It's already night 8 and I can't believe we are almost done camping in Iceland! Liz and I have spent the last several days driving a lot (particularly along the fjords in the east and west as there aren't many roads that go into the country (i.e. If you want to see something on the coast, you are forced to take the "long way"). We've been really removed and also have saved quite a bit of money camping off the side of the road (though we've looked for some privacy with big rocks or trees, because you know, peeing in front of strangers is kind of weird). While the first third of our trip had been nothing but rain and wind, we've been very lucky with how nice it's been. Iceland "nice" isn't quite sunny and hot, more that it's been less windy, less chilly, and definitely little to no rain.

We've also been looking for local swimming pools that are heated with geothermal water because they're the same price as a shower at a campsite, plus you get hot baths and saunas and a pool! Iceland becomes a lot cheaper when you don't pay a whopping 22 euros for a campsite and a 5 minute "hot" shower outside a national park... take our advice and camp on the side of the road! It takes awhile to find places that won't blow you away (in the bad sense), but it's worth it!

For food, I've been eating lots and lots of sandwiches from the back of the car. I use tortillas or whole grain bread with cheese, shrimp cheese spread, tomatoes (when they're affordable), and lettuce or spinach. I've been eating lots of black licorice, chocolate with puffed rice, chips (Lays chips are cheaper than the Norwegian or Icelandic chips!!!!), apples (cheap), bananas, and even nectarines. I recommend stocking up on groceries at Bonus when you're in Reykjavik because the smaller towns have much more expensive stores and grocery items.

For finding attractions, I've used the WIFI-less app Maps.me to search for any nearby attractions. Since we're unfamiliar with the areas outside of the Golden Circle, we never know what we're going to get. It's been both good and bad, with some attractions being quite pointless (i.e. A boring forest or a waterfall that goes way off track onto a dirt road) and sometimes it's a beautiful, isolated early 1900s farmhouse. We've seen many beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and even camped in a cute fir tree forest!

We've seen an abandoned Viking fortress, caves with an underground geothermal spring, many glaciers, volcanos, beautiful cliffs with many birds (unfortunately no puffins :( ), geysers, boiling mud puddles, many cute coastal fjordland villages (villages here are SO tiny, like 10 houses max), many herds of Icelandic horses grazing near cliffs like mountain goats, many herds of sheep and bucking lambs, and even a herd of laid back caribou!!!!! Iceland is one of those places that just wows you. You'll never get used to its landscape because it's always changing!

If you drive in Iceland, be aware of the horrible roads! You'll be driving on a paved highway and all of the sudden, you'll hit major pot holes in a huge fog, in super hilly territory, and it will start raining like crazy! We drove like that for an hour and said a prayer when we emerged into the clearing and a new road! There were many moments on our trip where things went majorly wrong and we were freaked out, but it just adds to the drama and storytelling!

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​It's day 4 already and so much has happened! We feel like we've been in Iceland for a lot longer than that. So far we've had one shit night of sleep, where our tent was freezing cold because we had a hiking tent with mesh siding and a rain fly. The next night we had awesome sleep and then the last night, our tent was literally being blown away while we were sleeping in it. For those who don't know, Iceland is probably the windiest country. Even on a beautiful sunny day, it's probably going to be windy at some point. I'm not sure if it's because it's an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or what, but do yourself a favor and buy wind proof and waterproof pants if you come here!!!

Since so much has happened on each day, I will recount the details in separate paragraphs below:

Day 1: I went to Duty Free to pick up some beer and Icelandic schnapps (apparently alcohol is really expensive here) and found out Liz's bus (note that I met a lady on the Facebook group for Icelandic backpacking and we agreed we would split costs for renting camping gear and a car) passed her and she would be late. We picked up our rental car and drove from Keflavik to Reykjavik to pick up our rental gear. Unfortunately it took longer than we thought it would, and we only got our gear because there was another customer in the store after hours. Phew. We picked up some ramen, fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, and my favorite shrimp cheese spread (the one sold in a tube in Scandinavia is much better) and headed for our first campsite, one right outside Thingvellir. We set up our tiny tent, which had just enough room for two moderately sized adults to squeeze in together, and no room for gear. At 8 pm I crashed. I was so tired from getting up early in Stockholm and the stress of just barely getting our camping gear that sleep was the only thing on my mind. Unfortunately, I could not stop waking up in the middle of the night. Stupidly, I only had on a pair of leggings and my fleece and rain jacket, and we later found out water was seeping into the tent! The tarp and the rain fly were on appropriately, as I've done many times before while camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, so we decided in the morning to go back to the rental gear store to get a new tent. This would not work for us for another 9 nights! Looking back, I had made a comment before we pitched the tent about getting the tarp set up just right so we wouldn't get wet and sleep in a puddle...I'm quite the prophesy maker :(.

Day 2: The rental store gave us a free upgrade on a much nicer, bigger tent. Apparently loads of campers like myself rent the hiking tent, but they don't realize how small it is. I'm still not exactly sure what a hiking tent is. After using the internet at a nice cafe (Coocoo's) and enjoying the lovely designs, we continued our journey back to the Golden Circle. We went to Thingvellir, and many waterfalls along the route. We found a lovely campsite outside of Fludir with awesome hot showers that smelled like sulfur (gotta love geothermal energy).

