Lufthansa A330 Old First Class DFW-FRA
Driving the Nurburgring Nordschleife
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Oslo to celebrate Chris Guillebeau
Singapore A380 Suites Class FRA-SIN
Singapore Airlines Private Room and Singapore 777-300ER First Class SIN-HKG
Hong Kong and the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui
Cathay Pacific’s The Wing Lounge and 747 First Class HKG-SFO
Lots of people have done incredible things. For example: Jesus, Sean Connery, and I’m probably leaving out a few others.
Roughly 3-4 years ago (I tried to find the exact date by looking back through my journals, but then I remembered I don’t keep a journal) I started following the blog of a guy named Chris Guillebeau at www.chrisguillebeau.com. When I happened across his website for the first time, I had the same first thought many of you probably did, “this guy should’ve named his website something easier to spell.” But my second thought was, “this is genius-level stuff here, not only does he hack frequent flyer programs but he also seems to lead a pretty fulfilled life.” My third thought was “I need a sandwich”. Anyhoo, back to Chris. This is a guy who, when he turned 30, came up with an amazing goal: to visit every country in the world by his 35th birthday.
What I liked about his goal is it was very big (goals should be ambitious), very measurable (instead of “I should travel more”, he defined his goal as visiting all countries recognized as such by the UN), and he made it very public (you need accountability when setting goals, tell people, it’ll give everyone a stake in it). He had traveled to quite a few by 30, and only had something like 120 left and a little less than 5 years to do it. Easy, right?
Having been bitten by the travel bug, I followed his journey with great interest, not only as he traveled to countries, but also released two best-selling books and founded the World Domination Summit. I’d read about 5 countries he had visited in 2-3 weeks and would think “oh yeah, well I had an excel spreadsheet with TWO VLOOKUPS in it today. NESTED VLOOKUPS. Your move Guillebeau”. I had reached out to him a few times on twitter and he was always responsive to his followers, which no doubt took a bit of time, so I appreciated his thoughts. In the later part of 2012, Chris posted on Twitter and Facebook that he was going to meet his goal and, if we could make it, he was throwing a party in Oslo on his 35th birthday to celebrate his final country (he saved Norway for last since it was a bit easier to get to than Tuvalu). It had been like 7 months since I had been to Oslo so I figured why not, I’ll go to Oslo again, because who needs money anyway (Oslo, and Norway in general, is EXPENSIVE).
Another thing: I would be turning 30 a few days before the event in Oslo, so there was some pretty cool symbolism for me. What would be my big vision and goal for the next 5 years? Before I left, I jotted down some ideas.
As you can see, my goals needed some honing and crafting, and since I’ve returned I’ve had a few ideas for 2 and 3. Also, I had that sandwich. But back to the trip.
I arrived in Oslo very late on Saturday night. Oslo’s Gardermoen airport is absolutely gorgeous, lots of nice wood trim and minimalist design cues that make it look like a big Ikea. I proceeded directly to the Radisson Blu hotel that’s next to the airport terminal. The weird thing about Norway is that none of the big-time hotel chains with which I have loyalty points have any hotels there (there was briefly a Doubletree in Oslo, pay attention to this fact), so I had to pay for a hotel room with money. Ugh. $200 later, I arrived at my room in the Blu, and I immediately got the blues (HA!).
Ok, it really wasn’t that bad. Except there were suspicious looking stains all over the place. The bed was comfy and it had free breakfast. Those are really the two ways to my heart, and I figured most of the rest of the trip was free so I could stomach a few nights paying for a hotel.
Like I said, I arrived late at night and the restaurant was already closed, so I did the only thing that felt right…yup, you guessed it, I paid $8 for a big package of chocolate candies from the hotel minibar. Money well spent, and probably the cheapest meal possible in Oslo.
I awoke the next morning ready and rearing to…fall back asleep. Ok, I awoke for the second time more ready and re…nope, back to sleep. FINALLY I woke up, showered, and prepared to meet up with a group of people attending the party who were having coffee in Oslo then were going to sightsee a bit before the party. Despite my gregarious personality and general obnoxiousness I’m actually quite an introvert and get nervous meeting new people, so this was going to be a fun challenge for me.
I went back to the airport to catch the Flytoget Express train into Oslo (“flytoget” is Norweigan for “give us all your money ha ha”), and before I did that I went ahead and checked in for my flight the next morning so I could pick a good seat. I headed down to the train platform and was soon on my way to Oslo’s city centre. Oslo has a really nice central train station, but I bypassed that. Last year when I came to Oslo I didn’t really have a map or sense of direction or plan for what to do in Oslo, so I got to know the central station well as I confusedly tried to find my way around town. Thankfully I knew where I was going this time, since I was staying at the exact same hotel as last year (it used to be a Doubletree, then abruptly it was no longer a Doubletree).
