A Week in Norway! (mural! adventure! nature!)
My trip to Norway last week was easily the the most impulsive / craziest thing that I've ever done, and now that I've survived it all and am back in Chicago - I can write about it all! I still have a lot of videos and photos to edit, and of course I want to paint some of the scenes I saw, but I want to write this before I forget a single moment.
Heads up, this post will probably be long so grab a snackkkkkk.
Basically - it was amazing. Spending a week meeting new people, trying crazy things, and painting is pretty much exactly how I would describe my ideal week. I didn't open up my laptop for 8 days and it was INCREDIBLE.
So if you're wondering how/why Norway, I'll take a sec to explain it. I hesitate to write this next part because I don't want my future kids to read this and think that this was in anyway a great idea, but I think it's important to remember that life/business is about taking risks and trusting yourself sooooo here we go. Basically, I was on instagram and saw an opportunity that was like "if you want to paint a mural in Norway DM me!" so I did. Before I knew it, I was talking with this Norwegian guy who said if I came there and painted a mural in a new entrepreneurial hub (scheduled to open up this upcoming fall), I could travel, stay, eat, and play there for for free. I realize this sounds sketchy and I really don't have any explanation on why I thought it wasn't sketchy, I just really felt like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. So I secretly booked my flight without telling anyone, and then slowly started dropping little hints to my family like "how would you feel if I went to Norway to paint a mural..?" Everyone said it was a very bad idea, but slowlyyyyy they started to come around - which was great because I already knew I was going. (I am so immensely stubborn sometimes I don't know how anyone deals with me.)
SO, off to Norway I went! It was my first time leaving the country and let me tell you it was a wild ride.
The hostel/entrepreneurial hub that's opening up is in Hyllestad which is a little tricky to get to, but so worth it when you do get there! So I took a flight to Helsinki, Finland and then took a flight to Bergen, Norway. When you get to Bergen, you take a tram from the airport to the city center bus station, then take like a 2.5 hr bus ride to Lavik. This was seriously the most beautiful ride of my life - Norway is incredible. I swear the scenery didn't even look real.
It's kinda crazy because the bus gets on a ferry, so you're in a bus on a ferry. I knew I was supposed to get off in Lavik and then the instagram man would pick me up! I looked at the girl next to me and said 'is this Lavik?' and she said yes but the next one is too. I was kinda panicked and just got off. I think this was the first time that I thought maybe this whole thing wasn't the best idea. I had been traveling for like 36 hours and was in the middle of nowhere Norway with no cell service and the only light was from the moon and stars, but alas! the instagram man showed up! We jumped in his car and drove 45 minutes to the hub. The roads there are crazy! Only one car can fit and they're so curvy and fun.
(left to right: view of fjords from plane, a scene from the bus ride, the ferry ride)
I was actually really impressed with the hub. It was huge and clean, and the showers were fantastic. I think once there's more artwork and feels a little more homey, it will be a perfect place for nomads to go work/live and explore nature. I had a sweet welcome with Norwegian treats and my host baked me homemade bread for breakfast, which I enjoyed with the best strawberry jam of my life and an amazing view!
I picked out the wall I wanted to paint and started to think of some ideas for it. Back to that bus ride - I saw things that I had never seen in my life before. The bus stops were overgrowing with moss, there were animals everywhere, and beautiful houses on hills. I've heard about living with nature before, but I think that was the first time I understood it.
Can I be honest with you for a second? I've never really been some nature loving - composting - tree hugging girl, but I think this past trip might have changed that. Honestly, I've been scared to be that person because it seems like too much pressure. I mean I recycle but I also like to use straws (devil!) so I've never wanted to fully commit to the whole lifestyle - like if you can't do it all the way, you might as well not do it - if that makes sense? Looking back now I think that's just really ignorant of me and I'm glad this trip made me realize it.
Y'all - nature is bananas. When I was on the bus - I saw this really old stone cottage, covered with moss, that a tree had grown through and broken through the roof. A TREE IN A HOUSE!! Not a treehouse, a tree. in. a. house. I thought it was crazy. I remember passing it so fast, too fast to take a picture, so I knew I had a to take a mental picture. I asked my host about it and he said it was actually really common, and I knew that's what I wanted to paint on the wall.
