I am suffering from a serious case of vacation hangover. No, it is not from Norwegian beer, or the shots of Sweet & Hot – or is it Hot & Sweet? (I never did figure out the name of licorice and pepper flavored liquor, and quite frankly, am hoping I NEVER see it again.)
It may still be a bit of jet lag. Soul sucking travel days that last more than 24 hours are a killer, as is the 6-hour time difference between here and Norway. But I am pretty sure that isn’t all of it.
This time last week I was in the middle of the journey of a lifetime. This week, I am in the middle of the laundry.
I woke up every day for an entire week facing a fabulous adventure – a new “first”. We packed our bags, left the kids with Grandma and Grandpa, and flew across the ocean for the first time to visit our Norwegian exchange student and meet her family.
I am a worrier – so I found plenty to occupy my mind. What if our fights were delayed? What if I couldn’t handle the confined space for a straight 8-hour flight? What if – gasp- I had to use the bathroom on the actual plane? What if we got sick? What if the kids got sick? What if we didn’t “click” with Katrine’s family? What if we traveled half way across the world to find that she was a different person than she was when she left us? What if we were just plain uncomfortable and bored?
Thankfully, all of those worries were unfounded. Our flights – for the most part – were smooth and easy. Luckily, I discovered that a Dramamine washed down with a couple of airport beers does wonders for anxiety. I slept through most of the long flights, read a bit on the short ones, and learned that you can, in fact, nap on an airport floor without catching anything too nasty if you stick to the periphery.
The kids stayed healthy, and other than some minor digestive upset adjusting to new foods, so did we. Germ-a-phobe that I am, I even managed to not have to pee the entire flight there or home.
As for Katrine and her family, we couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. We were received with open arms at the airport and I immediately burst into tears, both from exhaustion and relief. It didn’t take long for us to move from being honored guests to family. I was amazed at how loudly the heart speaks, even over language barriers.
We quickly adjusted to a new routine of sleeping in, sharing coffee, and then heading out to see the sights. It was a gift to have guides who could show us the tourist attractions, mixed in with the everyday life of a Norwegian family.
And then there was the magic that belongs to both tourist and local alike. We climbed mountains through wet slippery streams, witnessed double rainbows peeking through to highlight fall leaves, and stood barefoot on a stone outcrop 2000 feet above the water. I learned to focus on one step at a time, not to look down, and that a shoe full of mud is just part of the journey. I also learned that in Norway, a handle on the inside of the restroom door doesn’t necessarily mean “pull” – but that is a story for another time.
Most importantly, we connected. There is an indescribable feeling of power that comes from facing a fear head-on and coming out whole on the other side. The people who are there to hold your hand, pull you up when you fall, laugh hysterical laughter with you, wipe your tears, or just bear witness to your growth become cemented to your soul.
Each and every day of our week in Norway pushed us to that growth – new terrain, new friends, and new experiences made us look at life in a fresh way. I will be forever grateful for those who are now imprinted on my soul – Renate, Margrete, Bjorner, Katrine, dear Bente-lill, and of course, my husband.
The challenge is now to bring that fire into everyday living. There are many things to be grateful for. Our wide American roads, the huge affordable variety of foods at the grocery store, my own bathroom, and the fact that my kids are still young enough to think that I am their entire world.
I now have a “home” in two countries, and my world expands just a little bit every day. And, as they say, after the ecstasy… the laundry.