, I used my voucher at a sushi restaurant at the airport, and if you’ve ever eaten at an airport, you know that 25 Euros would likely cover the tip and tax only, but oh well. Not surprisingly, my flight was delayed that day by 2 hours. Because of course it was. Yesterdays couldn’t be delayed. No no, they had to leave early even when I was sprinting through terminals and tourists in a manic pace to try to make my flight. But today, when I was there, ready and wanted to get home asap, it’s delayed 2 hours.
Admittedly, these are all fairly minor hiccups in the grand scheme of things. No one died, everyone made it where they were planning to go, and hilarity ensued at every turn. If you’ve ever had travel plans disrupted, you know how annoying they can be, but as long as the issues aren’t too dramatic, they’re usually not worth getting too bent out of shape over. Plus sometimes you get to have some cool experiences like seeing the Red Light District, holding a conversation with a Norwegian taxi driver or forgetting all your luggage on the other side of the country.
Those always make for good stories.