torsdag 24. juli 2014

Wanderlust in Norway.

"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place" - Miriam Adeney

When deciding on a name for my blog, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted it to be. Partly because I'm very indecisive, and partly because the idea of me writing a blog was a bit weird. In an attempt to be simplistic and to the point, I ended up with the name Wanderlust Suzy. The definition of wanderlust is "a strong innate desire to rove or travel about". To me it conveys adventure and excitement. I feel that this past semester has been just about that. I have challenged myself in ways I never thought I would; I have jumped out of a plane, scubadived in the Great Barrier Reef and with sharks (albeit harmless ones), abseiled into dark caves, and heaps more. More importantly though, I left my comfort zone of Norway, and traveled halfway across the world to a new place. I was lucky to meet so many wonderful people in Australia, people from all around the world that have made this past semester better than I could have ever imagined. I look back at my time abroad with fondness. When friends and colleagues ask me how my semester abroad was, it is hard to convey what a fabulous experience it was without me ending up rambling on about all the things I've done and the people I've met. 

As silly (and self absorbed) as it may sound, I have read through my previous blog posts these past few days. Going through my blog, post by post, reminds me of the all the good times I've had this past semester. However, my blog does not portray a completely accurate picture of my time in Australia; there were so many experiences that didn't make the blog. You know, all those little things that seemed arbitrary at the time or weren't exciting enough to share with the world, like long nights at the Macquarie library or walks to Woolworth's or the Macquarie Center. I never thought I would be one to share my experiences with the world through a blog; I'm very glad I did though. I'm glad I diligently wrote about the things I experienced because it makes me so happy to read about all the things I did, how I felt, and the little details that I likely would have forgotten.

To be honest, coming home was a little anticlimactic. I (somewhat naively) expected everything to be wonderful and fabulous once I got off the plane in Oslo. Although it was wonderful and fabulous in many ways, I missed Australia. I still do... Very much. Part of my heart is definitely still in Sydney. I have been back in Norway for two weeks now, and it is still a little surreal being home. It has finally hit me that my time in Australia is over. I feel like a different person coming back to Norway after my semester abroad. While in Australia, I was someone who said yes to daring things, someone who lived in the moment, and aimed to experience as much as possible. 

Though I am missing aspects of Australia (especially the sound of kookaburras outside my bedroom window), Norway is indeed a beautiful place to call home. I feel like I'm seeing Norway with new eyes and extra colors after being gone for so long. Norway in the summertime is spectacular, and the nature is breathtaking. The Weather Gods have granted us with many days of sunshine, reaching maximum temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius/91 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things, but I still feel the need to actively battle the post-study-abroad blues by keeping myself busy. It has been great spending time with friends and family these past two weeks. It doesn't seem like a single day has passed when I'm with them, and that's truly a great feeling. After spending 6 months abroad, it is also time to replenish my bank account. I've started working full-time at the psychiatric ward again, and alternate between day shifts, evening shifts, and night shifts. I enjoy working with old colleagues and getting to know and helping new patients. 

Sunday stroll to Majordammen with Trine Lise and Ruben

Bestefar and I
I've missed having my own kitchen. 

I've also missed hosting dinners with the girls. Reidun, Tanja, Trine Lise, Hulda, Pernille, and Helene came over for dinner one of the first days I was home. 
My friend, Bjørn, took me out for a fabulous dinner before I went to the night shift at work (Fun fact: His name translates to "Bear" in English. How neat is that?)
My lovely neighbors, Helge, Inger, and Reidun, came over for coffee and cake one evening after work.
The view from my living room. This will never get old. 
I find myself striving to remain the adventurous person I was these past six months. I'm eager to explore more of Norway now that I am back. I've always known that there are heaps of things to do and see in Norway, but I I haven't felt the urgent need to do all these things. I've thought that there will be time to do those things later. No rush. After being in Australia, I realize there's no better time than the present, and it's time to get started on crossing off things on my Norway-to-do-list. 

This past weekend I crossed off one of these items. My friend Pernille and I rented a car, and drove the 4,5 hour drive to Jotunheimen to hike the Besseggen ridge. Besseggen is Norway's most frequently executed mountain hike with over 30 000 visitors completing the hike annually. It was time for us to give it a go! 

Our sleeping quarters for the night was a 16 person dorm at the cozy Gjendesheim Tourist Lodge. The weather forecast said it would be gorgeous the following day (i.e. lots of people going to hike) and we arrived at around 9pm, so we were very lucky that we got to stay in room with beds. The people that arrived after us, had to settle for mattresses on the floor in the common areas. 
We woke up early the next morning at around 6am. We packed up our stuff, had a quick breakfast in the car, and caught the first ferry from Gjendesheim to Memurubu. 