I arrived at the station called Nationaltheatret (“Nationaltheatret” is Norweigan for “..ha we’re still laughing at how much the express train cost”) and headed towards the familiarity of what is now called Oslo City Centre Hotel. It’s a descriptive if not creative name for a hotel that was in the city centre and right around the corner from where the party would be that night. As I turned the corner onto the boulevard leading to the hotel, I was greeted by a coOHMYGOSHITWASSOCOLD.
I scampered in my light jacket (because only a moron would come to Norway in early April and not bring a heavy jacket) over to the hotel and was thankfully allowed an early check-in to my room. I like this hotel because despite the location the prices are reasonable and the rooms are nice and up-to-date. There were also no suspicious stains, for which I was grateful. That said, the rooms are small. Like really small. Like this was the only real angle I could get kind of small.
I met the crew at a cafe in Oslo. In order to get there I had to walk past the parliament building, which was nice and a distraction from the cold.
They were, as expected, all very nice with all sorts of different stories: where they were from, why they’d come, why didn’t I bring a heavier jacket, etc. We had coffee and got to know each other (there were probably 30 of us there). One of the group was a Norweigan who happened to live a few blocks away, so we volunteered him to be our tour guide and show us around. A member of our group had heard that there was a famous sculpture park in Oslo, and Jorgen (zie Norweigan from last sentence) told us it wasn’t too far away, just a few metro stops. We made our way down to the subway, but on the way saw Oslo Cathedral and had to stop for a picture.
So, we got onto the subway with all the grace of a cement truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant and were on our way. A few short stops later and we arrived in the Frogner suburb of Oslo and made our way to Frogner Park, site of the famous Vigelandsanlegget, Gustav Vigeland’s sculpture arrangement. My brief research (which consisted of asking Jorgen “where the heck are we going”) led me to the conclusion that this was like the Central Park of Oslo (my words, not his). We arrived through a set of big gates to a lovely park on a mostly sunny day and OH MY GOSH WHY ARE ALL THE SCULPTURES OF NAKED PEOPLE.
So, our ol’ buddy Gustav apparently thought frequently about humans using sexuality as a means to approach the divine, and these statues, were, um, reflective of that.
So, I’ll admit I have felt less uncomfortable in my life, but the Norweigans around us were having a grand time enjoying the sunny weather, ambling about and taking pictures of all the nudity. My camera needed a break from it all, so I took pictures (below) of Nothing In Particular
Everybody was enjoying themselves though, and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone. Everyone was unique and remarkably comfortable with where they were in life and what they were doing. I’m going through a bit of a transition phase right now, so it was nice to bounce ideas off them and get their thoughts. Also, it was really nice to meet someone and truly feel like you’re meeting THEM, not some front or image they try to maintain (that alone was worth the trip, as that’s something with which I struggle).
Oh yes, random person that was wondering, there were also naked babies. This is apparently one of the more famous sculptures in the park.
So this whole time, there’s this big sculpture off in the distance that looked, well, rather phallic. As we got closer, we saw what it actually was: rather phallic. But it wasn’t just phallic, it was a bunch of naked people stacked on top of each other to resemble, erm, something phallic. Did I get a picture? I did not. I tried to get some less nude pictures of the park, which turned out nice.
After this, we left the park and took a long walk to a metro station to head back to the city centre. We walked through a residential neighborhood, which I loved. It’s great to get away from the tourist melee and see where people live. Everyone agreed it looked nice and very peaceful.
That night we all celebrated with Chris at the End of the World party. Why the End of the World? Because Chris reached the end of it, he’s been everywhere now. It is an amazing accomplishment, and I’m proud to say I was there to help him ring it in. There was a wonderful band, great (open) bar (that turned into a cash bar later, and eek), and a very meaningful thank you from Chris. I always forget to take lots of pictures during events like this, but I’m sure if you google you’ll find all sorts of pictures of the event.
After a fantastic evening (only slightly marred by paying what turned out to be $24 for a Red Bull and Vodka) I returned to my hotel, my heart full. It’s an incredible thing to witness someone doing what is most important to them and using their gifts. Now imagine being around 100+ people from 18 countries who are all at various stages of that idea and it’s hard not to be moved.
After a brief sleep my alarm went off at 3:45am. I had to get back to the airport to start the journey home. The long way home.
Up next, the Lufthansa Senator Lounge and the Big One: Suites Class on Singapore Airlines.