Due to a last-minute change of plans, Taylor and I had an open week in our schedule we needed to fill. We hopped onto Skyscanner (a website that helps you find the most affordable flights through a variety of airlines) and found round-trip tickets from London, England to Oslo, Norway for $15 per person! We booked them immediately, right then and there. Easiest decision we’ve made so far. Norway, here we come!
We caught a ride into London the day before our flight to spend some time with college friends living in the city, Ryan and Caroline Bernthal. Ryan was transferred to London for work in April on a two-year contract, and Caroline has started her own travel blog, www.thebellabroad.com, and Instagram account @TheBellAbroad. Despite Ryan’s work the two have been able to travel to some pretty awesome places. I’m amazed by how much they have been able to fit in to such little time.
While Ryan was hard at work during our day together, Caroline proved to be a lovely tour guide, bringing us to a number of the must-see places in the city: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The London Eye, etc. In the evening we grabbed some drinks and Ryan and Caroline treated us to dinner at their favorite restaurant, Tayyabs. This Punjabi restaurant is a must-visit when you make it to London. The Bernthals had been there numerous times so they took the reins in ordering food for all of us to share. We had samosas, popadoms, chicken keema, and saag paneer with peshari nan. Oh my goodness. It. Was. Amazing!
After taking the scenic route back over Tower Bridge we made it to their flat for bed at 12pm. We woke up only a few hours later at 3:45am the next morning to begin the very, very long journey ahead of us. After two buses, one flight, a 45-minute walk, an hour train ride, and a seven-hour train ride we arrived in Stavanger, Norway at 10pm. Thankful beyond belief, our couchsurfing host, Bjorn Aage, picked us up at the train station. He drove us to his home where we ate dinner and met his wife, Marit. Before it got too late Bjorn Aage walked us out to his 40-foot sailboat, in a harbor just 5 minutes away from his flat. He welcomed us on his boat, showed us the ropes (pun intended), and bid us goodnight.
The following morning we woke up to an absolutely beautiful, calm, sunny day. Bjorn Aage took us out on his sailboat for a few hours, cruising around harbors and fishing for mackerel. With luck we were able to catch enough fish to clean and take home for lunch.
While in Stavanger we hoped to go on a few hikes in the Norwegian fjords, the true beauty of Norway, but unfortunately the tourist transportation was out of season and we had not rented at car. Thankfully Bjorn Aage had seen a couchsurfing event posted for the next two days to the hikes we wanted to go on! We didn’t even know couchsuring events existed, and were incredibly blessed by everything falling into place.
We got in contact with two Spanish travelers, Mark and Oscar, who rented a car and joined them, along with a handful of others. Together we hiked Kjeragbolten and Preikestolen two days in a row, a couple hours outside of town. The drive and the hikes were hands down, the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen. It was an absolute dream. It didn’t hurt that we were incredibly fortunate with the weather for this time of the year as well. Norway is a very expensive place to visit, but there are affordable ways to do it, and it is completely worth every penny!
We spent the majority of our last day in Norway with Bjorn Aage and Marit. Together we made food, had drinks, played cribbage, and shared stories. Once again, Taylor and I were very humbled by the kindness and hospitality of strangers. Bjorn Aage and Marit were like grandparents we never met, and pulled at our hearts.
In younger years, Bjorn Aage and Marit enjoyed traveling and sailing together, but due to Marit’s current illness are no longer able to do so in the same way. Instead of traveling, they now invite the excitement of travel and culture of other countries to come to their doorstep through hosting couchsurfers like us. I am amazed by their attitude and choice of perspective; grateful for the model they set for others. It would be much easier for them to stay at home, complain, and blame their circumstances for unhappiness, but instead they have found ways to keep a flow of life, adventure, and relationships coming into their lives. They are truly admirable. Life is what you make it.
In our mere month and a half of travel, Taylor and I have been reminded in many ways how incredibly precious and fragile life really is, each breath a gift. Since leaving Minnesota we’ve faced a number of medical concerns and heartbreaks within our family, and lost one of Taylor’s best friends from high school to an accident.
We may think “that” will never happen to us, or that we have many years ahead to live, but nothing is promised and nothing is guaranteed. I do not bring all of this up to inflict sadness into your hearts or ours, but instead as a reminder of how great a blessing life is, no matter what our current circumstance. In this season, be thankful for all of the things we want in life and already have. As humans we naturally focus on what we want that we do not have, unless we consciously train our minds to see that we already have been blessed with more than we could ever ask for.
What we choose to focus on will become our reality.
We must choose wisely and consciously.
Now we would really love to hear from you! Please take a moment to consider these questions and leave us a note below!
Is there a circumstance or excuse you’re using in your life that’s dragging you down? What will it cost you to stay in this current state of mind? What could a new perspective give you? Take action, now!
Love to all,
Sarah + Taylor