I wasn’t planning on writing a recap post this year, because to be honest the only thing I felt like celebrating about 2019 is that it’s about to be over. From dealing with a breakup while having just moved to a town where I didn’t know anyone to losing a close friend, 2019 has really sucked. And I mean, I think one depressing blog post about this year is plenty.
In the past I usually have celebrated the end of the year with a nostalgic look back at all the wonderful trips I’ve taken over the past twelve months. And while my first thought was that I don’t even want to look back at this year, because good riddance, actually there is one thing I’m thinking fondly about: the people I’ve met.
I’ve always enjoyed connecting with people from around the world (and that’s also one of my favorite things about blogging), but this year I found myself actually really needing those interactions.
I do now love my life in Mosjøen, however moving here while in the depths of a depression set me up for an incredibly lonely few months. Luckily for my sanity, I did continue traveling through this dark period, and it seems to be nearly impossible not to meet people while on the road. Not only that, but as I’m sure you’ve also experienced, it’s often much easier to connect deeply with other travelers, because it’s less scary being vulnerable with someone you haven’t met before and likely won’t meet again.
Actually having said that, I definitely feel like the most meaningful connections I’ve made this year were with people here in Mosjøen.
I could write a gushing blog post about each of the people who has helped make Mosjøen my home, but oh my goodness how awkward would that be if they read it? I don’t think their Scandinavian hearts could handle such an emotional outpouring. So instead I’m going to tell you about a bunch of nearly strangers who probably will never read my blog.
But also I just think it’s so amazing how many people I’ve met on my travels who have ended up having such a positive impact on my life. Like a few people I only met briefly, but I still think about our conversations all the time.
Okay so I know this is meant to be a 2019 recap, but I’m actually going to start from December 2018, because I met so many lovely people last December. Plus that’s a year ago from when I’m writing this, so I feel like it’s fair.
So here are 19 people I’ve met in the past year who kept my 2019 from being a total bust:
The woman on Støtt
About exactly a year ago I was crying in a bathroom stall at a shopping center in Bodø, wondering how on earth I was going to get through the next week traveling around northern Norway on a trip I was supposed to be taking with Dan.
But just a few hours later I was eating dinner at the family home of a woman on the island of Støtt, laughing over some story her teenage son was telling.
She was the first “stranger” I told about my breakup, and I was surprised by how easy it was to talk to her about it. Instead of the embarrassment and guilt (?!) I felt when talking with my friends and family about it, with her I just felt relief.
She was also just the sweetest woman and had been through a divorce and found love again, so spending time with her was a huge comfort.
The adventure guide’s mom
From Støtt I took a day trip to the mainland for a hike with a local adventure guide, but when I showed up he told me that he had some unexpected work issues to deal with and instead I would be spending the day with his mom.
I’m not sure what his work issues were, but I’m so glad they did come up because I had the best day with his mom.
I’ve mentioned before that no one is more enthusiastic about the beauty of Norwegian nature than Norwegians, and she was the perfect example of that. Usually I’m the one loudly oohing and aahing my way up a mountain, but in my cloud of depression I couldn’t quite appreciate beauty the way I normally did. So I sort of felt like she was getting excited for me, reminding me of how I usually felt.
I did eventually tell her about crying in the restroom the day before, and after squeezing my arm with a surprising amount of affection for a Norwegian, she took me to her family cabin, where we sat eating clementines and had a chat about life.
The three mink hunters from Bodø
After my day with the adventure guide’s mom I returned to Støtt for dinner, this time at the Støtt Brygge restaurant.
There was a table of men (maybe in their sixties?) across the room and as soon as I sat down they called over asking if I wanted to join them.
They were retired fishermen now working as volunteer mink hunters for nature conservation, and yet somehow they thought I was the one with the strange job. They couldn’t believe I had chosen to move to Mosjøen all alone, and after working his way through a bottle of aquavit one of them loudly declared that by this time next year I will have moved to Bodø.
He also said that I should marry his son, but his friend then reminded him that his son had recently married someone else. Bummer.
Dinner with the three mink hunters (who for the purpose of this list I’m counting as one person) was just the dose of absurd I needed after an emotional few days, where I had been feeling very sorry for myself. In fact I feel like my evening with them snapped me out of my funk so that I could enjoy the rest of my week traveling along the coast.
Though I would like to point out that I am still in Mosjøen and in fact find it far superior to Bodø.
The woman from the northern Norwegian tourism board
This week traveling along the coast wasn’t a holiday that Dan and I had planned together, but instead a paid campaign with the northern Norwegian tourism board. It was the first time I had planned to bring anyone along on a campaign, as these trips do involve a lot of work, but they had asked me to film videos, which is so much easier to do with two people.
So I was mortified to have to tell the tourism board last minute that he wouldn’t be joining me. I was so worried that in doing so I would ruin my relationship with the tourism board – and just when I was moving up north.