Here are some before pics, a digital sketch, and a time-lapse video from day 1.
After I painted for a few hours, we went to the local grocery store. I loved exploring the store because I feel like it's a picture book for learning a new language. I bought so much chocolate and met the cutest Pomeranian dogs (aka heaven!). Then my host made me fishcakes with potatoes and broccoli and they were so good. :)
After that - we went on a sunset hike and I learned a very hard lesson: if a Norwegian asks you if you're in shape just say no. It doesn't matter if you can run/lift/bike, the Norwegians are mountain goats and you can't keep up. I feel like I'm Marlin right now in Finding Nemo where he's like 'you think you can do these things Nemo but you just can't!!' and I hate to be the Marlin, but I'm just trying to give you some solid advice. I was so confident to go on this hike because honestly I feel like I'm in shape. Let's just say the hike took twice as long as it was supposed to and I left with the biggest bruises of my life, but NONE OF THAT MATTERS BECAUSE IT WAS FREAKING BEAUTIFUL. I swear, it was something straight out of a fairytale. Like an alice in wonderland type of fairytlale - think: dark, mysterious, edgy, fantasy.
I think it was the most beautiful / dangerous / rewarding night of my life.
Why, yes! That is a sunflower fanny pack that you can buy here.
The big painting day! I spent about 6 hours on the mural.
After painting, we took a nice scenic drive! I even got out of the car to meet the cutest fluffiest sheep! :)
(I can't wait to paint them!)
Then we pulled over, hiked some more, and sat at the edge of the Atlantic to watch the sunset. It was insane.
On day 3, I cleaned up and added final details to the mural! The wall was paneled, so there were these 2 vertical lines I needed to cover, meaning I had to remix all those colors which was actually a huge pain in the boooooty but I think those details make such a difference so I'm happy to do them!
As always - lots of layers and color combinations! I hope this mural serves as a way to remind people the strength that nature holds.
I had a few extra hours and some more paint, so I decided to write one of my favorite quotes from Georgia O'Keeffe on a different wall.
"Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing." - Georgia O'Keeffe
I chose this quote for several reasons, but I hope everyone will be able to draw their own thoughts from it. Not to get tooo into it, but for me - I've been thinking a lot about what "success" means. Growing up in modern day american society means that a lot of us chase success via job titles, degrees, and pay raises - but I'm not convinced that's the only form of success. Actually, I don't think that's success is at all - but I do find it hysterical when I meet a guy and he tries to be impressive with some insane job title like "success management consultant via customer satisfaction and sales" LIKE WHAT??? Okay sir, we get it - you have a job. The second part of the quote is so important to me. I think a lot of us are way too afraid to create. I've said this a million times, but I truly think everyone has such unique ideas and something to bring to the table and we should embrace that!
So - that wrapped up the painting!
Then I took a nap to gear up for....
NORWEGIAN QUIZ!! (which we call trivia). 6 of us drove up to Lavik and went to a cool hotel to play Norwegian Quiz. I got to pick the team name, so of course we were Team Leo! :) Nothing was translated to english so it was actually really cool to just sit there and watch how it worked. But.. y'all don't know pressure until you're at an all Norwegian trivia and there's an American question...
We got 4th place out of 10, so not so bad.
After quiz, a few people came up to me and were like "we heard you at the bar and noticed you're American - what brings you here?" which is an extremely valid question considering this was very rural Norway. I told them the situation and they were awesome. I think we talked for about 2 hours about EVERYTHING from Norwegian healthcare to movies being filmed in Norway. (I found out that since Norway is SO expensive that there's not a lot of movies filmed there - BUT Norway just started this thing where they're going to give out 5 scholarships a year to filmmakers who want to make movies there. And that was when it hit me - once again - how lucky I was to be in a place where they have to give scholarships to go to because it's so freaking expensive. Also, the healthcare talk was probably one of the best talks of my life and led into a deeper talk about caring for people vs. making a business out of it, buuuuut that's a different talk for a different day)
Fun Fact about Norway: NO ONE drinks and drive. Literally not one sip. Like they will not drink one beer and drive 2 hours later, it's just unheard of.
Day 4 was boat day! The owners of the hub have a fishing boat and we took it out to get a closer look at the mountains. We ate chocolate, drank coffee, saw wild goats and eagles, and fished!
