Travel’s Lessons and Surprises: Oslo

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“I don’t speak English very well,” were the elderly woman’s words of greeting, on the tram in Oslo.

“I think you would like to see a Norwegian flat. I am five minutes from the sculpture park. Would you like to come with me?”

This was just about the full interchange we two perfect strangers had, before I got off the tram early with her to visit her home.

Here's an unconventional tale of discovering Oslo Norway, as well as a few things about myself as a traveler. #TheProfessionalHobo #Oslo #Norway #travellessons
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This post is part of the Club Carlson Global Traveler program; a 3-week, 8-country adventure I’m taking through Europe, paid for and compensated by Club CarlsonSM (now Radisson Rewards). During the trip, I’m exploring the world of hotel points and how to take advantage of accommodations and upgrades with various strategies. And if you share this post (and others) on Twitter and Facebook, they might even give me 1 million points to give to you (read on for details)…..

In all cases, opinions expressed herein are my own; don’t worry – I haven’t sold my soul.

This article was originally published in 2013, and has since been updated for accuracy of links and formatting.

Being a Tourist, to Not be a Tourist

My discussion with 86 year-old Karin would not have transpired had I not been taking pictures out the window of the Oslo tram, having embraced my inner tourist and thrown abandon to my normal modus operandi of “blending in”.

So ironically, by being a tourist, I attracted the attention of a local who was not only not repelled by my presence, but compelled to invite me into her home and her life.

But enough of this minor revelation for now. My Oslo experience goes deeper than this.

Norway, Scandinavia, and (my) History

I’ve said before that travel is very contextual. The most beautiful sunset in the world is a tragic sight if you’ve just had your heart broken.

I have some unfinished business with Norway, and on a larger scale, Scandinavia.

ocean bay just off the coast of Oslo Norway

 I’ve never visited Norway before, but I have some Norwegian friends. Well, “friends” is a loose term; in fact that’s the problem.

Being in a near-fatal accident (as I was with my partner, earlier this year) is a great way to help you determine what’s important in life; including who your friends are. My partner and I had some rude awakenings while recovering during the months following the accident, and one of those awakenings was the degree to which our Norwegian friends weren’t really our friends at all.

I hadn’t considered any of this prior to landing in Oslo. But on arrival, everything reminded me of them.

downtown Oslo

To make my trip down memory lane even more excruciating, the visual cues Norway gave me were reminders of Sweden; a place I once visited, with my “Swedish Squeeze” – a man who broke my heart. (And he broke it with a Danish woman; Copenhagen, be warned. You’re my next stop on this trip).

So with all this awkward ju-ju surrounding me, the cold temperatures, and the constant reminders of an emotional journey I’m obviously still enduring, I didn’t really want to leave the comfort of my lovely corner-suite of the Park Inn by Radisson, in Oslo.

On With the Show

But I knew I had to get over myself and get on with it. Hiding out in my room was not an option, as I surely would have regretted it.

view from the Park Inn Radisson in Oslo Norway

So I did as any good little tourist would do; I bundled up in layers of scarves, grabbed my camera, and went out to “discover Oslo”. That’s when I met Karin on the tram.

The Oslo Flat

Karin’s home was beautiful. The early 20th century fixtures and decor and high ceilings framed her racks of books and collection of artifacts. She gingerly showed me her prized tea pots and plates, and I immediately saw that Karin was a world traveler, with pieces from Mexico, The Gambia, Morocco, Thailand, and Italy adorning every free space.

an Oslo flat

Karin’s late husband was a geologist and university professor; a job that took them both around the world, and also saw them living in Denmark for 20 years, Sweden for 10 years, and of course, Norway.

“My husband was very good English speaker,” Karin said. “He did all the talking. Many people loved him.” Karin said of the man she evidently misses.

The last artifact I found myself admiring in Karin’s flat was one that brought a tear to her eye. It was an Oriental urn, and one that had a long arduous journey through three countries and turbulent flights back to Scandinavia from Thailand. This urn is where Karin will spend the rest of eternity with her husband.

“He is waiting for me,” she said with a smile and a nod towards the urn.

But Karin was in no hurry to die. She spoke of her children and grandchildren, and showed me pictures of her grand daughter in Denmark, who turned 21 today. It became apparent to me that I’m not the only person Karin has invited back to her flat; she thrives on living vicariously through travelers, and knows what an honour it is to have a chance to see something (like a local’s home) that most tourists don’t see.