But my contact was incredibly understanding, and even invited my friends Viv and Catriona and me to stop by for a visit while we were on our way to Dyrøy.
We spent a couple of hours at her house drinking coffee and wine, sharing travel tales. And before we left she gave me advice about settling into Mosjøen on my own that proved so helpful for making a home here.
I also was just so impressed with her life, and seeing her living happily on her own was a good reminder that oh right, I was happy before I met Dan, and I can have a fulfilling life here on my own too.
The travel guide in Helgeland
I spent the majority of January and February on my couch (besides Danielle’s visit), but at the end of March I had another campaign that would drag me out of my depression.
I spent a few days in inner Helgeland with a travel guide who arranges trips around the region. It was great getting to know more of the region, but it was also wonderful spending a few days with the guide as she’s had the most interesting life, even living on Svalbard for a few years.
Of course I told her all about Dan and we talked a lot about love and what we wanted out of life. She’s already had a bunch of different careers (and relationships), and she basically kept saying that she’s lived so much of her life in the “wrong” order, but it’s brought her great joy.
The woman with the huskies
Speaking of strong women, our husky guide on that trip was the coolest. Like, I was in such awe of her. She runs the husky sledding tours herself out of her farm, and spending an afternoon with her was a much needed dose of girl power.
And it really worked! I remember feeling so low before this trip that I had wondered if I could cancel, but I returned feeling totally energized and ready to actually start living my life in Mosjøen.
My Navajo Airbnb host
And then of course I left Norway for six weeks.
Anna and I spent a night at a hogan in Monument Valley that we had found on Airbnb, and the next morning we chatted with our host and she told us how she came to open her property to overnight guests.
She said whenever she needed guidance she would ask her mother, who had passed away a few years ago. She said her mother would always leave her little signs of what to do, and that she always guided her in the right direction.
Anna said that she felt similarly about her grandmother, who also had passed away, and I remember thinking that I wasn’t really close enough to any of my family members who were gone to continue to feel connected to them like that.
Two days later I would find out that my friend Rachel had passed away the day before our visit to Monument Valley. Our host’s words became a huge comfort to me, and I think they ultimately helped shape the way I’ve dealt with her loss.
Sam and Alex
I’ve been avoiding using names here because privacy, but Sam and Alex are both bloggers so I don’t think they’ll care.
They also weren’t exactly random people I met on my travels because I knew both of them before we actually met in person this year. Plus I know that I’ll see both of them again – in fact Sam is coming to Norway in January, and I’m working on convincing Alex to visit in the summer.
We all first met in person at Rachel’s funeral, which is kind of crazy to me because now I feel like I’ve known them for ages.
Then again, this has been a really long year.
And I’m so grateful that they were a part of it.
The husky guide in Kirkenes
In July I took a road trip up to the northern tip of Norway, and I spent a couple of nights at the SnowHotel in Kirkenes.
The hotel has a team of huskies for husky sledding in the winter, and in the summer guests can take hikes with them.
I met up with one of the husky guides and we took his favorite husky up the mountain behind the hotel.
This year I’ve been amazed by how quickly I could bond with people over love and loss. But I didn’t mention Rachel or Dan to the husky guide, and we ended up having a wonderful afternoon chatting about life in Norway, huskies, and I don’t actually remember what else? What I do remember is feeling genuinely happy and carefree and that I could also connect with someone without getting all dark.
Danielle’s fling in Mozambique
When I first jotted down this list I came up with eighteen people, but since we’re finishing 2019 I reluctantly added this guy to the list.
I was not pleased to become the third wheel on my trip to Mozambique. But actually thinking back, I learned a lot during that week, largely thanks to our new travel buddy.
I guess because I resented the situation, I didn’t care about being pleasant company. So instead I took advantage of having a man around to answer some questions that had been plaguing me.
The majority of my friends, and even my sister and mother, have never even been broken up with, much less had their hearts broken. So as much as people around me tried to assure me that it happens to everyone, I could also see that it doesn’t, and I felt like there must be a reason why I wasn’t loved the way the other women in my life were.
So I asked him why it was that wherever we travel together Danielle has men falling at her feet, while guys barely seem to notice me, and why it seems that all of them still love her, while the only one who loved me stopped.
Because he was French he did give me some honest answers, but I think mostly it was just helpful to finally voice the insecurities that had been building up all year.
Also I should mention that he was a good head shorter than me, so it was clear that I wasn’t jealous of this particular situation.
The American student in Mozambique
While getting a ride from an American student one day, I brought up Rachel and then she told me about losing a friend earlier that year. And then she went on to say how she was already in a difficult place as her boyfriend had recently broken up with her.
And as we spoke I was reminded that while maybe no one in my inner circle has dealt with exactly these same things, other people have, and when it comes down to it, we’re all dealing with something.
