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14 – Returning Home

Oh, the biking gods are fickle beings. I woke up to the patter of rain on my tent. My, as I had begun to realize, non-waterproof tent. Big droplets of water are dripping down on my and my sleeping bag. I look at the time. It’s 7am, and I’ve got no reason to get up. So I simply accept these facts of my current life, and go back to sleep.

It’s still raining at 9am. It’s bitterly cold. I look outside. It’s not just raining:

It’s also snowing.

My hands are freezing from just a quick spring to my poor, drenched bike. I climb back into the tent and show blatant disregard for each and every warning on the tent manual by lighting a fire. I call my brother. “What are you doing?” He asks, as he can hear the sound of the fire in the background. “Heating up water for my morning coffee!” I reply. “Well, if you set my tent on fire, do replace it.” I laugh. “Dude, if I set this tent on fire, I’m dead.” The warm coffee is totally worth it, though.

I pack up my tent. It’s unbearably cold. Everything is wet. The tent weighs twice as much as when it’s dry. Thankfully I won’t have to carry any more food. I’ve eaten every single food I own. “I can just buy a nice sandwich at the airport,” I think to myself. I ride my bike into town. I need to get to the bicycle store, and buy a bike travel bag for the flight. I’m hoping they’ll help me take my bike apart. I’ve never done that part before. I allow myself to daydream that the shopkeeper will be so impressed of my adventure, that she’ll even offer to ride me to the airport. Maybe even throw in a hot coffee, as most Norwegians do. I smile to myself.

The bike store is closed. The sports store is closed. I’ve forgotten it’s a holiday. I’m screwed. Oh my bolts, I am so screwed. I ride my bike around the city. I need something, anything to wrap my bike in. No one’s in town, everyone must be at church, or has been significantly more intelligent than me and not left their homes. It’s cold. And it’s raining, pouring by now. I turn a corner. There’s a pile of trash out on the road – there’s a cardboard box.

It’s a cardboard box for a BIKE.

It still has the shipping stamp on it. I perform a small happy dance, and then proceed to rummage around the trash to get at my box. A few people pass me by. I wave. They smile. They continue walking, but in a faster pace than before. “Norwegians are so nice,” I think, as I nearly fall head over into the dumpster, trying to get at my new treasure.

I have a sling that I’ve used to keep my bags tied together.

I tie that around two holes in the box and sling it over my shoulder.

I check how far away the airport is. My map says it’s an hour walk. It’s still pouring. I’m worried my treasure will turn into cardboard slush, so I dive back into the dumpsters, empty two trash bags and tie those over the top of the box. I’m so drenched that I can squeeze small puddles of water out of my gloves by now. I sling the box back across my shoulder, and soldier on in the rain.


It won’t stop pouring. My sling has torn into my cardboard box 4 times now. I’ve added a carabineer to each hole, and tie the sling into that. The carabineers distribute the pressure more evenly, and I manage to reach the airport. Not before I’ve stepped into a huge puddle of water, and been sprayed by a car rushing past me in perfect Hollywood fashion. My feet make squishy sounds with every step. Temperatures have dropped to around 2°C.”Just…. Make it to the airport… And then we’ll have coffee. It’s gonna be okay!” I tell myself. Red is quiet, except for the occasional squeak. I need to oil the poor thing.

The airport has no café. The airport barely has any staff. Only 5 flights leave per day. There’s a vending machine which sells coffee, but it doesn’t take cash, and won’t take my card.I have no food left. “Great. So, after all of this, I now get to fast for nearly 24 hours.” But at least it’s dry, and I spread out all of my belongings across the heaters and benches. A man watches me. A few minutes later, he offers to take my picture with all of my wet belongings.

His name is Jonathan, and he’s from Britain. “But I’ve lived in Sweden for 4 years now,” he says. He’s from Malmö, and works for IKEA. Only then do I realize that I haven’t seen a single IKEA on my entire trip. We complain about the size of the airport, and the vending machine. “It’s awful, I don’t have any food left, and I was really hoping for a café!” I tell him. He’s quiet for a moment. “Do you have a heater?” – “Yeah….?” He runs out to his car and comes back with an open packet of pancakes, and 3 dehydrated adventure food packs. “Take it!” He says, putting the packs down next to me, and adding two apples for good measure. I don’t know what to say. “Thank you so, so much…” I stammer.

