It was February, 1986. After working for a year and a half I decided I would take two week vacation. I booked a ticket to London, England to meet up with one of my best friends, Daphne, who was living abroad.
We had made our way from London to Paris, then Brugges and finally Antwerp. Our third companion didn’t get the answer he was looking for and he decided to part ways — another story. Daphne and I decided we would next visit Oslo. We wanted to see the coast of Norway and the fjords so we booked a train to Bergen.
It’s funny reflecting back on this period of my history. There was no email, internet or cell phones. All we had with us where our backpacks, a Eurorail pass, and a handy copy of “Let’s Go Europe.”
It was a beautiful eight hour train ride through a majestic landscape. When we arrived in Bergen we called the youth hostel to discover they were closed for the winter. This was not the information provided in “Let’s Go”, which I discovered was often incorrect. We were budget travelling and the cost of an overnight in the hotel was out of reach. Somehow we met another person and she decided to tag along with us.
It was late at night, -20°C and with a bitterly cold wind coming off the ocean. We decided it would be more than warm enough sleeping outside if we kept on our winter clothes inside our sleeping bags. We campled out in a nearby park underneath the protection of the trees.
We lasted about an hour. We were frustrated, cold, and feeling somewhat destitute. It was 2 or 3 AM in the morning and the train station didn’t open until 6 AM. We had nowhere to go. We wandered the streets for a while before going to the hotel opposite the train station and asked about a room. For some stupid reason (we we young) we still decided it was too much for the three of us to split.
Thinking back I don’t know how cold it was that night, but it was extreme. The person behind the hotel reception desk took pity on us. He allowed us to sit in the lounge, so long as we kept quiet, and sat in the far corner out of sight of any potential guests. That was the first time in my life when I understand the kindness of strangers, and what gratitude feels like.
Once 6 AM arrived we packed up our stuff, headed over to the train station, and booked the next eight-hour train back to Oslo. Daphne continued on her own back to Oslo that day. I decided it was time to explore on my own. I wanted to stop part-way through the train trip and see the fjords. I kept exploring, backpacking across Europe, Israel and Egypt for another three months.
The Flex Your Mind Project
Mark Whitehand invited me to play and take part in “The 30 Things About Me Experiment.”