I found it ironic I went all the way to Norway to see my nation's bird. The mountains were, of course, something out of this world.
After the boat, we stopped by one of their friends house and this is when I saw some real viking / game of thrones stuff! This awesome woman has been collecting all kinds of things (coral, fish bones, seal's fur, raven's feet, shells, rocks, etc) that she finds from the Norwegian coast and she makes things out of them! It was some of the most creative stuff I've ever seen.
Then, we went over to my host's friend's cabin to have Easter Dinner! It was SO FUN. We had lamb, potatoes, carrots, and of course homemade bread. They had 3 kids: 15, 13, and 10 and I loved hanging out with them. They taught me a card game called Presidents and we all got so competitive, it was a blast. They also explained to me that a big Easter tradition in Norway is to watch "Nordic Noir" which basically means there's all of these crime and mystery shows during the holiday that aren't usually on. I found this really interesting, so here's another article on it if you're interested!
Ahh day 5!!
It was time to leave the hub and head to Bergen! I woke up early and headed to the bus.
I was so excited to get to Bergen, because I got to meet up with one of my friends from Disney! I met Julian when I was doing my college program and he worked in the Norwegian Pavilion in Epcot. He's originally from Bergen and was home for the holiday.
Him and his friend picked me up from the bus and we started to explore Bergen and y'all... IT WAS THE CUTEST PLACE EVER!!!
The architecture! The nature! The charm! I was in love.
There were so many cool murals in Bergen, but everything was happening so fast I couldn't take pictures of them all.
I bet you can guess what we did next.. HIKED! This hike wasn't as intense though (luckily) and there was awesome restaurants and playgrounds at the top of the mountain!
When we got to the top we just enjoyed the view, a beer, and chocolate.
Like I said, the hike wasn't as intense.. going up. Going down, the guys decided to take a "short cut" which was technically shorter but absolutely kicked my butt. Do you know what it's like to watch 2 Norwegians try to not laugh as you awkwardly slide down rocks and fling yourself down a mountain? It doesn't feel great, guys.
After the hike, we headed to Julians to have a bbq! I was like oooohhh a Norwegian bbq, what could this possibly consist of?? Well guys, it was exactly like an American bbq, like in a very comforting way. It's cool to know that all around the world people are enjoying a simple beer and hot dog.
Then we all went out in Bergen which I think was like the top 5 nights of my life!! They don't have uber but they have something way better - party buses. Well, technically America has party buses, but we don't just casually call them up, at least my friends and I don't. But they were casually like oh our ride is here and before I knew it we were in this giant bus blaring Norwegian music.
The night was so fun and crazy and ended with eating some awesome street kebabs.
The journey back. Let me tell you it wasn't the easiest, especially going off of 4 hours of sleep. But I made it back to Helsinki and started my journey to Chicago. I had to get an airbnb in Helsinki because the layover was so long, and I learned a valuable lesson: sometimes it's better to splurge a little and get a hotel room than a cheap airbnb. This is where I had my first international breakdown, but that's okay. That being said, I made it back to Chicago and I'm so grateful for this experience of a lifetime!
I think this is my longest post ever, which makes sense because I truly don't want to forget a single second. Every person I met, everything I saw, and everything I felt had so much value in it. It's so cheesy, but you can't put a price on experiences like this.
I learned so much in one week, more than I think I ever have in such a short period of time. As always, my hope is that anyone reading this is learning with me. Here are some lessons learned:
1. Norwegians are a different breed. If they ask you if you're in shape, say no.
2. All chocolate is important.
3. Take a break from your email.
4. Nature is so strong, and I need to spend more time with it.
5. The cheap route is not always the best route.
6. No one needs to drink and drive, ever.
7. Primary colors, beer pong, and smiles are universal.
8. Norwegians will make fun of your fanny pack, let them - they don't know what they're missing.
9. If panicked, remain calm.
10. TRUST YOSELF.
If you've made it this far, thank you! Thank you for reading and learning with me. I will be traveling all through Europe this summer, so I considered this trip a great warmup. I can't wait to see where this journey goes! :)
Also! If you have an interest in checking out Norway and this hub, please don't hesitate to ask and I can put you in contact with everyone you'll need! :)