Day 3: We woke up to an absolutely beautiful morning. After a nice breakfast of skyr, oranges, and a pathetic attempt at making coffee, we headed out to some...you guessed it, beautiful waterfalls. Our first stop was in a beautiful hamlet with a large church and an archaeology site. We also stopped at Crater Lake and walked along the black sand beach in Vik. The whole evening we looked for a camp site off the highway, this time one we didn't have to pay for. Unfortunately our good intentions did not treat us well...


We walked through a neighboring abandoned sheep barn and found graffiti, a sardine can, beer cans, someone's underwear, and a cool run down building.

As we set up the tent in the mild wind, I joked we should pick a really good spot so we wouldn't float into the sky. Guess I made another prophesy as I woke up at 2 am to our tent literally moving back and forth. Almost all of the stakes had come out (I think the ground was a bit soft) and as I sat in it to prevent it from flying away, the tent literally turned upside down. Looking outside the tent, I found my spaghetti, marshmallows, and the stove all lying some feet away from us in the grass. How the hell did that happen!? My brain couldn't process anything. Wasn't sure if it was the lack of sleep, the schnapps, or the absurdity of the situation, but I felt like I was in a battle field. Liz wrestled with grabbing the now wet sleeping bags and cooking gear as I sat on the tent in the freezing wind and rain. As she lost her glasses, I had her sit on the tent and ran stupidly to the car with the completely inflated air mattresses, dodging mud piles, without a real coat on, and being blown back and forth by cursed Mother Nature. What a sight we must have been. We ended up throwing the entire tent in the back and just crashing in the front seat until 7 am, when we had to move the car because we would have been stuck in a puddle.


Day 4: Here we are, sleeping in the car and trying to fold all of our things into neat piles, contorting our bodies in impossible shapes to move around this tiny Kia Picanto. Poor Liz broke her glasses and didn't have any contacts, so she doctored up a new side with the toasting sticks I bought for the marshmallows. It actually doesn't look too bad!


I will try to add the photos in chronological order...for now I do not have time to add captions.

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Just sitting in Djugården trying to get rid of my paper pale skin in this nice sun and waiting for my friend to get off work so we can get drinks. It's been very sunny in Stockholm and unfortunately, I've not enjoyed it so much.

While it's been nice visiting people here, I miss the nature in Norway and how easygoing Norwegians are. New immigrants don't seem to blend in as well and aren't as embraced as they are in Norway, perhaps because they are able to move with other people in their ethnic groups and aren't forced to learn the culture, learn the language, and meet other Swedes. In Norway, refugees are required to move into cities designated by the government, which is very strange when you see Muslims in Pentecostal Christian cities in the south (I sincerely feel bad for the immigrants), but is good in preventing the formation of ghettos. The styles here are really strange (people wear glasses that my dad wore in the '80s and men wear jean shorts (🤢)), it's super hipster, people fit the Scandinavian aloof attitude that I didn't experience anywhere in Norway (even in small towns) and it's too touristy here. I think I would enjoy the city more during the winter. Poor Stockholmers. I walked out of Central Station and could barely walk anywhere without being bombarded with tourists stopping in the middle of the street and walking slowly and taking selfies (guess me adding one more tourist body in the street isn't helping).

On a brighter note, I am very excited to be putting the last minute planning into my Iceland camping trip. Today I went to the American section of the grocery store to buy marshmallows! I can't wait to be dirty and hike everywhere, right before I get to wear nice clothes and sleep in my own bed! The plan is to start in Keflavik on Monday, pick up our camping gear in Reykjavik, and then head towards the Golden Circle and find a place to camp. We will continue around the Ring Road (the main highway in tiny Iceland) looking for beautiful landscapes. Iceland has been on my bucket list forever and soon I will finish my 10 month trip in the beautiful country. What a treat ;).

I had a great last week in Stavanger, and can't recommend that city enough. Hiking to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) was the most touristy thing I've ever done on this trip (minus going to Venice), which was really annoying. All the pictures you see of people posing alone on the rock are unrealistic, unless you go there during the off season or if you get there very early in the morning, which is totally possible as there's lodging at the foot of the mountain. It's a quite easy hike as well, only taking up to two hours up if you're mildly in shape. I was also in Norway for the 17th of May, which was so cute. I loved seeing all of the kids dressed up in their traditional bunad, the parents beaming and pushing their children around in strollers with their dogs, and seeing all the adorable Norwegians at the bar. I've never seen so many drunk Norwegians 😳. I love that all the traditional clothing is different, depending on which region that person was from. There were immigrants and native born Norwegians participating alike. I also bought a hot dog and soft serve ice cream in a cone, which is traditional junk food for the holiday. It was so cool to feel the energy in the city and really see people come out to celebrate their new country. While the day marked the Constitution Day back in 1814, Norway didn't become the country it is today until 1905, due to Danish and Swedish occupation. It really was a Norwegian Oktoberfest mixed with 4th of July, what with all the drinking games, riding around on boats, and seeing everyone dressed up!

I found so many cute bars, restaurants, street artwork, and places to hangout. I highly recommend coming to Stavanger. I really miss that about Norway actually; having a fjord in almost every city I visited was something I've taken for granted! I miss drinking coffee or taking a walk around town only to relax in front of a beautiful view. In Stockholm, you have to know where to go and even the places recommended to me pale in comparison to Norway. Djugården and Södermalm are cute, but I can't stand the city center (there's so many shitty student bars, even though universities aren't nearby, and there are far too many cheesy tourist restaurants). Overwhelmingly, the service has been so lukewarm and unfriendly. There have been a few great bars and cafes, like Judit & Bertil, but the vast majority of the time I feel like I'm annoying the server, which is something I NEVER felt in Norway or Copenhagen. Not sure where this holier than thou attitude comes from in the service industry here.