He then proceeds to help me take the pedals off my bike. I’ve forgotten to take a wrench with me for the pedals. Then his brother arrives. They’re going back down to Malmö along the Norwegian coast in a Landrover. He and his brother wave goodbye to me.

I continue to fiddle around with my bike, and begin the weary process of taking Red apart. Just as I take off the handlebars, a security guard comes up to me. “I’m closing the airport now, you have to leave.” I stare at him. “What?” He repeats himself, but more slowly this time. “What?!” I repeat. He tries again, and I wave him off. “I get it, it’s just that….” Red is right behind me, halfway through being taken apart. My tent, my clothes, everything is strewn around the airport. “Can you give me… 10 minutes?” The guard nods, and walks off.

I panic-pack everything back into my wet bags. My shoes are still wet. My tent is still dripping. My rain jacket is heavy with all the water its absorbed. I try to put Red in the box. The box is too small. I’ll need to take the tires off before packing. I utter a string of curse words, too crude to be written down here. I carry everything outside the airport doors, and the guard waves goodbye. I’m too grumpy to nod. With Red taken apart as it is, I can’t go into the woods to camp. I decide to set up camp right there, in front of the airport building. I spread out my mat, and make myself dehydrated adventure food dinner, provided by Jonathan. I’m almost a little happy again, when I hear it: “Dear passengers. Please do not leave your luggage unattended.” They’ve forgotten to turn off the safety warning. It’s going to go off every 30 minutes.

I scream, silently, on the inside. The biking gods giveth, and they taketh.

“Dear passengers. Please do not leave your luggage unattended.” It’s cold outside the airport. I’m using the bike box, and half-disassembled Red as a shield from the wind. It’s working, but not in any award worthy fashion.

I start writing my travel stories, when two men walk up to me. They want to enter the airport. “It’s closed,” I tell them. “But we just want to use the ATM!” one of them cries, waving his hands in front of the sensors at the doors. The doors don’t care. “Why are you sitting here?” I tell them my story, of my bike ride, and of today, of the bike box and the weather and how wet my shoes are. “We can’t let you sleep in front of the airport in the cold! You’re such a ….” Man number 1 can’t stop himself, and finishes the sentence. “…such a small girl,” he ends. They offer to let me stay in their basement for the night. “It’s right over there, just 300m. We’re good guys, really!” Man number 2 adds helpfully. I can feel that they are just trying to be helpful, so I pack up my belongings, which I’ve strewn all over the front of the airport, and follow them.


The house belongs to their construction company, and is basically a hostel for construction workers. The men are from Estonia. Walther even speaks a little German, which he proudly tells me – in German. Roger is the younger one of the two. He doesn’t live in the hostel, but in a house with a little sauna close by. They both came to Norway for the pay. “We earn 5000€ here per month. It’s really nice to go home with that,” Roger says. Does he miss home? “Yes… I really miss black bread. Sometimes, I miss black bread more than my wife, but don’t ever tell her that!” He laughs. He works in Norway for 6 weeks, and then goes back home for 6 weeks. “It’s a good rhythm.” Walther on the other hand has lived in Alta for 5 years now. “Though really, I just change clothes here,” he confides. His company sends him all around Norway for work.

The basement is an empty bar. Roger brings me some tools with which I continue to take poor Red apart. He keeps looking at me and shaking his head. “So small. Really, 3000km?”

Walther asks what I do for a living. “I’m a scientist!” I answer. He honest to god bows to me. “That’s very impressive.” I don’t know what to say, and just smile. “Do you have a lot of education?” Roger asks. “I think so…? I mean, I’ve been studying and working for 8 years by now.” It’s never hit me until now how long I’ve been a lab rat.

We talk about Estonia. “There’s no middle class. People don’t get paid much. The bare minimum anyone is paid is 400€, and that doesn’t help you survive.” Walther is upset. “The politicians, they’re ****ting on the people who voted for them.” Roger isn’t listening, and instead shows me some pictures of his wife. “That’s me and Riu at my dad’s wedding.” He has 9 small pictures of her in his jacket. He goes through them for a few minutes, smiling. “I still miss black bread more,” he says, winking at me.

The two leave me in peace to pick at Red, while they run off to check on a new car Roger wants to buy. He wants to hear Walther’s opinion on it.

I finally manage to get Red all packed up.

I’m tired. I wonder if the adventure will be over once I turn the key in the lock to my apartment back home. “Or maybe, life was always this adventurous… I just never noticed.” I think to myself.

I can’t believe it’s almost time to fly home.

I don’t feel ready.

Or do I?