The first hour of the hike proved to be the most challenging. The rather steep incline was a reminder that neither of us had done much hiking the previous months. Once we got past the first part, the rest was fairly painless. We were likely distracted by our beautiful surroundings; the dark blue Bessvatn Lake and the emerald green Lake Gjende was astonishing. 

It was a beautiful day to go hiking. We were a little worried that we would be walking alongside heaps of people due to the beautiful weather conditions, but it wasn't too crowded. We stopped some of our fellow hikers to say hello. 

I don't consider myself to be a person that is afraid of heights, but walking on the narrow ridge proved to be a challenge for both Pernille and I. There is a roughly 400meter/1312foot drop straight down to Lake Gjende, so I guess it's understandable that we were a little apprehensive. You actually had to climb at certain points. Yikes! 
Pernille was ready for the challenge. 
Happy to be at the top. 
At one point when we were in Australia, my friend Sydney and I were addicted to King Size Kit Kat bars. Coming back to Norway, I realize that nothing quite compares to the Norwegian equivalent: Kvikk Lunsj (In English this translates to Quick Lunch). Pernille and I made sure we had an ample amount of these on our hike. 

We also made sure we had Gjende cookies. These are originally from the Gjende area, so it was a very fitting snack indeed.
The large pile of rocks in the distance marked the highest point of the hike, 1734meters/5689feet above sea level. 

I was excited to try out my new hiking boots. At the end of the 17km/10.5mile hike, I realized how foolish it was to go on such a long hike in new footwear. I knew I was taking a risk, but they felt so comfy before I left. Putting on my trusted Asics running shoes felt like a vacation for my feet after wearing those hiking boots all day.The hike usually takes between 5-7 hours to complete. The current record for completing the hike is 1 hour and 14 minutes. Due to frequent stops to admire our surroundings (and painful footwear), we completed the hike in 6,5 hours. Once we got back to the lodge, we packed up the car and hit the road. The journey home went by relatively quickly. We stopped and had a traditional Norwegian dinner ("kjøttkaker" and potatoes), and also made some new friends along the way. 

In a mere few weeks, the semester at the University of Tromsø starts. Jam packed days of clinical psychology lectures and therapy sessions await! I'm so excited to finally apply all the knowledge we have (hopefully) acquired in therapy sessions with our very own patients. Don't get me wrong, it will be nerve wracking having a live human being wanting help across the table... But it will be fun.

The goal of this blog was to keep friends and family updated while abroad, and I think I succeeded in this task. I haven't quite decided if I am going to continue posting. Perhaps continuing will encourage me to keep crossing things off my Norway-do-to-list? We'll see. Either way, thank you all for reading. It's been fun sharing the things I never thought I would do in a way I never thought I would. 

Until next time. 


tirsdag 8. juli 2014

Home Sweet Home

Approximately 36 hours ago I was in Sydney, and now after over a day of traveling I'm in Norway. Here I am, back in my house in Drammen. It is somewhat surreal that my time abroad is over, and that I'm already back in Norway. I don't think it has fully hit me yet. 

The journey from Sydney to Drammen went surprisingly well. Our route went from Sydney to Singapore to London to Oslo, followed by an hour train ride to Drammen. The total flying time was 23 hours, and the whole journey took about 30 hours. Both of the long flights went very well. I was surprised at how refreshed I felt when we stepped off the 13 hour flight in London. Isabelle and I were both able to sleep quite a bit, so that made a huge difference. Despite not being too exhausted after the long flights, it was a great feeling getting off the last plane in Oslo. Poor Isabelle had another 6 hour layover before getting on the two hour flight to Tromsø. 
Not too excited about the looong journey. 
Isabelle was VERY excited when she found these koalas. 
Synchronized travellers at London Heathrow Airport