In general, aside from a few friends I've met here, people are not easy to talk to at all, which baffles me. I'm not trying ask your life story, but just being friendly in the store or laughing at a funny situation shouldn't make me feel like an alien. I didn't feel that way in Norway at all. It truly makes me overly self aware in this city and just so uncomfortable. It's a hard feeling to describe.

I'm sure there are quieter neighborhoods in Stockholm I'm completely unaware of, but I don't understand the pull to this city. After spending a whopping three weeks here, I coudn't even tell you what holds the city together, or any positive vibes I feel. It would be a good city to visit for a few days maximum, and if you're sick of museums or aren't here on business, it's not the nicest place.

I'd like to come back to Sweden and see other places, like Åland, Kiruna, and Gothenburg, but why should I come back to Stockholm when as a tourist, Copenhagen is far better? I've loved my tiny walks to get groceries and smelling the flowers and seeing the cherry blossoms, but I'll take my mother's garden over Stockholm :D. This city simply does not have a fun, strong vibe about it. It feels like a place people go to work and have kids, which is great, but where is the strong sense of community or what makes Stockholm unique? Even Gamla Stan (Old Town) is underwhelming compared to Copenhagen's older architecture or the old buildings in Oslo, which are just beautiful. There's no breathtaking harbor, just a mess of construction and a ton of islands. The city has many high end expensive restaurants, which is great if you want to impress a date, but it's not so user friendly for easy to eat Scandinavian food that locals go to, unlike cities in Norway I've visited or Copenhagen. I did eat some good "street food" which was really just eating outside a vendor called Nystekt Strömming. Needless to say I can't wait to leave Monday!

Beer list of my favorite bar in Stavanger

Norwegian traditional clothing

Preikestolen

Kanelsnurrer (Norwegian cinnamon roll)

Fried strömming with creme fraîche salad, pickled cucumbers, really good mashed taters, and knäckebröd

Walking around Stockholm

-undergoing major reconstruction, so unfortunately the view is very ugly right now :/

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Currently listening to Kendrick Lamar and feeling quite recovered from the most horrendous experience volunteering I've ever had and the most horrendous experience I've ever had on my 9 month trip! Basically, might never go WWOOFing again, even though my friends had such positive experiences. I won't go into too much detail about my experience farming in Vest-Agder, but unfortunately I ran into the worst person to volunteer for. I was taken advantage of, never told thank you, bullied, belittled, and never invited to do anything fun. The woman who organized the farm was the definition of a freeloader who gave the other volunteer and me the bare minimum in food (we lived off of brunøst and Wasa crackers, which is really NOT the normal Norwegian diet, maybe the traditional snack). I also ended up using a lot of my own food, as the woman never offered to take us into town to buy snacks or to treat us to anything.

Their food was incredibly bland and not enough for us to feel healthy. Farming is hard work, so you need nutrition, or a well balanced meal, which is something we didn't always get for dinner, and certainly not for lunch. She would yell at me for every little thing, even if I hadn't done something wrong. She would sit and smoke cigarettes and nitpick over every little thing while the other volunteer and I sweated and mucked out duck shit, cow shit, and did our best to scrub the floors. She even demanded that I help clean her house when I asked what we could do for fun (this was after I had worked the required 4-6 hours that day), and she was very passive aggressive. WWOOF is about exchanging cultures, not freeloading off of the goodwill of other people. In the end, after a particularly nasty outburst about the internet going out (and her blaming it on me, even though there were three other people in the house using internet), I decided I had to make the 2 hour+ trek to the bus and train station.

The next morning, I woke up at 6 am and started walking down the highway. I had left a diplomatic, honest note on why I could no longer stay at the farm, most notably that I did not feel welcome there. On my walk, I even saw my first Norwegian moose! It scampered away before I had a chance to get a photo. Surviving on my Ritz cracker and apple, with little food to spare, I made it halfway before a kind older Norwegian man picked me up and dropped me off at the train station. The unfortunate part was that there were so many sweet people in the town (which I won't bother to name to save privacy). They reminded me of small town Minnesotans with their small talk. A group of older men noticed I was a foreigner and as I placed my 5 kroner in the piggy bank to pay for coffee, they sweetly handed me a cup and said "enjoy your day!" Ugh. Just had the worst luck, didn't I?

When I had gotten to the train station, I received a nasty email explaining how nobody liked me at the farm, how I was weird, how I was a liar, how I don't know how to take care of animals (jokes on her as I grew up helping my parents raise a herd of up to 40 horses, chickens, dogs, goats, and cats!) and how I must eat my own shit (the lady didn't speak the best english). I wrote an honest review, and to ensure other WWOOFers considering the farm in the future knew what this person was like behind closed doors, I posted the message onto my review. Unfortunately WWOOF thought the review was a bit personal, so they flagged it. This really frustrates me, because had I known that this farm was not so supportive and verbally abused their volunteers, I would never have gone here! I guess the only advice I can give to future WWOOFers is that you should look for farms that have tons of positive reviews, because apparently WWOOF is afraid to allow honest negative feedback. In the future, if I ever give up my own free time and money (I had to buy several bus and train tickets, as well as a taxi, which totaled over $150!), I will go with WorkAway. I have lost a lot of trust in WWOOF as they seem to not care about the volunteers so much as the hosts. What I had was truly not a host, but a monster of a person who did not treat guests like guests, but rather like animals. I hope nobody has to go through the same experience as I have!