The wildlife photography guide in Shetland
It’s funny to look back at the different things that worried me this past year, and how they changed over time.
By October I felt like I really had to decide if I was going to stay in Mosjøen or move on. I did really love the town, but I was in a very different position when first choosing to move there, and I wasn’t sure if it was the best place for me know.
And so of course I spoke with another guide about it! What would I have done this year without all these guided excursions?
We were following an otter along the Shetland coast and he asked how I had ended up in Norway. I basically gave him my life story (following an otter is a slow process), ending with how torn I was about what to do next.
And he told me about randomly running into an old friend while visiting Shetland, whom he’s now married to. He said he hadn’t expected to have a family, and certainly not on a remote Scottish island. He could never have planned for the life he has now because it sort of came out of nowhere, and that’s often what happens.
And I mean, I’m always saying how glad I am that I let go of my career plans in my twenties because I could never have planned to be a travel blogger – it wasn’t even a real job when I started college – and yet now I’m trying to plan out other aspects of my life?
The photographer in the Falklands
While photographing penguins and albatross from high tussock grass I bumped into a photographer from Sweden.
It turned out he was getting the same boat back to Carcass Island later that day, and later in the week we ended up being the only two guests on Pebble Island (my next blog post will include my Falklands itinerary, I promise!).
Anyway, on the boat ride back he started talking about his teenage daughter who wasn’t speaking to him at the moment. And I recognized the earnestness in his voice as he asked if his daughter would come back to him, and if I had pulled away from my parents at her age. It was the same way I had asked so many people this year if they had experienced heartbreak or grief, and if they were happy again.
The Canadian tourist in the Falklands
My sister got married when she was my age (31), and I remember her worrying that wearing a white wedding dress would be embarrassing for someone who was getting married when they were so old.
I think back to her saying that a lot now, and while I know that my family is just particularly traditional when it comes to, well, everything, it’s not exactly comforting to think that I’ve somehow failed in my family’s eyes.
And I think that’s a big reason why it’s been so helpful connecting with people around the world who come from such different backgrounds. And I especially loved meeting the Canadian woman on the Falklands who kept remarking how young I was and how I had my whole life ahead of me.
When she put her info into my phone her name autocorrected to Tante, which is actually quite appropriate as tante is Norwegian for aunt, and even with such a brief meeting she felt like an aunt to me.
The woman on Bolga
While Alicia was visiting over Thanksgiving we spent a night on the island of Bolga.
The manager of our hotel joined us after dinner and of course we asked how it was that she ended up on this tiny island. Originally from Stockholm, she had worked in Dubai for many years before moving to Norway with her partner for a total career change to start a guest house. They eventually parted, and then she was offered a position on Bolga.
Her enthusiasm for Bolga was totally contagious (and justified – I mean Bolga is stunning) and I felt so happy for her that fate had brought her here. Again, it’s crazy to think that she probably never could have dreamt that she’d end up on this small island in northern Norway – and yet here she is!
The man with the huskies on Svalbard
There’s a reason three of the encounters on this list involved huskies.
Surprise, in 2020 I’m going to adopt a husky!
Just kidding. Or more like, just wishing.
I just realized I haven’t actually blogged yet about my time on Svalbard earlier this month. Spoiler: it was incredible. Like out of this world – almost literally.
While there I went husky sledding, which seems to be my new favorite activity. Whenever I bring up husky sledding I do always make a point of explaining that the huskies love pulling sleds, but at the same time it’s important to know that they are properly cared for. So I only ever go sledding at small, family run places where I know each dog is loved and cared for.
And my husky guide and his family on Svalbard really loved their huskies.
We chatted while on the sleds and he told me about adopting many of the huskies while he was living in Alaska, and his expeditions with them to the North Pole where he said on several occassions they saved his life.
And I was just like, your life sounds like a dream.
And he laughed and said he was about to say the same thing about my life.
The two women from the tourism board on Svalbard
I loved Svalbard, and a big reason why is the same reason I think a lot of the people living there love Svalbard. As it used to be a place where only miners and researchers lived, there aren’t really any Svalbard natives. Everyone on Svalbard has moved there (women can’t give birth on Svalbard), and thanks to the Svalbard Treaty, citizens of any country can live here without a visa.
As someone who often feels like I don’t quite belong anywhere, I loved being surrounded by other transplants.
One of my evenings there I went out to dinner with two women from the Svalbard tourism board, and we talked about how each of them ended up on Svalbard, and how long they think they’ll stay there. I also talked about Mosjøen and trying to find a place to call home, and somehow during the conversation I realized that actually, I’m really happy in Mosjøen and don’t have any reason to leave – at least for now.
And that night I woke up in the middle of the night laughing.
I had no idea what I had been dreaming about, but I remember feeling like a weight had been lifted.