I had quite a bit of time to think about the last months while on the long journey home. One thing I kept asking myself was "What will I miss from Australia?" The most important thing I will miss is obviously all the wonderful people that I got to know; that's a given. Besides the people, there are quite a few other random things I will miss, too. I made a quick list while trying to make the time pass on the first flight. I quickly gave up trying to make an exhaustive list; there are far too many things I will miss. Here's the 20 first things I could think of (which is in no particular order, by the way):
1. Screaming/laughing birds (I just love those hilarious ravens and kookaburras)
2. Australian politeness (for example, saying thank you to the bus driver when exiting the bus)
3. Gelato from Messina (suprise, suprise)
4. Seeing the Opera House on a weekly basis 
5. Driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge by bus/train to get to the city 
6. The Aussie accent
7. Smoothies from Boost (Mango Magic and Passion Mango were the best) 
8. The convertible seats on the train which enables you to always face the right direction (oh so convenient!) 
9. Australian expressions (e.g. "How you goin'?", "Sweet as", "Cheers", and "No worries")
10. The way Rhiannon (Isabelle's roommate) said "That's alright", and how Isabelle and I would imitate her because we thought it was adorable. 
11. Seeing people already swimming laps when going to 6am workout classes at the Macquarie Sports & Aquatic Center. 
12. Randomly seeing people walk around barefoot like it's no big thing (which it really isn't in Australia)
13. Being in the future (because of time difference)
14. My adventurous attitude and willingness to try new things (hopefully this will continue even though I've come back to Norway)
15. Speaking English every day 
16. Being able to go to the beach whenever 
17. Flat whites (though I missed regular filtered coffee, these caffeinated beverages grew on me) 
18. Australian/New Zealand cider 
19. The sound the street crossing sign made ("PEW PEW"... Just like a lazer beam)
20. The security guards at the Macquarie library who took their jobs waaaay too seriously

Though we were greeted by grey, drab weather, it was nice to land in Oslo. Isabelle and I had finally made it to Norway! We quickly went through Immigration, stopped by the Duty Free shop, picked up our bags, and made our way out to the departure hall. Isabelle and I said our goodbyes, and I got on the train to Drammen. I looked like a little packrat with all my luggage. My Papa picked me up at the station in Drammen, and it was good to see his cheerful face. 
I started unpacking as soon as I got home. As much as I dislike packing, I dislike unpacking even more. I feel like you should unpack the same way you pull off a bandaid; doing it very quickly makes it less painful. Yet again I wondered how in the world I managed to accumulate so many things in such a short amount of time. 

I had just put away the last few things, when my friend, Reidun, showed up at my door. After catching up for a while, Pernille also came over. It was great seeing these two after 6 months of being away. I'm really looking forward to seeing the rest of the girls and other friends soon!
Though it feels a little surreal and a tad bit strange, it's good to be home. I think it will feel even better after a good night's sleep in my own bed. Goodnight from Norway! 


mandag 7. juli 2014

Minimalistic Packing & Goodbyes

Our time in the Southern Hemisphere has come to an end. In a mere few hours Isabelle and I will be getting on a plane and heading back to Norway. I've said it before and I'll say it again; it is amazing how quickly the time has flown by. It seems like just yesterday we arrived sunny Sydney, and now it's time to leave. 
Leaving means having to pack up all your things. In an attempt to procrastinate studying for exams last semester, I started watching episodes of "Hoarders" and reading books on minimalism and hoarding. Nothing makes you want to declutter and get rid of things as much as watching people (literally and figuratively) being buried in stuff. I suddenly felt the urge to get rid of the unnecessary things I owned. 
When I found out that I would be studying abroad and would have to move all my things from Tromsø to my hometown, Drammen, I realized it would be silly to move things I didn't really need or use. After getting into the minimalist mindset, I started going through all my things, both in Tromsø and Drammen, trying to get rid of things I didn't use/need/like. When I left Norway in the middle of January, my possessions had been considerably downsized, making it relatively easy to pack for my semester abroad. 

Though I felt like I hardly brought anything with me when I left Norway, I had some difficulties when I started packing the other day. Making everything fit into my bags was quite the challenge. It's amazing how much one can accumulate within such a short period of time. Where did all these things come from?

Everything wouldn't possibly fit into my bags, so it was yet again time to downsize the things I owed. Being the sentimental hoarder that I am, it has been difficult for me to throw away random sentimental things like ticket stubs and coasters from restaurants. It's like if I throw them away, I throw away the memories (after reading all the books on hoarding, I understand this is not the case). After a few rounds of my favorite packing game,"Do I really NEED this?", sorting items into keep and donate piles, I have managed to pack everything in my 55L backpack, a small suitcase, and a purse. I'm sure there's still heaps of things in my bag that I still really don't "need". Oh well, as long as my bag isn't overweight! 