So yesterday I got into Stavanger and walked around town. I stayed in a nice hostel and luckily I've met several friendly Couchsurfing hosts that are willing to take me on :). I'm staying with one guy for a few days (many Norwegians are busy with family and friends this week as it's their Constitution Day) and I met another guy who will help me the rest of the week. There are many great places to hike nearby and the city is quite cute, though not as special to me as Trondheim or Tromsø (I'm quite biased towards the north of Norway). All in all, the Norwegians I have met are AMAZING people and have welcomed me and made me really feel at home. Unfortunately I found one rotten, horrendous, despicable person, which of course exists in every culture.

My advice to people that are in horrendous situations like mine: get out. You don't owe people anything. If someone takes you for granted, leave. I felt really unsafe, which is why I didn't tell them I was leaving because I know I would've had to listen to yelling and screaming. I have dealt with enough bullshit in my life to know that I don't need to listen to that. I have had SO many amazing Airbnb, Couchsurfing hosts and volunteering gigs that I know what I'm worth and what that relationship is supposed to be like. Unfortunately it didn't happen that way for me, but at least my friends built amazing relationships with their hosts. I am no longer in prison (it really felt like I was breaking from prison with all my stuff!) and am going to enjoy the last week I have in this beautiful country!

View of Stavanger

The Colorful Street; there are so many good bars! I went out for some sour beer here to unwind (Circus is a great beer bar!)

​A little piece of Myanmar right here in Stavanger. She is a democratic leader that was placed on house arrest, even after she won the election in Myanmar. Norway hands out the Nobel Peace prize, while Sweden hands out the Nobel prize. 

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Oh boy. I really hate to write this because I heard so many great experiences from my friends working on organic farms in Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Wales that I decided to WWOOF in the south of Norway. Unfortunately, I did not look so closely at the hosts that claimed they needed urgent help and emailed the first person I saw. I am now paying the price for that as I am stuck on a small farm in the mountains kilometers away from the nearest train station.

So for those of you that have farms and want to host free laborers in exchange for food and board (which, by the way, many Couchsurfing hosts have done for me without an exchange of labor), please do not do the following:

  1. Tell me after I have reached your farm that wifi is limited. Especially when there is nothing to do here except watch TV and you rudely change the channel while the other WWOOFer and I are watching a program. Especially when your program is not in English.
  2. Treat me like a second class citizen. Do not ask me questions about myself. Do not say my name ever, just refer to me as "she" or "her." It's not demoralizing or dehumanizing at all.
  3. Nitpick me over every little thing. I understand animal care is number one but when you yell at me for taking bread from a bag of bread that was already open, don't tell me to finish the other loaf first.
  4. Along those lines, be passive aggressive. If you don't want me using a certain bathroom, don't speak with me in a stern tone as if I'm a child. Come on. I'm kindly here of my own will. In that vein, if it weren't for us farmers, you wouldn't even have a farm.
  5. Give us no snacks. Farming is tiring and exhausting at times. Burning brush for hours and painting can get tiring. The body needs sugars, salts, and fats. Brown cheese on Wasa bread is not a snack, and no, no other Norwegian I've stayed with lives on that (in fact they eat much the same as me or any other North American). Don't be cheap. Buy us some chips, make some cookies, or leave out some nice candy.
  6. Never thank us. It's already bad enough I paid about $100 in train and bus tickets to get to and from here, so it adds insult to injury when you don't ever express gratitude. My Couchsurfing host in Tromsø, the one who invited me into her home last minute thanked me. And was gracious. How could you be so selfish as to not show any appreciation? I stopped thanking them for dinner after they started bossing me around without any notice of saying how well I did a job. It's just frustrating. I want to WWOOF to help community organizations and honest, hardworking people, not people that use me for free labor and don't express gratitude. This should be rule number 1 for hosts!
  7. Complain to me about how much the other WWOOFER eats or how much meat he requires. If he works over 4-6 hours for you (say all day, which is not necessary by WWOOF standards), then you better give him a nice dinner and not complain. If the eating bit is too much for you, don't host! Do your own work and stop complaining. It's also incredibly catty and I am going to act neutral.
  8. Insult other WWOOFers or talk about how great some WWOOFers are. I don't care that someone cleaned your house top to bottom, this is a farm VOLUNTEER position, and I'm only required to do 4-6 hours of work. I'm not going to clean your fucking house, especially when you're not grateful. Also, don't laugh at the guy from California who took forever to paint. I'm sorry, how much are you paying him again?! Oh that's right, jack shit. Also, don't complain to me about how other cultures eat like shit. Last time I checked, hot dogs and aioli for many dinners is NOT healthy. And nor is it the typical Norwegian diet! Look inward at your own smoking habits before telling me that olive oil is not healthy or that butter should never be eaten...
  9. Cook bland food. In fact, you should ask the farmers what they like to eat. Labor in Norway is extremely expensive. We should be treated well and given at least a few foods we like (within reason of course, not like King crab and filet mignon!). You could offer to take us to the store to buy our own beer or candies.
  10. Never take us out to do anything fun or buy us a beer. Half of WWOOF is helping farmers in need. The other half is exchanging cultures and showing appreciation for your guests. I shouldn't feel bad for taking a break or wanting to get out of this prison.

