When I was 15, I was invited to perform at the Halogaland Country Music Festival which is one of the largest music festivals held in Northern Norway. This was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity. My parents and I began our journey in Jacksonville, Florida where we caught a plane to Washington, Dc. The plane in Washington, DC was delayed due to weather so by the time we got to Brussels, Belgium we missed our next two flights. In order to make it to our final destination on the same day, we had to be re-routed to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Oslo, Norway and then to Harstad, Norway.
The first thing I learned about international travel is that every time you enter a country, you have to get your luggage, go through Customs and Immigration and then check back in for your next flight. This doesn’t seem like a big deal in words, but in reality it is a very stressful and time consuming experience depending upon the time of day, the country, the number of people traveling and how long you have between flights. Especially when you have to visit four countries in one day! Traveling internationally when you need assistance is very humbling. There was never a time that I could not communicate with someone who spoke English. I cannot imagine how it would have been otherwise.
Harstad, Norway is a small town on the island of Hinnoy and is breathtakingly beautiful. We stayed in a hotel that faced the harbor called the Grand Nordic Hotel. We were on the top floor of the 4 story hotel and our view was stunning. The dark cold water was outlined by an Azure sky with puffy clouds and snow capped mountains in the distance. We visited in July and the summer temperature was a cool 60 degrees during the day. My visit coincided with the midnight sun so for the whole week we visited, there was always daylight. It never felt like it was evening, so I never wanted to go to bed.
Some of the residents of Harstad live on islands surrounding the town and have to travel by ferry each day to go to work, to get groceries or to shop. Everything is more expensive than in the United States although the Norwegian’s are paid a higher living wage. Due to the low value of the US dollar, a typical McDonald’s type meal of a burger, fries and drink cost us $20! Fortunately for us, most of our meals were provided!
Elementary students in Norway are expected to learn their own language, English, and they have to pick another language. High School students travel abroad in the summer and the government actually pays for it. It helps that the economy is thriving in Norway.
One thing I noticed as we traveled is that most of the people we saw in Belgium, Germany, and Norway were thin compared to American’s. I think that it’s due to the differences in what they eat. For example the hotel breakfast did not consist of fried eggs, hash browns, pancakes and bacon. We were offered hard boiled eggs, cheeses, bread and deli meat. Lunch was the same as breakfast. Even the beef that was served in hamburgers was very lean.
The festival was amazing and the Norwegian’s gracious. I met musical artists from England, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Australia and the United States. Besides English, music was our universal language. I will never forget the people I met. This trip showed me that there is an amazing world beyond my backyard.
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