The Gift of Finding Yourself
The Joy of Planning a Trip
Have you ever found, or perhaps re-found, yourself in travel?
A few years ago, during an intense gym session in Krakow, Poland, my friend Paulina and I made a promise to each other, we were going to Norway; neither of us had ever been. We were going to hike (and push ourselves). We were going to do it on a budget (Norway is expensive). We were going to do all of the planning ourselves (because . . . budget).
And just by verbalizing it and making a promise to each other, we made it happen. We began planning in earnest four months in advance, each researching different parts of the trip and putting it all together when we’d meet up for coffee or a long run.
At the time, my kids were 3, 5 and 7. I felt like I had been a mom for so long now that planning a trip without my kids in the picture was a bit anxiety-inducing but also immensely exhilarating. Could I really plan a trip based on all of my interests? Could I choose to do something difficult, knowing that little legs would not have to keep up? Could I actually stay up as late as I wanted, steer clear of all kid-friendly restaurants AND spend uninterrupted time with a friend?
So Paulina and I did just that. We planned a five-day hiking trip to Norway, wearing all of our gear on our backs and staying in Norwegian public huts along the way (they are phenomenal, in case you are wondering), and hiked for hours and hours on all types of terrain through stunning Norwegian National Parks.
The trail and weather conditions changed daily between when we started to plan in February up until the day we left for Bergen, Norway in June. Some hikes were not yet passable due to the winter conditions, even in early June. The Norwegian Trekking Association gurus advised us to wait until arriving in Bergen to speak with local experts to determine safe hiking routes. Because I was so used to the down-to-the-detail style of traveling with kids, it felt unsettling to arrive in Norway with five days of gear, no reservations, and no idea of where we’d be heading, but it was also freeing.
Upon arrival in Bergen, we bought a (pricey, because it was Norway) hiking map and had extensive discussions with the Bergen Trekking Association staff about what we were hoping to do and what routes to hike. They advised us of two full-day hikes, one considered a “black” or expert-level hike from Sunndal to Fonnabu Hut at Folgefonna Glacier in Folgefonna Park, aptly called the “Fjord to Glacier” hike.
The hike was stunningly gorgeous and took us from a beautiful lush forest up to icy, snow-covered rocky peaks (something we were not expecting or fully prepared for in June) to the edge of Folgefonna Glacier. After nine hours of hiking we were exhausted, grateful to have arrived, and overwhelmed by the beauty, tranquility and other-worldliness of this spot that so few others have seen.
Our second hike, a “red,” was just as challenging—if not more so—due to weather. This one was an eight-hour hike from the town of Kinsarvik to Stavali Hut through Husedalen, the Valley of Four Waterfalls, in Hardarngervidda National Park. As the name implies, we hiked past four powerful, awe-inspiring waterfalls at different elevations along the journey. Once we scrambled up massive rock face and landed in the valley, fog started to set in and the trail, marked by stacked piles of rocks every so often, became difficult to find. We did not encounter one single individual for six hours and the only people staying in the Stavali Hut that evening were us.
The Most Harrowing Part
We had to cross a wide, rushing river over which the “summer bridge” was not yet in place. The bridge sat on the land, as if to taunt us, and was definitely too heavy to push into place (believe me, we tried). So what did we have to do? Cross a wide, waist-high icy cold rushing river on foot to continue on the trail. It was not for the faint of heart. It was scary, and cold . . . and after crossing it we still had another 1-2 hours to hike until reaching the hut that evening.
This would not have happened had we hiked during the true summer season; which is July-August in Norway. Blink, and you’ll miss it! But I tell myself we’re stronger for it. It was an experience I’ll not soon forget.
Love a Good Challenge
Our trip to Norway was that, and then some. It was a reset. It humbled me in huge ways. It rewarded me in huge ways. It scared me at times. It forced me to make hard choices. There were times I was in tears because I was so tired. There were other times I was in tears because I was so proud of what I had done. And at the end of the day, I saw me for me.
Not me as a mom.
Not me as a writer.
Not me as a wife.
Not me as a former diplomat.
On this trip I wasn’t a cook, chauffeur, arbiter of arguments, trip planner, master scheduler, nor all of the other roles we play for our kids. This trip was about me pushing myself to my limits and discovering a new, unbelievable place on this planet.
We All Need Trips Like This
You don’t always have to fly half way around the world to find them but you do need to challenge yourself. Do something for yourself. Be somewhat selfish and determine what it is that thrills your soul – and do that. Maybe it’s an improv class; maybe it’s flight lessons; maybe it’s learning how to play a new instrument; maybe it’s the North Pole marathon; maybe it’s a SCUBA certification on the Great Barrier Reef. I don’t care what it is, but plan it.
Then do it!
And in doing so, find yourself. Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the second, third, or fourth time.
My trip to Norway, at 39 years old, was hugely empowering. It was a moment that I made happen. One that required bravery, pushed me, taught me and helped me realize how much I had craved and needed a dose of solo, self-reflection and validation.
Oh, and a little tidbit of information I wasn’t even aware of when planning this trip: I was pregnant at the time with baby number 4. So you know, all things are possible.
This is an original post for World Moms Network from our contributor in Ukraine, Loren Braunohler. The image in this post is attributed to the author.