I hate to complain, but as someone who knows I will have to hire people to take care of my animals when I'm on vacation, I can't stand the way these people treat their guests. We are guests after all. Of course we need to respect rules and be cleanly, but it's absurd to treat us like robots or to not politely say we need to do something a certain way. It infuriates me. I am happy I only have a week left here, and I'm never coming back!!!! Looking back, I should have looked at the references better, as WWOOF isn't the greatest company for vetting people. C'est la vie.


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Eugenio had treated me to some new Norwegian food. I don't remember everything that was plated, but it was lots of aioli, rutabaga, beets, onions, parsley, dill, and potatoes.

Top left: fish tartare

Top right: herring

Bottom left: fish of the day (forget, some Norwegian whitefish)

Bottom right: whale (very typical Norwegian traditional food)

Far right: veal tongue (was too "beefy" for my liking)

Pictures from this past weekend in Bergen and in Hardangerfjord.

First row: The difference between savoring your wine and just being a drunk :P

Second row: Steinsdalsfossen (beautiful waterfall outside of the small town of Norheimsund), hike beer, and Hardangerfjord

Third row: Cute little waterfall on our hike to the BIG waterfall, sheep blocking our path (they have cowbells on!)

Fourth row: Cute southern Norwegian rooftops, looking down from Steinsdalsfossen, and an Americano and a doppio (isn't culture funny!?)

Fifth row: Looking out over Bergen fjord, Hardangerfjord

The last few days I was in Bergen staying in a shitty airbnb with my Italian buddy. We had such a great time together, joking around, practicing my horrendous Italian and helping my friend pronounce his "h's" (italian language does not pronounce "h" so much). He had a hard time differentiating "How are you?" And " 'Ow are you?" Which was adorable :). I love seeing what people struggle with in speaking english and in turn, what I would struggle with speaking their language. For example, english speakers aren't the best at remembering the "h" is silent in words like "ho" which is not pronounced like the english word, but rather "oh" like "ho fame" (I have hunger). Some Swedes speak english so dramatically (they're very whiny at times) whereas I speak Swedish much flatter than I should.

Hanging out with my friend, enjoying wonderful wine and cookies for breakfast (which is such an endearing Italian trait (i.e. Eating sweet foods for breakfast)) made me miss Italian people and my time in Bologna. While I have loved meeting many Norwegians here and do love my American friends, there are certain qualities I love about the Mediterranean cultures, particularly in the way they "savor life." Their relationships with one another are often better, the way they listen to music, go out to the cinema, treat cooking like an art form, and treat wine like a creation that must be perfectly mastered and presented makes me so happy. It sounds very cliché, but it is so true! Oh how I would love to move there someday and work in healthcare. Maybe if I join an international medical group...dreams :)

In Bergen, we hiked to the top of Stoltzekleiven, which was quite hot and we were both out of breath. It was a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the fjord. We also took a day trip to Norheindsum to see the Hardangerfjord. There are so many sheep farms there, I thought I was in New Zealand. Of course we went to Bryggen, which is the main tourist area that has cute buildings on the fisherman's wharf. Overall, Bergen was my least favorite city as it was filled with tourists (and crappy tourist restaurants). I just fell in love with the north of Norway, so it's pretty hard to compete :). Despite this, it was amazing to travel with a friend again and I felt pretty sad when Eugi had to go 😭. We share quite a few inside jokes, and it's making me excited to visit friends in Stockholm in two weeks and to go home and see friends I haven't seen in far too long! I am also planning my Iceland trip with a lady from Luxembourg. We are renting a manual car (obviously she is driving!) and camping along the ring road, the main highway that runs about 1300 km around the windy island.


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I made it to Tromsø and although I naively booked my flight here before realizing that it's too bright out to see the Northern Lights, I've had quite the adventure here. It started out with an over eager Couchsurfing host that was way over the top. For those who do not know much about CS, it is a completely free service for people traveling that need a place to stay. There isn't a catch, except for the fact that some hosts are incredibly strange and if you are smart, you should check people's references and backgrounds to see if they seem legitimate. One of my hosts had 100+ positive reviews from surfers (😲) and others had none, but the guy in Trondheim ended up being such a nice host (he offered me his bed so he would sleep on the couch and made me food). I have really appreciated those friendly hosts, especially the ones kind enough to loan me a spare key! But, this guy was too much.

My host had just gotten a job in Tromsø and his apartment was completely empty. He had very little in the way of cutlery or dishes and his bed didn't even have sheets on it or a pillow!!!! It reeked of cigarettes and sweat and the guy was so rude to locals. He would honk at people and shout at them in the car or cut them off (pedestrians mind you!). It was so embarrassing because we definitely got mean mugged by an older guy...I felt so bad. He said the weather here is awful and just could not stop complaining. I knew I needed to get out. Luckily, another CS person who could not host me but had offered to help me found me a place at his coworker's. This lady is in her 40s and is divorced and has the cutest little cozy apartment. She has a sweet dog (I think he's an Affenpinscher) and a skinny, purracious (made that word up :D) kitty. I'm totally buying her a bottle of wine because she gave me her daughter's bed in this cozy little room and is seriously the coolest. I hope when I'm 40 I'm open to letting strangers in need share my guest bed!