Travel Happens When You’re Not Looking

When I left the hotel this morning, I was introspective and perturbed. I’d accumulated some random amusing facts about Oslo that I could pepper with pictures and call it a day, job done. I was really just looking forward to sitting back in my warm room and wallowing enjoying my own company.

Instead, my trip happened to me while I wasn’t looking.

Nora Dunn at the sculpture park in Oslo

After my surprising experience with Karin, I went on to visit Oslo’s famous Vigeland sculpture park (the world’s largest sculpture park by a single artist), took a fjord cruise, and other typical Oslo activities.

I did my best to observe everything with fresh eyes and an uncluttered mind, but it wasn’t possible.

Nor was this a bad thing. I generally enjoyed Oslo.

I liked Oslo because it surprised me. Having started to feel like I’ve “been there done that” when it comes to the travel lifestyle, I remembered that I’m still very much a student. Travel brings about lessons; lessons you can’t anticipate, and ones that you rarely sign up for. Being immersed in a place full of new stimuli creates an environment conducive to challenge; challenging your powers of communication, challenging your ability to get around, your sense of normality, and even your concept of right and wrong.

Thank you, Oslo, for the challenge. I’ll never forget you for it.

panorama of Oslo coast


Picture-Perfect Oslo, in 1 Minute

Oslo is a beautiful place, even when the sun doesn’t shine. Two thirds of the the area within Oslo’s boundaries are forest and lakes, and even the concrete jungle itself is colourful. Typical Scandinavia, it is very clean, well organized, (and expensive).

Please enjoy this 1 minute video taste of Oslo!

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Want to learn about the other places I visited on this 8-country, 3-week extravaganza of a trip? Click here.

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15 thoughts on “Travel’s Lessons and Surprises: Oslo”

  1. I’m glad you decided to get out of that hotel room. Oslo looks great and you seem to enjoy it despite your mental clutter.

    Karin’s home is beautiful, it wouldn’t look out of place in a home decor magazine!

    Reply
    • Hi Deia,
      Indeed, Karin’s home – and Karin herself – was beautiful. And I do feel pretty honoured to have had a chance to visit Oslo; given that it’s the most expensive city in the world, it wasn’t terrifically high on my list! But it is gorgeous, and I’ve always wanted to cruise the fjords….done!

      Reply
  2. Cruising the fjords sounds like a fun way to connect with your ‘Inner Tourist’. Instead you treat us to a philosophical musing on yours and Karin’s life. Are you even trying here? You will have to keep rewriting posts like this until you reach ‘tourist Nirvanna’.

    Reply
    • Ha ha – duly noted. I’m being a bad little tourist. (But not really….I think this IS “tourist Nirvana”!)

      Reply
  3. Hi,

    Great images! This line sticks out.

    “Travel brings about lessons; lessons you can’t anticipate, and ones that you rarely sign up for.”

    Oslo looks amazing. Here in Pondicherry India I am being taught amazing lesson after lesson. Fun spot and enlightening too, and not just because I meditated in an ashram yesterday 😉

    Last night while looking from our back porch I saw a man sleeping with stray dogs beside a sewage line/ tiny canal. The homeless folks use the canal as a toilet. No where else to go.

    I cried. I felt lonely because I felt his loneliness, and the dog’s loneliness, and despair. I knew many homeless lived in India, and I knew the scale, but seeing it in person touched my heart.

    The lesson; a part of me I never knew about exists, and my compassionate bawling softened me. I never would have seen this and felt the reality of the situation unless I was looking out of my back porch on the scene some 100 feet away.

    Thanks for the share!

    Reply
    • Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for sharing such a personal story! Indeed, when we see/feel/smell/hear things for ourselves around the world, it is a totally different experience from cognitively knowing a place through reading or watching television.
      Happy meditation!

      Reply
  4. I am almost embarrassed to ask this, but I was completely side-tracked from your writing by the picture of you in the blue coat. Could I ask what brand/where you got that coat? It looks unusually stylish and functional at the same time!

    Reply
  5. Thanks for sharing this post. I’ve been traveling for almost seven months now, and I’m starting to get the “been there, done that” feeling as well of long-term travel. I arrived in Morocco a week ago (my first time) and I’ve been struggling to adjust to the culture shock of another new place with excitement instead of weariness. Still, walking down the streets with my camera and capturing the beauty is one of the things that always helps. Safe and happy travels! -Mariah

    Reply

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