Since my last post, I have traveled to Denmark, Sweden, Greece, and Italy. Many of these places I had only dreamed of seeing, and did not know if I would ever have the chance to visit. One of the benefits to studying in Europe is the ability to quickly and easily travel to many different countries. With the COVID travel restrictions in many countries weakening or dissolving completely, it was the perfect opportunity to travel around the continent.

Learning to travel alone

When I found myself with a free 4-day weekend, I spontaneously decided to book a flight to Copenhagen, a place I had long wanted to visit due to its reputation as one of the happiest and most sustainable cities in the world. This would also be my first time taking a trip alone, which both worried and excited me. My schedule was entirely up to me, meaning that I had the freedom to plan the things I wanted to do, but did not have anyone else to rely on if I got lost, disoriented, or overwhelmed. Through this solo experience, I learned a few key things:

1. The art of redirection. Many times, my initial plan was interrupted by some interesting landmark catching my eye. While at first I was hesitant to deviate from the plan, I quickly realized that since I was alone, I didn’t have to worry about how anyone else was affected by my decisions. I then stopped formulating strict plans, and instead started to engage in the spirit of wandering - setting off with only a general destination, and finding the path along the way. This spirit is becoming lost in our society dominated by tight schedules and turn-by-turn directions. Many of my favorite moments on the entire trip would have not happened at all if I was not open to these redirections.

2. The efficiency of being alone. On my first day, I managed to see almost all the main attractions in Copenhagen, from the Little Mermaid statue to the Royal areas and Black Diamond Library. Because of the “extra” time, I was able to see some of the more distant attractions, spending the day in Sweden and getting lost in modern art exhibits at the Louisiana. Although it can be lonely at times, traveling by yourself enables you to figure out what you truly enjoy, and how you can spend time seeing many things while enjoying your own company.

3. How to interact with strangers and ask for help. As an introverted person, I was used to shying away from talking or interacting with other people in public. During this trip however, I started to gain outward self-confidence, and found myself frequently interacting with strangers, whether it was asking how to get to a certain location in the city, or becoming friends with the other travelers I met in the youth hostel. In general, I have realized that many people are as willing to help me as I would be willing to help them if the roles were reversed.

Louisiana Museum of Modern art At the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

With this experience under my belt, I had the confidence to embark on a longer trip to see more of Europe. In Norway, spring break is replaced by Easter break, meaning it was the perfect opportunity to cross some iconic places off my bucket list. So that is exactly what I did.

Alex and I at the acropolis On the floor of the Colosseum
My Brother and I at the acropolis On the arena floor of the Colosseum

Experiencing Europe

I started my week-long trip by visiting Norway’s capital of Oslo, where I saw a version of Munch’s famous Scream painting, visited an extremely relaxing fjord sauna, and enjoyed traditional Norwegian food. Then, I dropped down to Athens, Greece, where I met with my brother, saw the ancient sites, enjoyed a few of the many rooftop terraces, relaxed on an island beach, and ate some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. The atmosphere of Greece is vastly different from Norway, and it was a great experience to see the different lifestyles and cultures across Europe. After this, I rounded out my week by visiting Rome, where I saw all the famous locations, relaxed by the Tiber, and even attended a Good Friday service led by the Pope. While I had not explicitly planned for this, it was a truly unique experience being in one of the most important religious locations on the weekend of Easter, with both the attitude of reverence and massive crowds of people.

In both Greece and Rome, I was astounded by the striking mixture of ancient and modern - right outside the metro station there was a two thousand-year-old temple, a supermarket, and a Byzantine church for example. It felt like you were stepping through time as you walked down the streets, and I often found myself lost in thought imagining the ruins before they became ruins. I also thought about how our society will be remembered thousands of years from now. Will our homes, stores, and cities still be standing, evolved into a sustainable, futuristic environment, or will we fall victim to the same mistakes as our ancestors? We may never find the answer, but we can use the question as motivation to lean towards the first outcome, creating a better world for ourselves in the process.

While I had made countless lifelong memories, my trip had to eventually come to an end. On Easter morning, I packed my backpack and headed back home to Bergen, where my flatmates and I celebrated with a phenomenal Easter Monday meal. Flanked by traditional dishes of many cultures, we exchanged stories of how we all celebrated the holidays a bit differently, creating an entirely new type of celebration in itself. After traveling all around, this was a great time to catch up and ground myself back to the everyday life in Norway.

Dinner on the rooftop My flatmates and I eating on the rooftop

Reflecting on this trip, and coming back home to such a great welcome has solidified how much this time has impacted me. To use Andy Scott’s words, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” The thing is, I know for a fact that I am currently living in the “good old days,” but it is still extremely difficult to think about leaving them. Each time I have an unforgettable journey, once-in-a-lifetime experience, breathtaking view, or deeply meaningful discussion, I am both grateful for the moment and sad because I realize moments like these are fleeting. However, equally so, these moments are so impactful because they do not last, and thus we hold them in our memory so strongly. Therefore, we must live in these moments to truly cherish the memories they will create.