Other than the drama of finding a place to stay in Tromsø, I am done with Couchsurfing this trip (thank goodness, I like having more stable housing and not feeling obligated to give people money, say when they pick me up at the airport and insist on driving me around town, which is incredibly awkward especially in a small city). Tromsø honestly reminds me of a small city near Duluth. It's silly to say, considering we're surrounded by a beautiful fjord and some smaller mountains, but it fits the cozy atmosphere, the big hills in town (grrr Duluth), and the cute little cafes and restaurants. Loads of people in Norway, especially Northern Norway, LOVE fishing and hunting and just being outside, which totally fits the stereotypical Northern Minnesotan.

In Tromsø, there's even a hipster pour over coffee shop, which I'm currently sitting in :D. What I find most interesting about this small university city, is that there is a very rich, interesting history into the seal hunting industry. I visited Polarmuseet yesterday and was so interested in the history of dog sledding (not racing, like the Beargrease or the Iditarod, but really as a way of life for hunting and moving around places like Svalbard and the other Arctic territories). I'm not even going to try to explain the history of the explorations done by Roald Amundsen (most of the museum information was in Norwegian), but his notes on the flora and fauna and ocean salinity were very important back in the late 1800s/early 1900s. To read about what these men (and some women!) had to go through is incredible. Here's some information on RA in English: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Amundsen

I also found the story of Hjalmar Johansen and Fridtjof Nansen to be fascinating, including the parts where they had to kill each other's dogs, almost died by a polar bear attack, and had to jump between ice bergs to continue on their journey! What a crazy expedition! I don't think I would have the courage to do something like that! Read about it here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nansen%27s_Fram_expedition

Today I am going to walk around this city and go to the Aquarium. Tromsø is so beautiful in the winter time, with the aurora borealis, but also with the Arctic Cathedral all lit up! Unfortunately it is "summer" here (hahhah more like sleet and light snow/rainfall and chilly Seattle winter weather), so that won't be happening. It is quite expensive to get to, considering there's no train that goes here. I would recommend it for seeing a smaller Norwegian town. Not to mention I'm in of the "biggest" northern Norwegian cities. I would love to come back to Norway to do some fishing or camping. It's one of the best countries to do it in, and I honestly prefer it over New Zealand (though of course New Zealand is much more diverse in topography). I like the history and traditions here better than New Zealand, as far as the history of dog sledding, hunting, and fishing goes.

Speaking of fishing, Lofoten was BEAUTIFUL. It was completely dead, which was just what I needed to escape reality. In the summer, it's far more busy (say in a month until September) and I don't even want to know what camping is like there, probably as bad as trying to find a campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail in June. I walked several kilometers to the local grocery store in Storvågen and got many stares by locals. Imagine how isolated it would be to live there and to see this strange person with a big backpack just walking everywhere! If you want to visit Lofoten, you should take the ferry from Bodø to Moskenes and either rent a car, or take the bus. The bus almost never runs during the winter, so you're better off hitching a ride or walking. I couldn't climb up the mountain I wanted to as it was far too muddy, wet, and just dangerous on the rocks, so maybe I'll have to come back in the summer when it's drier. Overall, it was incredibly beautiful and not touristy at all in the winter!

Tomorrow I'm heading to Bergen. I'm also planning a short visit back to Stockholm to visit friends and then a week long trip to Iceland in the beginning of June. In about a month, I will be home! While I've loved traveling, it will be nice to have some more stability in my life (and to not live out of a dingy backpack!). Hooray for smelling nicer and wearing different clothes, like summer dresses and "impractical clothes" :D!

Bløtkake (Norwegian strawberry cake) and street art in Bodø

Pictures from my hostel in Å (of course nobody was there)

Fish heads left out to dry. FIshermen catch pollock, cod, and halibut

Mt Tindstinden in all her glory

The area is covered in moss; very little grass

Leaving beautiful Bodø!

Left: Reindeer hotdog in a waffle bun...not really my thing on that waffle bun!

Right: Caramel latte and a very typical Norwegian pastry: Skolebolle (School bun). It's a sweet bun with cardamom, custard, and coconut shavings. Veldig bra! (Ps I'm trying so hard use Norwegian and Swedish words that are the same, but it's hard with adjectives sometimes)

All photos from Polarmuseet. These dogs were far larger than the ones I used during my trip in Northern Minnesota. Their size reminded me of Alaskan Malamutes.

Mance Rayder or Roald Amundsen? Let's ask the Wildlings...

​Tromsø harbor; in the top right photo you can make out the Arctic cathedral in the center. 

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I'm in Trondheim right now relaxing in a cafe. I've eaten Norwegian kit kat bars everyday and an am now an addict. I just booked my stay in Bodø and Lofoten, where I will catch the ferry from Moskenes and stay in Å. Unfortunately, the bus is not running so much in Lofoten so I might walk 1.5 hours to my hostel!!! It reminds me a lot of New Zealand and the Greek isles in that way. In the off season, transportation is not frequent and many hostels close. It's understandable and I guess it is a good reason to practice being in boot camp with all of my heavy bags!

