A Date in Every Country: A Series
Activity: night in
Will see again? Probably not
Connected via: Tinder
Norway has always been on my bucket list ever since I first saw a photo of Trolltunga. I remember my initial reaction of delight and determination, thinking that some day I would make it there. Some future day I would hike up to that killer view and get to see it with my own eyes. As you all know, hiking has been a big part of my journey thus far and to say I was excited for Norway was an understatement. I showed up with a few hikes saved in my phone and no real plan for my 3 weeks there but I was thrilled to be headed to Scandinavia for the first time!
Thanks to Tinder Passport, I try to swipe in my next destination a few days prior to my arrival in an attempt to chat a bit and maybe schedule a date pretty quickly after I get there. In this case, I’d swiped in Norway more than a tad early. Like weeks before. I confess it came from a keen curiosity as I heard some pretty good things about Scandinavian men. I matched with this blonde cutie weeks before I arrived. He was quick to text and anxious to know when I was arriving. Even when I didn’t reply in the week leading up to my trip, he was quite proactive in reaching out and wanted to know when I’d be there. I must confess that when I got to Bergen, I forgot to text him back. Oops. In my defense, I had the lovely opportunity to meet up with a GLT girl who was also passing through Bergen and I’m always amazed by how wonderful this community is.
Due to my hiking boot situation from one of my last stories, I had ordered the very last pair of my discontinued favorite hiking boots from the US and paid a fortune to ship them to Bergen. They weren’t there when I checked in to my hotel and I anxiously awaited their arrival. I knew my current boots were not ok for doing some of the bigger hikes I had planned. Despite paying for all the rush options and calling the shipping company to track them, I found myself delaying my departure from Bergen as I awaited their arrival like it was Hallmarks’ Countdown to Christmas. The hotel staff knew me by name as I would swing by the desk periodically just to see if they’d showed up. My bags were packed and ready to go and the moment those boots arrived I was running to catch a bus. Im sure they thought I was some crazy shoe addict lol. When they were several days past their schedule delivery date, I sought to make moves as I couldn’t delay any further. I was desperate to leave Bergen and head south to Stavanger so I could hike Preikestolen aka Pulpit Rock.
Things I knew before arriving in Norway: It was expensive, painfully so. The country is bigger than you realize and while renting a car was ideal, the cost as a solo traveler was more than a bit prohibitive. I had been assured by both travelers and locals that Norway was incredibly safe as both a solo traveler and a female. Hitchhiking was definitely an option and I was prepared to do whatever was necessary to get up on top of those mountains. For any hikers, you know those sweet spots where everyone takes those insta pics are often quite crowded and you literally end up standing in a queue. Sometimes I find that this can take away from the experience a bit so I often try to hike during shoulder season or during non-traditional times to have a bit more peace and quiet at the top. As Trolltunga was my top priority I had discovered that you could camp up at the top and this seemed like a brilliant idea. It would allow me both a sunset view and less people. Had I sorted camping gear? Nope. Upon further research, I found a tour that included mountain biking, a via Ferrata, camping at the top in a yurt and hiking down the following day. It was not cheap but as this was a priority I decided to go for it. Sometimes a travel splurge is worth it. Seemed like a perfect combo of activities and the ability to enjoy the beautiful Norwegian outdoors. I booked this for a few days out as the weather was set to clear up. This was literally the only set thing on my calendar so I was working around transit time and making sure I could get to this remote area for my scheduled tour.
So there I am, at the Bergen bus station sans new hiking boots, anxious to buy a ticket and get this trip going when suddenly Norway #1 texts asking where I was. I replied saying that I had been awaiting a package that never showed up and was making a last ditch effort to catch the last bus of the day to Stavanger. He replied quickly that he had literally just left Bergen 20 mins earlier and was headed that direction. I kicked myself as the bus ticket wasn’t cheap and I could have killed two birds with one stone. He texts back immediately saying I could take bus number X from Bergen to this random town I'd never heard of then jump on the ferry and he’d pick me up. He would host me that night then I could take the bus to Stavanger in the morning.
