Dawn to Dust

1It’s the middle of summer and I escape the warmth and comfort of our home to chase yet another dream. I have packed everything so we can get fully lost in the wild : my loyal tent, mattresses and sleeping bags, pillows, thermal clothing, one gas stove and plenty of vegan food to keep our bellies happy. My dearest friend, Mari-ann, has accepted to join me on this nomadic adventure. She’s flying from England early in the day whereas I’m only supposed to be landing in Oslo late in the evening. As soon as she sets foot in the country, she heads into the city and relentlessly looks for a compatible gas canister. She dedicates her entire day to finding one but there sadly doesn’t seem to be any.

I get out of the plane and hurriedly gather all of my gigantic backpacks but it takes less than minutes before I am stretched out on the floor, facing the evil hooks on my hiking shoes responsible for one epic fall at the baggage claim. I try getting back up but these hooks are quite diabolical and I tumble again. At one point, I surrender and accept my clumsiness and the considerate yet pitiful looks I get from strangers who are probably thinking ‘This girl can’t even walk out of the airport. Is she really going to venture in the wild and live off soy burgers?‘. I sure am.

I can finally spot Mari-ann waiting for me at the car hire agency. She is talking to the seller and she’s looking effortlessly beautiful. She gives me the most welcoming hug, softening my bruised knees and wild beating heart. I have already rented the cheapest car I could find online so we only need to be taken to the parking lot and start driving in the night. The adventure begins. Or so we thought. It turns out the car we had booked isn’t available anymore and we’re getting another one. It’s slightly different, and we won’t have to pay any more money. As we head towards the fanciest, most luxurious convertible car, our hearts start pounding wildly again. This can’t be that car. This can’t be it. This wasn’t the plan. We needed a dirty car to match our greasy hair and filthy clothing.

The seller disappears in a quick second and we’re left with an automatic car I have never driven before. I figure how to switch the radio on but I can’t seem to turn the car on. The radio sounds pretty good though so I tell Mari-ann the parking lot might not be such a bad place to set the tent. It’s dark and mysterious. We can just stay here, read books and listen to Norwegian tunes all day. I finally manage to start driving and we move so slow it is ridiculous. I have no idea what I’m doing. I just keep thinking ‘I am so going to wreck that car‘.

We drive for hours in the night until we’re too exhausted to keep going and stop in a parking lot to get some rest. We head back on the road in the early morning, wanting to reach Kristiansand. It’s where my best friend’s family lives and she’d always tell me peaceful stories about what life was like there. Our stomachs start moaning but we remember we have no gas canisters to cook our food with. It’s Sunday and we’re in the middle of nowhere. We are hopeless but somehow, as we pass a tiny gas station on the side of the road, I have a feeling there might be something here. Mari-ann is legitimately skeptical but we turn around anyway and look inside the shop. There is nothing. We still try asking the lady who holds the shop if she has anything. She disappears behind the counter and comes back with compatible gas canisters. Our eyes light up to the sound of our growling stomachs. We buy two of them and head back to the car while I jump and dance around in excitement.

We stop by a beautiful lake where we decide to have lunch. It’s all getting so real. We are utterly lost, yet so deeply complete. I have traveled quite a lot but nothing beats getting lost in the wild and engaging with nature. It’s the purest way to falling in love with your solitude and embracing the raw beauty this Earth has to offer. I find myself meditating a lot as I hike mountains and push myself beyond my limits. I cherish every bit of truth and freedom this adventure delivers and reflect on my existence and what it all means.

When I was younger, I thought I knew exactly who I’d become and what I wanted out of life. I had high expectations of myself but I gradually became trapped in them. It was mandatory for me to be happy. I never wanted a prestigious job or a fancy car or a big house. I only ever wanted to feel peace and happiness within my heart. I forgot then it took both sunshine and rain to make a rainbow. Although my complicated childhood led me to grow terrified of the rain, I have finally learned to embrace it. I am thankful for all the times I have collapsed and thought I wouldn’t survive. I am thankful for the pain and the heartbreak and I feel no resentment anymore.

Letting go wasn’t easy. I think we as humans have a tendency to resist whatever is out of our control and bury it inside. I have done a terrific job at shutting down my emotions when I felt they were harming me but the truth is, nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than closing your heart over something. I am finally beginning to see just how badly I have treated myself for things that were out of my control. Things I wish hadn’t happened because they were cruel and unfair. People who have done me wrong and never took responsibility for causing so much pain. I am learning that I no longer have to cling to any of this. I can release all the pain I have built up inside me and choose to experience life with an open heart.

It’s a funny thing, really that it takes standing on the edge of the world at five in the morning to see things clearer. Mari-ann is helping me tremendously, too. She’s not only my hiking companion. She’s the girl with the gigantic heart who writes me letters and sends me handmade postcards and gifts on ordinary days. She’s the person who knows every lyric to every song and sings at the top of her lungs. She makes everything sound melodious and if you ever dare to sing along too and inevitably sound so lousy and off-key, she still encourages you and means every word of kindness she spreads. She holds so much wisdom and beauty inside, which I don’t think she’s even aware of. She’s an absolute treasure of a human being, and this adventure in the wild Norwegian mountains would have never been the same without her.

We hike mountains everyday. We pick up ramblers in the rain. We befriend incredible women at the top of Trolltunga. We make ourselves porridge and cherish the taste of hot almond milk in the morning before we explore waterfalls. We snack on cereal bars and bread and head back into the city whenever we’re out of guacamole. We sing the cheesiest songs on the ferry and drive into the most extraordinary sunsets we have ever been blessed to gaze upon. We chase all the rainbows and cherish every bit of rain in-between. We row on lakes and read in the sun. We pick raspberries and redcurrants everywhere we go and I store them away in my tea mug. We set up our tent in muddy backyards and sleep under the stars. Sometimes, it gets too frosty we have no other choice but to huddle up in the car.

We barely get enough sleep and rarely ever shower but we couldn’t care less. Our mere purpose is to chase the sun each day and let life flow through our bodies. We let go of emotional blockages and allow ourselves to shine. We are excruciatingly alive and it’s all we’ll ever need. On our last day in Norway, we decide we haven’t had enough sweating walking up Preikestolen and Trolltunga so we get ourselves into another crazy intense, endless hike at six in the morning. Soaking up the sunrise, we realize how utterly lost in the wild we are. There are lakes and mountains everywhere around us but no sign of the coast yet. We are trying to make our way to a secret gem located by the sea. It’s only reachable by foot and fraught with pitfalls and our journey is starting to feel hopeless. It’s past midday now and we are on the edge of exhaustion. The only thing that keeps me going at this point is the bread and guacamole in our backpacks.

We finally reach Vetvika in the early afternoon. I get rid of my shoes first but the more I stare at the sea, the more I feel drawn to it. Without hesitation, I remove every single layer of clothing I carry and run into the Nordic sea. I don’t remember whether the water was cold, I only recall feeling exquisitely, supremely alive and hearing my heart pounding from joy. In the distance, I think I catch sight of a woman swimming against the tide. Minutes later, a real mermaid comes up to me and tells me she comes from Bremanger and that she’s been swimming all the way from the village to here. Her spirit is contagious and although we don’t know each other, we find ourselves jumping in the waves and roaring with laughter. Mari-ann is taking stunning polaroids of the surroundings while I bathe my soul in colors and find peace in knowing I am still here. Rainbows truly are worth fighting for, and I’m grateful I’ve remained alive to witness it all.

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