When A Place Is Different Than You Remember It
I distinctly remember telling Johnny that Norway was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. The sun sat barely above the horizon as it moved across the sky making it seem like some magical mix of sunrise and sunset all night long. The steep, rocky mountains rose up on islands dotting the fjords and quaint, little fishing villages were nestled along the shores. Even in the summer the air felt cold to my thin California blood and I had to borrow a coat from the “boutique” in the attic. We drank bad coffee and played cards all night. We rode an old wooden overnight train along the length of the country. The experience was well worth a bit of cool weather. But that was all ten years ago.
It’s an odd feeling going back to somewhere you’ve been before. Especially when that place was important.
For me, getting to Norway by myself was a big life moment. It was my first experience traveling abroad by myself. The trip over included four flights, a big boat, a small boat and a short car ride to get up to my sister’s house in Arctic Circle and I made it there all on my own. I was proving to myself that I was capable of bigger things than I usually attempted. It was also the beginning of our first adult trip together. That trip planted seeds that have grown into the semi-nomadic life my little family now leads.
Photos: First time in Engavågen, Norway - Summer 2009
So here we are nearly ten years later. My sister no longer lives in Norway but my parents do. In the same house as it turns out (it’s a strange world).
Aurora told us months ago that for her birthday she wanted to go see Nana and Pops, have a tea party, go fishing and wear hand knit socks.
I’ve been writing about creating meaningful travel experiences that matter to someone other than myself recently. I figured that Norway would be a great place to hit the ground running as my new (better) traveling self.
I had big plans for this trip.
I would chat with grandmas about Norwegian knitting traditions.
I would share recipes for cozy winter meals to be eaten on Scandinavian modern furniture (while wrapped in fur blankets no doubt).
I might even spend a day herding reindeer under the Northern Lights with the Sami people.
But then real life happened instead of my imaginary (but magical) travel life.
Plus Johnny ended up needing to stay at home and get things ready for Black Friday so it was just me and the kids.
In direct contrast to my epic plan, we only ended up with the two things originally on our agenda - go fishing with Pops and have a tea party with Nana.
When we arrived in Engavågen, things were different than I remembered them.
Most noticeably, it was mid-November which placed us squarely in the middle of the dark season.
It was colder and rainier than before. The wet ground had started to freeze and there was an odd crunch-squish quality to each step.
The house was still surrounded by beautiful mountains and clear, indian blue fjords. But I was less enamored than I was the first time around. I was appreciative of their strong presence around us but not ecstatic.
Photos: Engavågen - Autumn 2018
I guess you could say that it was quiet. I don’t mean that in a literal sense (lets be real, I still have two toddlers and a baby with me) but the world surrounding us certainly felt more calm. I was more calm too.
There was rain most days and a fair amount of mist otherwise. The birds must have moved on to somewhere warmer and the sky never really got too bright even when the sun was out.
There wasn’t much to do outside other than climbing mountains. I would have liked climb a mountain or two but my shoe selection and herd of small people following me around dictated otherwise.
It was hibernation season.
So we sat by the fire, we baked cookies, we played cards and we had coffee the was just as bad as the first time around. And of course we had a tea party (girls only) and went fishing (only caught seaweed). The kids were happy as clams .
It’s kind of funny to look back at both trips. I had such fond memories of my first trip to Norway that I was in a bit of a weird mood for a few days of this year’s visit. But then I realized that each visit looks a lot like the season of life I was in when it happened.
Round one was summer.
I was younger and full of energy
We were out exploring anything and everything
We stayed up all night and crammed in as much as possible in a short period of time.
Round two was autumn.
I’m a little older. I still have energy but it’s a calmer energy.
We stayed inside more.
I enjoyed smaller details and slower days.
I repaired things.
Other people played with my kids.
It was divine. But it looked different than our normal trips do.
So why am I telling you all of this?!
I’m telling you because I think you should definitely go back to places you have already been.
The world keeps spinning and you keep growing after you leave a place. It is fun to go back and see things through a new lens particularly if it is somewhere you already love . Something about having been there before makes it easier to move slower, relax and appreciate different things than you did the first time.
Photos: Stages of learning to travel with kids - 1 kid, 2 kids, 2 kids solo, 3 kids solo
Secondly, on a less related note, this trip was a good reminder that some things are only hard because you’ve never done them before. That first long trip from LA to Norway was challenging for me because I had never had to switch planes, or take a boat or a train or go through customs. It was all I could do to get there in one piece.
But now I’ve done all of those things many times.
Then I did them with one kid.
Eventually I added a second kid.
This year I took a solo trip with the two kids.
I actually didn’t even think too much of it until I got home and realized that I had just successfully taken myself and all three kids on a total of 4 flights, a fast boat, a train and a ferry during our trip to Norway.
Do things you think are hard. You may find that you need to become better in order to succeed. But perhaps you’ll find that you’re already more capable than you thought you were.