Now this sounded crazy to me. He’s naming places and I have no idea if they are even remotely on the way. He assures me that they are as I’m attempting to load my luggage onto the bus all the while googling these towns that have more consonants than should be allowed. I decided to stick with my original plan - last bus to Stavanger then take the early morning shuttle bus to the hike. Timing and transportation are a dance in Norway and I was already late to the party. He’s now texting logistics as he’s waiting for his ferry. How long the bus is. How long the ferry is. He told me to google his town (which I did) to confirm it was indeed en route. I responded with my scheduling problem of trying to catch the shuttle bus to the hike the next day. There are only 2 morning shuttle options and his home was only 1 hour into my 5.5 hour journey which would mean I had quite a bit of distance to cover in the morning. He was quick at problem solving and sent me the early morning bus options from a town near his home that would have me arriving just in time to catch the shuttle bus and make my hike. This man was clearly on a mission and despite any of my potential logistical issues, he was quick to offer a solution. He suggests that if I’d like to get off the bus then I could request my money back saving me precious pennies. This bus was $88 and I couldn’t afford to just throw that money away. Im sitting there, only 30 minutes into my 5.5 hour bus rider just staring at the beauty passing my window, wondering if I’m crazy to even be considering this.
He was super responsive as he was waiting to take the ferry and offered to wait for the next one so I could catch up. I decline and he’s kind in his response. I’m seriously torn as he’s offered a free place to stay in this expensive country and is willing to get up at 5am to help me catch the earliest bus so I can make my hike. Apparently he’s solved all my problems at this point. Oh and did I mention he offered to cook?! Ugh. What?! To?! Do?!?! At the offer of food, I laugh out loud as I'm literally eating this lumpy apple cinnamon yogurt and he’s laughing at my text as I compare it to baby food.
Me: …if I did come over, what are your expectations…?
Him: Just to have a nice evening with a nice woman. This isn’t something I normally do. And I have a guest room if you are afraid of me.
Me: not something you normally do?! Arranging boats and breakfast and buses all to meet a stranger?
Him: No, inviting someone home to me, who I matched on Tinder and have never met.
Me: Well I do feel special.
Him: I got a good impression. My stomach says to me that you are fun.
His offer is proving more and more tempting and I greatly appreciate the offer of a guest room which eases my concerns regarding pressure and expectations. I always want to make sure that people don’t assume physicality when there’s an offer to host. It’s a slippery slope and discussing expectations in advance is really important to me. Ladies, I do always say to trust your gut…or in this case stomach lol. Mine was telling me that he was a good guy but I still hesitated as I’ve never done something like this before! I clarified the plan and say that I’ll leave it up to the bus driver and if he’s willing to refund me or not. I wait until we board the ferry as everyone gets off the bus and I can chat with the driver. I timidly explain my situation that a “friend” has offered to let me stay with them tonight and I already paid but could I take the rest of the journey in the morning? Could I use the same ticket? Get a partial refund? Get a credit for tomorrow? The driver says that no refund is available and he can’t just give me a ticket for tomorrow. He pauses then asks the details of my proposed plan. I’m trying to remember the name of the town but that’s never gonna happen as my attempt at Norwegian names is like talking with a mouth full of peanut butter. It ain't pretty. I’m frantically scrolling through what is now a very long Tinder thread to find the name of where I’d take the bus tomorrow. Upon hearing the name of the town, the driver informs me that he is actually the one driving that exact bus route tomorrow. He says if I promise to take a specific bus at the ass crack of dawn then he would just let me on and I wouldn’t have to pay again. I couldn’t believe it! I held back from excitedly hugging the driver. My mind was made up. I was going for it(!) but Norway #1 didn’t know this just yet.
Me: you’re not a serial killer right?
Him: Haha. No.
Me: You laugh but pretty sure that’s what serial killers say.
Him: But I can understand that you are skeptical. Do you want to video chat? So that you can get a bit more impression whether I am pysko or not.
Him: Wait you are not a traveling woman who kills Norwegians on your way?