I've really enjoyed Trondheim. It's obviously quite small, especially compared to Oslo, but it's charming and the famous view from the old bridge with the beautiful colorful buildings is so worth the visit up from the south.

I still think Norwegians are such nice people. I've found many of them, including my hosts, to be very helpful and friendly. They watch so much American media!!! My host in Trondheim was showing me tv shows he watches and I've never even heard of them!!! My buddy in Oslo told me that people drink so much here (haven't exactly noticed) because there's nothing else to do!! It's crazy to think how small the population is here, given how long the country is! People apparently don't go out after work during the week, which is not like Americans at all!!! We LOVE our happy hour. People are quite intelligent and definitely Scandinavian modest (as in they will never openly brag about themselves and don't rudely cut queues or think of only themselves). They're quite nonjudgmental and helpful (I can't tell you how many times I've needed help with the local transport or finding something or whatever and people are willing to help you out without acting like you're wasting their time).

The weather has been "shit" here (it's actually not terrible for me since I don't love hot and sunny weather), but it's been snowing Dippin' dot-sized snow and the weather was "so bad" (again, I doubt it's anything compared to a Minnesota winter) at the airport in Oslo, my 8 AM flight got pushed back and canceled twice so I arrived in Trondheim 12 hours after I was supposed to!!! It's chilly for sure, especially in Trondheim, but it's perfect weather for running or roller skiing. I've seen so many people bike and roller ski, which is fantastic! Makes me excited to come to Minneapolis and Seattle soon!!! I haven't worked out in far too long.

On another note, I am so SICK and tired of tourists or people outside of the country bitching about how expensive everything is here. First of all, people have very high livable wages and awesome healthcare (it would cost me only $30 to visit a doctor here), so if I have to internally whine and get anxiety from buying $6 coffee or a $10 beer, so be it!). I wish people wouldn't come here if they thought it was unreasonably expensive! Norway and Sweden are unlike many other countries, maybe any, so to me they're very much worth the extra mile of budgeting. You can't enjoy this country if you stress over every little penny, so shut up and enjoy the beauty and serenity of Scandinavia. That's why I don't believe in going to Switzerland now. It's far too expensive and I know it's very similar to Austria, which is so beautiful and definitely affordable for me. So quit your whining and enjoy your time here! :D If you're truly concerned about budgeting, don't buy alcohol or coffee here. Don't go out to eat! Cook food from Bunnpris stores, it's doable! Walk a lot and find deals on the trains and don't go to super removed areas, like Lofoten, because it's going to cost you time and money (only do it if you're patient, have a ride on the islands, or don't care about the cost).

Apparently in Norway, hitchhiking is very common. I'm going to see if I can hitchhike in Lofoten, though I'm a bit of a chicken since I never did it, even in New Zealand!!!

Of course, transportation here is very expensive compared to other countries. I never take the bus long distance, and my bus costs $5 one way in Trondheim (to get to the center), which is good for Norwegian standards. In the US, I would normally pay $2.75 or so. I am taking the train when I can, especially if I find the "Minipris" which is the discounted price on the Norwegian train service website. I'm taking a long train tomorrow from Trondheim to Bodø, and am very much looking forward to staring out my window and watching Netflix movies on my tablet! Sometimes the flights are quite cheap here, but you have to plan in advance, unlike what I've been doing due to the uncertainty in my travel schedule. Flights from Oslo are generally quite cheap, but a flight from Trondheim to Bodø was too expensive for me, so the $50 train was the best option. It will probably be the only time I take the long distance train in Norway, otherwise I use the local train, bus, and tram all the time.

I think what I love most about Norway is the beautiful architecture (the older architecture, to be specific). I went to the Trondheim folk museum today and got lost in the beautiful buildings and farm land. It reminded me a lot of Skansen in Stockholm. I'm super excited that I'm still in the country for Norwegian Constitution Day, which seems to be like Norwegian Oktoberfest. Excited to see people's outfits and to drink! I love the decorations and designs of Norway, they're very cute and homey.

In the end, I had been putting off visiting this country but I am SO happy I decided to come. I have no regrets and will certainly come back to travel, if not study here. Scandinavia is so fantastic for backpacking and can certainly be budgeted for a person with several thousands of dollars. Don't come here if you expect $10 a night hostels and are going to whine that it's cold. It's not for you. But if you love hiking and seeing something outside of your culture (Americans don't have these beautiful, colorful buildings and rustic houses), you have to visit!


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I arrived in Oslo last night and I have to say, Norway is awesome! I was worried that this city would be really boring, as people say it's not a great tourist city but I disagree. There's loads of good museums, the parks are really cute, there are some really beautiful walks and cafes near the fjord, and it's a big city.

I have found Osloites to be quite different from Stockholmers. They are more friendly, less "Scandinavian" aloof, and dress more quirky. People from Stockholm are very posh and the city seems to be a bit more posh, minus the tacky sports/dive bars (that was the vibe I least liked about Stockholm, even though there are loads of cute bars and restaurants there). Men have long hair here, but they don't always wear it in a crazy man bun like men in Stockholm. They're less concerned with tanning and being fit. Women are also less petite I think, on average. They wear fun clothes and I find people to be more free spirited and fun here. Oddly enough, I think people definitely look different as well! They have a different facial shape and it seems like there's a higher proportion of brunettes here. I think Swedes, especially women, have "sweeter" faces, maybe like French women have sweet faces.

