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It is all about the journey.
Self-reflections on a great Norwegian failure

Aleksandra Sadowska, SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities

This time three years ago, I came back from a long-awaited trip to Norway, which turned out to be way more beautiful than I had imagined. Norway could have remained untouched by me for a bit longer. Yet,

I felt I couldn’t resist it anymore. 


Norway gave ‘peace’ a greater emphasis and so, became more significant in my life, even when only returning to Poland. When encountering the people of Norway, eventually common features stood out to me. Humbleness, respect, tranquillity as well as resistance. All of which acted as though a requirement set by Norway and its people. In preparation for this journey, all I wanted was to ensure that my travels run smoothly and peacefully. The reality that came afterwards simply leaves me smiling.


‘You will either manage to do it or go through natural selection,’ my colleague’s friend said, summing up my dreams. Although I had never hitchhiked before, I think everyone should experience such an unforgettable adventure. Despite rather grim predictions, a lot of good things took place along with many surprises (that are an integral part of every travel), setbacks and bitter taste of defeat. It was one of the rather rare moments in my life when I was then and there, ready to do anything, as long as I reached my target – Trolltunga, famous Norwegian rock formation. 


I was accompanied by a friend I met through a Facebook group for hitchhikers. Meeting on the first day of our trip was the third time we spoke in reality. Brave? Stupid? Maybe. But at the same time - does it even matter now? Nevertheless, I came back after just two weeks instead of three. It was because of the mutual misunderstanding of each other’s needs. I admit, I definitely did not prepare appropriately for such a trip and how to put it politely - my physical condition was rather inadequate. While my companion, who, once again, was supposed to go with me to see the cliff that juts horizontally out from the mountain, about 700 metres above the ground (a lake, to be more exact), warned me that he fears heights. And, if there would have been any places he felt unsure about, he would be ready to turn back. It should not have come to me as a surprise that when walking 12km in the pouring rain, carrying 20kg on our back, glued to rock walls, dangerously slipping on wet stones, while looking at the cliff below, he decided that was it. 


Just like that, I lost all my strength, laid on a nearby rock and poured my eyes out. I was devastated, and I was unable to accept the current situation, although he did previously warn me. We argued but somehow managed to spend another two days together. 


Leaving earlier than my initially planned return date, I came across an opportunity to travel back with a Polish guy, who worked in Norway and was then going to Wrocław. Though seventeen hours by car was not the most comfortable travel I experienced, I was much closer to home. As you can imagine, I did not feel accomplished or glamorous at all. This whole long-awaited journey was my great failure. Despite a sincere will to make it happen no matter what, I did not fulfil my dream. I did not reach the destination. Although, after all, I managed to get there a few years later, Trolltunga still remained just a grand image and a nostalgic longing in my head. 


Only after some time, I came to peace with it, after it occurred to me that it was not about the destination, but about the journey. At that moment, back on that rainy rock in Norway, I defined the purpose of the journey improperly, making it the reason why instead of being satisfied with the experience I had a great chance to encounter, I cried with regret claiming that it would have been better if I had never gone. 

Reflecting, I know that three years ago, I should have focused on entirely different things. Yes, some situations could be considered as failures. Yes, not everything went accordingly to plan. But there are so many other things that were and still are particularly crucial to me. Hitchhiking and people I met and that I would have never had otherwise come across. A shelter shared with me when I was waiting for the end of a downpour to continue the hike to Kjeragbolten (boulder on the mountain Kjerag, near Stavanger). Talking to travellers from all over the world. Receiving help and accommodation, as well as experiencing small acts of kindness from random strangers of big hearts. Putting on dry clothes and socks after your shoes are bogged down in mud during rain. Spending time in places that you found yourself falling in love with, although you did not plan to stay there in the first place. A break from walking knowing that the sea of clouds, herd of sheep, fjords and complete silence are the only things around you. All those seemingly unimportant moments that we tend to miss in the blind pursuit of the destination.

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