The last few few days in Sydney have been enjoyable, but also a little sad. Leaving also means saying goodbye to a marvelous city and the people who have made my time here so enjoyable. I have been blessed to meet a bunch of great people here in Australia from all over the world. Saying goodbye to friends is never fun, especially when you don't know when you will see them again. Walking along the streets of Sydney for the last time also makes me a little sentimental. I guess this is one of those times that you just have to be happy for everything we have done and people we have met rather than being sad it is over. 
After packing up all our stuff at the apartments at the Village, we headed to the city to check in to our hotel.
Isabelle also accumulated quite a bit of stuff. Her backpack is taller than she is! 
We spent our last Saturday evening (June 5th) at Anne and Charlie's apartment. We had dinner, played fun games and talking. We rediscovered the game "Camping Trip", which entails one person making up a rule for what you may or may not bring on a camping trip and the others trying to figure out the rule. One round we could only bring things that were red, another round we could only bring things that started with the letter B, etc. The best part of the game is when everyone has figured out the rule except for one person. It may sound lame, but it is heaps of fun! After a few too many rounds of this game, we headed out for a few drinks.

The following two days (June 6th and 7th) were spent walking around the city and different neighborhoods soaking In the last bit of Sydney-ness. We stopped by my favorite place, Messina, for one final gelato treat. Ahh... I will miss the Salted Caramel with White Chocolate and the Milk Chocolate with Peanut Fudge. 
I will definitely miss this beautiful city. 
Well, it's soon time for departure, so I better wrap it up for now. Our first flight to Singapore is 8 hours, our second flight from Singapore to London is 13 hours, and our last flight from London to Oslo is 2 hours. It's going to be a long day.

søndag 6. juli 2014

Last trip in Australia

Yesterday (June 5th) I got home from my last trip in Australia. I flew up to Ballina/Byron Bay on Wednesday (June 2nd) to hang out with my friend, Christian, for a few days. The flight from Sydney to Ballina is only a little over an hour, so it wasn't too long of a journey to get there. Christian grew up in the area, and he showed me around all the must-see places. We had a lot of fun, and he turned out to be a fabulous guide (not that I was doubting his guide skills). I love having a local at my disposal to show me around! 

The first place Christian took me was the Pat Morton Lookout in Lennox Head. From the top of Lennox Point, we had a truly great view.
We wanted to have a picnic lunch at Cape Byron Lighthouse, but we weren't the only ones who wanted to go there on this particular sunny day. There were cars and people everywhere, and there were no vacant parking spots. We decided to have our lunch at Wategos Beach instead, which wasn't a bad place to have lunch if you ask me. 
After lunch, Christian had to go off and get some things done for work. I just hung around by the beach, and was happy as a clam. The weather was gorgeous; sunny and warm with a slight breeze. The time I spent just laying on the grass looking out over the water was great. I heard the waves crash against the beach, and saw them splash along in a sort of domino effect. The sunlight glistened on the water, and looked like millions of diamonds. Simply beautiful. 
After laying by the beach lazily for a few hours, I decided it was time to get moving. I walked from Wategos Beach to the Main Beach via a nice walkway along the coast. 
I window shopped in some of the cute shops for a bit before finding a spot on the grass by the beach. The sunset was beautiful, and the colors on the water were magnificent. Just after the sunset, Christian returned from work. 
Christian grew up on a farm in Doubtful Creek, about 100km/62miles from Byron Bay. I wanted to see some of the Australian countryside, so naturally I was super excited when Christian said we could go up there. Before we made our way to the farm we stopped by the Cape Byron Lighthouse. 
The drive to Doubtful Creek was nice. It was already dark when we got there, so I wasn't able to see much of the surrounding area. I did, however, see an absolutely gorgeous starry sky. It was amazing how many stars we could see. 
Aside from the fire building skills, Christian also showed off his superb piano skills. Hearing him play made me regret not continuing taking lessons when I was younger. My poor rendition of "Heart and Soul" and the first ten notes of "Für Elise" paled in comparison to the songs Christian played. 
The next day (July 4th), I got a much better view of the farm and the area. It was such a charming place, and it reminded me a lot of my Bestemor and Bestefar's (Norwegian grandparents) farm. 
There were heaps of gorgeous trees around. 
I wanted the cows to come and say hello. Unfortunately, they decided to keep a safe distance. Even Christian's excellent cow-mooing sounds didn't make them come closer (the cows did moo back though). 
After a nice breakfast, we headed to the Border Ranges National Park in the afternoon to explore the World Heritage listed rainforest. What a great way to spend the 4th of July! 
The view from the Pinnacle Lookout was gorgeous. 
As were the waterfalls and other things we saw. 
It was a great few days, and I'm glad I managed to squeeze in one last trip before leaving. It's hard to believe that it was my last trip in Australia. It's also hard to believe that I will be heading home to Norway tomorrow afternoon... Yikes! Where has the time gone?