My first flight on my own, and my first trip abroad alone. To say I was nervous would be somewhat of an understatement.
After my mini-Europe adventure in December, I was starting to get itchy feet again by mid January. So when the opportunity arose to go to Norway for a week with work, I agreed to go…after just a bit of encouragement from friends and family. The thought of going somewhere on my own was daunting, but I told myself over and over that this was something I had to do, to prove to myself that I could.
And so I found myself at Heathrow airport on a chilly Sunday morning, preparing to board my flight after a crazy, hectic and last minute weekend of organising. The down side of travelling with work was that I couldn’t organise anything myself, and it was all left to a colleague who was actually travelling to Kenya when I found out my bookings had been cancelled. Cue a crazy Friday morning of trying to make sure I had flights and accommodation booked for my stops in Norway, before rushing around on Saturday to make sure I’d be prepared for a week in the coldest country I’d visit so far.
After struggling to check in online for my flight, I convinced myself on Saturday night that I was completely incapable of travelling alone and I just wouldn’t go. Turns out, this attitude gets you nowhere – who knew?! – and I very reluctantly packed my bag, hoping something would come up that meant I wouldn’t have to go.
The flight to Stavanger was short, smooth and very comfortable with about only thirty people on the plane. Great start with my first solo flight! Feeling totally empowered, I next tackled the job of finding the airport bus and then working out how to tell the driver when it was my stop.
Finally arriving at my hotel, I was a bit disappointed to find myself slap bang in the middle of a business district. There were no restaurants around, no shops, and nothing to do. Hoping to make the most of my free day in Stavanger, I settled in for a power nap with the intention of heading into the city centre for the afternoon. And as with most of my best made plans, it didn’t happen. I’m not an early morning person, and the early start had completely wiped me out. When I woke up from my ‘power nap’, it was getting dark and I was super thirsty. Spotting a petrol station from my window, I ventured out to spend a small fortune on a couple of bottles of water, before realising there really wasn’t anything else around and heading back to the hotel for dinner.
And of course, this plan didn’t go too well either – you could only sample one of the three dishes on the restaurant menu if you’d pre booked a table, regardless of whether there were only four other people in there or not. I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was, but settled for a strange sandwich from the mini shop in the hotel lobby instead.
The next day was a work day, which saw me attending a convention in the morning and having the afternoon free. Just my kind of work day! As the afternoon was the only time I had left to explore Stavanger, I started the half hour walk toward the city centre, through a stunning park opposite the hotel. It was only as I reached the other side of the park that I realised I had no idea where I was or how much longer it’d take to get into town. Spotting a bus stop, I took the lazy option and caught the bus the rest of the way.
Stavanger centre is just what I’d imagined Norway to be – white clad buildings, water, fish and charm. While there wasn’t a great deal open, I was able to see the cathedral (Norway’s oldest!) and wander around the shopping area and harbour. It was at this point that I really started to enjoy the whole ‘solo travel’ thing, and realised that I could stop and take photos every two minutes without annoying anyone, and I could get lost without impacting on anyone else, and once I was tired I could just go back without worrying about someone else wanting to do more.
And so, after exploring for a few hours, I grabbed some dinner and made my way back to the hotel, ready for another early morning the next day.
Once the morning convention was done and dusted, I had a flight booked for the early evening to take me to Bergen, where I had a few more work conventions to attend. After grabbing my suitcase from the hotel, I caught the airport bus back to the airport by the skin of my teeth, and was through security in next to no time. Which meant that because I’d allowed extra time to be safe, I now had over three hours to waste in airport that had two shops. Thankfully I had my iPad and was able to watch a film on the sofas – yes, they have sofas in the departure lounge! – before boarding my 30 minute flight to Bergen to carry on my trip!
Stavanger was a great stop for me, and I’ll be going back one summer to really take in the amazing sights and scenery in the area! And also, I forgot to get a postcard – it’s the first time I’ve visited somewhere in 10 years and not got a postcard!