With a jolt, my family and I were awoken by the piercing horn of the ferry, signifying our entrance into Norway. To my mother, this was a melancholy reminder of the life she had left behind to raise her family in America. My sister, father and I anxiously looked over the crisp waters of the North Sea, spotting the green hills in the distance. Hours earlier, we had left my grandparent’s home in Rønde, Denmark on an expedition my mother swore would be the greatest adventure yet. It was a lofty statement, all things considered. In a family where suitcases lines the garage walls, rather than the usual bustle of misplaced items, we were no strangers to exotic places. Driving off of the ferry, my sister and I watched in awe at these mysterious signs passing by, flaunting words we could not hope to understand but admired all the same. My mother only smiled; a veteran Norway traveler, she was thrilled to have us there.
Fjords became the first new word of my vocabulary; living in the desert had done little to help me appreciate bodies of water. Winding through the mountains, into tunnels and across bridges, I was awestruck. The lush landscape definitely caught this Las Vegas teenager off guard. Our grandfather had loaned us every piece of camping gear we could ask for in preparation. Our first stop: Geiranger, Norway. Like a cup nestled in the hands of the mountains at the end of Geiranger Fjord, the colors resembled a box of Crayola crayons. Waterfalls lept from every angle. We had just begun to settle when a bucket overturned in the sky above us. July seemed to mean nothing in the tundra, as the temperature dropping quickly. Madness ensued as we lept into our tent like kangaroos, wrestling over our meager blankets.
A seemingly minor event, it was the glue that began to hold our family together throughout that trip. We had violently sought the blankets for warmth, but quickly assimilated the mindset of a group. I nestled tightly into a sleeping bag with my sister, my parents quickly following. We basked in the warmth of each other, resembling American penguins that were in way too deep. Nuzzling into my neck, my younger sister fell asleep, prompting me to do the same. We awoke to a sloshing, realizing the mistake of pitching our tent in a low area of the campground. Though comfortable, it was not necessarily practical to sleep on this water bed the rain had created for us. Our sleeping bags were soaked through, our was deep in a sludge of mud.
“Why us?”we had murmured.
“My English not very good,” a voice spoke behind us, “but do you need help?”
My family and I stood awestruck at this man, an elderly neighboring camper, offering us assistance. The rain cover on his tent had been blown away, and he spoke what limited knowledge of the English language he had to aid us. Our little unit quickly grew. It was a culture dominated by the idea of companionship and a lack of pity. Our remaining road trip was marked by trials that would scare many. There were afternoons spent lost in the forest, nights sustained by top ramen. My family was binded by the strongest of rope. As the elderly camper had taught us at that fateful stop in Geiranger, when life gives you one hundred reasons to frown, show it you have a thousand reasons to smile.
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