Oslo/Norway seems to be SO sporty, but not gym sporty, more like they LOVE the outdoors, which is so awesome! On my bus ride from the airport to the city center, I noticed plenty of people on road bikes and roller skiing. They are so amazing at Nordic skiing, and apparently they like ski jumping too! The food is also shockingly not bad! I love the freshness of their fish and shellfish. You can get affordable canned fish in tomato paste, shrimp, mussels, and lax here. Today I got reindeer patties, boiled potatoes, coffee, and a lingonberry jello dessert for about $30, which is comparable to Sweden and really not that much more expensive than a nice restaurant in Minneapolis. Norwegians eat a lot of fish cakes (not those disgusting things you buy at the supermarket in the US), brunost (brown cheese, which is actually made out of whey), and maybe not so many open faced sandwiches as Swedes do. I have yet to try any jams here, but there are so many good ones! I am particularly excited to eat cloudberry jam on waffles.

My Couchsurfing host is THE SWEETEST. He let me sleep in his bed (even after I insisted I should sleep on the couch) while he slept on the couch. He has hosted over 100 people, so obviously he loves to meet new people from around the world.

Norwegians are modest, just like Swedes. They don't have "fika" here. They like metal and are really funny people. They're incredibly sporty and outdoorsy. They're very sweet (I've had very good restaurant service and even had a Norwegian guy help me buy groceries). To be honest, I'm really surprised by how much I've enjoyed staying in Scandinavia, considering I have not known much about it before.

Overall, yes, Norway is very expensive but I think it's within reason. It's expensive to get anywhere by public transport (my bus to and from the airport was $35, whereas it was about $20 in Stockholm). Food can be affordable, just don't buy anything crazy and shop at Kiwi. There are more affordable cafes, so I try to eat non-imported products. There are quite a few pastries that are from Norway that I still have yet to try. Lastly, I was watching the news and reading the subtitles and noticed Norwegian sounds SOOO much like Swedish! The text, however, is very different. Some words are the same, but I is "jeg" and not "jag," so it's a bit confusing, especially since I'm only a beginner at speaking Swedish. Finally, just like Sweden, Norway is so so progressive in ways I have not even thought about. For example, one of their city hall offices is decorated with the people that helped build it, even though most European capitals are obsessed with honoring the monarchy or the rich. Both capitals are very admirable and egalitarian, but I feel like I've noticed it even more here.

🦐🐳🦌🌷🌲🌌🤸🏽♀️🏔🛳❤️💙🇳🇴

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Sweden really loves Easter (Påsk). I was shocked by how long their weekend is (they leave work halfway through Thursday, and have Monday off too!). Cute decorations. Also their hares are HUGE!

If only she knew how shit our football team is...

This past week I went to Uppsala and had a fun time walking around the cute university town and sipping coffee in the cute cafes. I went to a few impressive museums (Gustavianum and Upplandsmuseet), which have a nice collection of Egyptian artifacts and an old anatomy lab theater!!!! I walked up the very steep stairs of the theater and looked down onto a tiny little table for dissections. It was awesome! On one table, there were still signs left of the body, which is disgusting and awesome! Upplandsmuseet is more for learning about the past of Uppsala and how people used to live in the city (i.e. What they did for work, what kinds of houses and clothes they had, etc.).

I also fell in love walking around Skansen. Skansen is more for kids, but if you're not from Sweden, you should definitely go! It's got an animal exhibit and a playground, but there are SO many beautiful old Scandinavian buildings and Viking runes in the museum (it's an open air museum). I saw some moose, caribou, chickens, horses (the Gotland pony, which is an old breed that originates from an island east of Stockholm), and even brown bears (they're funny looking when they stand up!!!).

Swedish class has kept me on my toes. I do think it's a very easy language, in comparison to learning German or Arabic, but it has its curveballs, particularly with learning how to change suffixes on adjectives and verbs when you change the tense. Agreement in all languages is quite challenging, so Swedish is no exception.

I've met some really awesome Swedes, both in Uppsala and in Stockholm. I have gone out for drinks, gotten corrections on my grammar and improved my vocabulary, and learned about politics and some taboos here. Swedes think Americans are nuts for obvious reasons (i.e. Healthcare access, gun laws, education access, etc.) however I can't help but think Swedes (and I know Norwegians are similar in this way!) that they like "snus" (chewing tobacco) and cigarettes, yet there's a HUGE stigma against marijuana. My host in Uppsala said marijuana is a gateway drug and it's awful for your health, but he had no problem ruining his teeth with some chew. ICK! He's definitely not the only one who has said the same thing, but of course, everyone is different.

Unfortunately I leave Friday but I'm excited to come back someday. Hopefully I will go north because the wilderness in Sweden is beautiful! There are no fjords here like there are in Norway, but there are certainly hundreds of beautiful islands and forests. Gå till Sverige!

For Norway, I just booked my flights to Bergen, Trondheim, and my lodging in Norway, which is generally Couchsurfing, so at least I can save a bit of money. I'm too lazy to write much and I have to practice conjugation, but I definitely want to share my pictures from the last week.

Vi ses senare!

Damsuggare (vacuum in Swedish).

It's very sweet and has a weird liqueur in it called Punsch.

The tomb on the above right is the guy who founded Skansen (Artur Hazelius). It's so beautiful it's disgusting.

Godnatt Stockholm!

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