I appreciated his humor and his offer to video chat. I’ve already made the decision to do it but I like this idea of video chatting first so I said yes. It gave me one more chance to feel out my gut instinct and if this felt right. He snuck out of his family get together to call me from the parking garage and his easy smile put me at ease. He was nervous about his place not being clean and I assured him that was not important. He was charming and funny and I could hardly believe I was doing this but I rushed back to the bus and grabbed my luggage to walk off the ferry. I waved goodbye to the driver and then disembarked into the rainy afternoon.
Once we docked, I walked off the ferry and headed to the parking lot. He pulled right up and helped me with my luggage. A few minutes later and we are pulling into the driveway of this cute little house. He gives me a tour, apologizing as we all do when an unexpected visitor shows up and there are dishes on the counter and laundry out. It was completely fine but it’s still Scandinavia so tidy and simple are the name of the game. We start chatting and I’m learning about his family and how he was just in a wedding last week. DARN IT! Missed yet another chance to be a wedding date! UGH. At some point during this worldwide adventure, I absolutely need to crash a wedding!
Time flies by faster than both of us thought possible and we were so busy talking that he forgot to cook! With a sudden burst of hunger, he rushes down to the local spot to pick up burgers while I sort plans for the next day. He returns, burgers in hand and we sit down to our little takeout feast. I hate showing up empty handed as a guest but I didn’t exactly plan for this. Per usual I only have chocolate to offer (my friends know there’s always some in my purse, melted or otherwise). I teased him about our romantic dinner and the man proceeds to shut off the lights and light candles. He then opens up the chocolate bar and break it into tiny pieces and put it in a bowl! Full points for presentation. A bottle of wine appears and we spend the next few hours sitting in soft lighting and chatting on the couch.
Is it easier to share secrets in the dark? There seems to exist some level of bravery and vulnerability that shows itself only in a darkened room.
We speak of our families and find that we both have a lost a parent. We share stories of the remaining parent and our concerns for their coping methods or lack thereof. Not exactly the easiest conversation but definitely raw and authentic. He shares of his past relationship, of his sacrifices for it and his move back to this small town when it didn’t work out. I’m curious and ask if he plans to stay here or move back to a bigger city. He’s happy here in his quiet hometown near his family. It’s moment like this that make me wonder if I’d every choose to stay in one place. Am I even capable of choosing one place to live the rest of my life?
I've been asked if any of these dates have resulted in me falling in love and if so, would I stop traveling?
When asked this question recently, I was reminded of this date, of this exact conversation but maybe not why you think. You see while this man was so lovely and kind, we actually don’t want the same things out of life. I’m very much looking forward to traveling with a partner and he was looking to stay in one place. While traveling and dating in every country sounds romantic and fun, I do find it challenging to find dates with whom I share compatibility in regards to what we want. I have met some of the loveliest humans, learning and experiencing a great many things during these adventures but I want a relationship with someone who’s headed the same direction as me.
Date #16 was true to his word and despite the fact that we stayed up chatting past midnight, we were up at dawn so I could head south in time. He was super thoughtful in making me a breakfast sandwich for my journey along with a coffee to take with me. He then drove me in the rain to the specific bus stop, waiting until it arrived. I waved goodbye as I loaded onto the bus, knowing I’d likely never see him again but grateful for interactions like this.
I managed to make it to Stavanger, catch my shuttle and hike Preikestolen in the rain which proved to be the last hike my OG boots managed. Does anyone else get sad when they have to toss out their old hiking boots? Just me?! And to the GLT gal who caught sight of me drinking wine straight out of the bottle as I threw away my boots, consider it my version of a memorial after a job well done.
Teaser: Due to Norway transportation challenges, I had an unexpected last minute return to Bergen resulting in a spontaneous and sexy meet up with Norway #2. This date paired with finally making it to Trolltunga made for a very memorable week.
Current location: I'm in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania stranded with a broken down car. Using this time to catch up on my writing so I hope you enjoyed the story!
Loni James Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.