My first flight on my own, my first trip abroad on my own. To say I was nervous would be a massive understatement.
After a couple of weeks city-hopping in Europe before Christmas, by January I had itchy feet again. I was back in the routine of work and craving the opportunity for a new experience. So when my job offered the chance to go to Norway for a week, I couldn’t believe my luck. These trips came up once every few years, and they’d picked me to go!
Initially so excited, I quickly remembered that I suffered from quite severe travel anxiety. Thinking it wouldn’t be possible for me to travel by myself, I nearly declined the offer before getting a stern talking to from friends and family.
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. Not great for someone with anxiety…
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 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 best made plans, it didn’t happen. The early start and anxiety of the weekend 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 was the real reason I was in Norway. Work day used here in the loosest term, as it was just a convention in the morning and the afternoon was all mine to explore. That’s my kind of work day!
The afternoon was the only time I had left to explore Stavanger, so 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. This was before we had EU roaming, so Google Maps wasn’t much help as I stood in the middle of a pretty Norwegian park contemplating my options. 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, charming harbours and fish. While there wasn’t a great deal open, a walk around the central square came complete with views of the cathedral, which is Norway’s oldest!. I then had a wander around the shopping area and harbour, at which point I really started to enjoy the whole ‘solo travel’ thing. I could stop and take photos every two minutes without annoying anyone, and I could get lost without impacting on anyone else. Once I was tired, I could just go back without worrying about someone else wanting to do more. Yep, I was a fan of solo travel!
Once the morning convention was done and dusted the next day, I had a flight booked for the early evening to take me to Bergen, where further work commitments awaited. Feeling more confident about getting around a foreign city, 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 the 30 minute flight to Bergen.
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!