Guest Post #1: Humbled – Healing Through Chasing Down (Norwegian) Roots

“No longer shall I paint interiors with men reading and women knitting. I will paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love.” Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch

One thing we realize is that our lives have been touched by extraordinary people – those who don’t live the ‘normal’ life. ‘Adventuring’ is an active verb for such people. They aren’t afraid to open themselves up to life. They ‘breathe and feel and suffer and love’, as Munch says. We are honored to share this platform with such people.

Chad and Emily Ridout are ‘such people’. In such a short time of knowing them, they have become some of our best friends. The world is filled with people who say “I can’t do this because….(fill in the blank)”. Not Chad and Emily. They are ‘Why Not’ people. In fact, when it became clear that we would be in Europe around the same time, they said ‘Why Not’, and next thing you know, they extended their trip and joined us in our travels through Bavaria and Barcelona for a week. This type of openness to  new experience is what dreams are made of, and this type of living is the essence of what we’d like to convey via this blog.

I hope to blog more about our adventures together, although any readers of this blog will know that I’m woefully behind on blog writing in the last few weeks! For now, let’s just say that our time with Chad and Emily was filled with lots of laughter, beer from the oldest brewery in the world, and Emily giving me the best and most exhaustive explanation on something that was really puzzling my non-Millennial brain (specifically, what’s the deal with Instragram?!?).

Can you tell this picture is not from Norway? 🙂 
Chad and Emily with us in Barcelona

As you’ll see in the story below, Chad and Emily recently experienced Norway and got in touch with Chad’s heritage in an unforgettable way. You’ll note by the title phrase ‘Guest Post #1’ that we intend to publish more of these guest blogs in the coming months, all around the theme of ‘What does ‘adventuring’ mean to you?’. We are so touched by Emily’s rendition below and the life altering adventures that she shares about below.

In the past several years my father has started to ‘chase down’ our heritage, and Emily and Chad’s story gave me a fresh appreciation of his effort. My hope is that we all have the opportunity – and, more importantly, the courage – to go down pathways that he (and they) are exploring.

-Nate Joy, August 2017

Humbled – Healing Through Chasing Down (Norwegian) Roots

Being asked to make a guest appearance on Joy Adventuring is such an honor! We love the Joy’s. Not just because they are kind, authentic, engaging and two of the most accepting people we know, but because they are bold and daring in pursuing their hopes and desires. It’s one thing to dream of a life different then your own, it’s another to flip your world upside down to make your dreams a reality. We’ve watched the Joys do just that, and it’s been completely inspiring, to say the least.

So who am I and why am I writing? My name is Emily and I am writing on behalf of myself and my husband, Chad, although we’ll see how much he weighs in 🙂 I’ve had the privilege of doing some pretty incredible trips in my life (mostly focused on missions and service). So a few years ago when my husband’s family started dreaming of traveling to Norway to chase down family roots, it felt a little foreign (pun intended) to travel without the purpose of working in an orphanage or building a house. I didn’t know at the time that it would be just as significant watching this family find healing by connecting with their heritage.

So after years of conversation, we all finally decided to move from dreaming to planning. While choosing dates, saving money and selecting areas to visit were important, probably the most significant decision was when Chad’s mom, Susan, decided to hire a Norwegian to start digging into the past. Over months and months, he unearthed layers of information pointing Susan to the town her mom was raised in, including the church, her home, the grave site her descendants are buried and more. Then, he started making contact with family in Norway! After a few months went by, Susan started communicating with family she had never met in Norway, who we will be meeting in a matter of hours!

Discovering family roots is a whole new ball game for us that comes with excitement and layers upon layers of emotion. Susan’s mother came directly from Norway but passed away when Susan was in her twenties. Watching her discover her past and share it with her kids has unlocked a freedom and healing that I couldn’t have imagined. This amazing family has endured so much; as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning overlooking the Oslo Fjord, I can’t help but wonder at the gift of this trip and what is still to come – all the while carrying the memory of Chad’s brother Nicholas, a proud Norwegian who should be with us in these moments, along with my sweet sister in law, Shannon.

Overlooking the Oslo Fjord in the wee hours of the morning

On this journey I am along for the ride, watching a marvelous story unfold in front of me. I sense the hope, healing and joy this pilgrimage has to offer each of us.

So far this journey has led us all over Oslo and will be taking us to Kristiansand (to meet family), Stavanger (Susan’s home town), and Bergen. From there we’ll hop to Prague to connect a little with my roots of origin (and drink beer because apparently that’s just what you do there). Then we’ll jump on a bus to Munich to meet Terra and Nate and after a few days, we’ll travel to Barcelona together. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? I still can’t believe we’re here.

So here’s what we’ve learned so far:

Norway is practically paradise. Everything is stunning. The views, the buildings, the food… the people! Every women is striking, much like my beautiful mother in law, and every man reminds me of my strong, tall, rugged Viking husband (it’s truly heavenly 🙂 The homes in Oslo are classic – white with black tile roofs, trim and accessories, and the region feels like the Pacific Northwest (but with a special enchanting flare).

Lyse Fjord

Although they are beautiful, Norwegians are… reserved. Don’t get me wrong, Norwegians are kind, but they don’t have a lot of interest in engaging with you. They seem perfectly content in their own world. One thing that is very apparent is the independence and strength in women. Vikings saw women as equal to men. They fought alongside them and could hold seats of power and it remains true to this day. You can just feel the strength and respect this culture offers women.

Yes, it is expensive… like so expensive. We paid about $12 for a beer, about the same for two coffees (but YUMMY coffee) and around $60 for a good but pretty normal meal like hamburgers (for two). It definitely didn’t slow down our food or coffee intake however because their food is delicious!

Nutella and strawberry crepes with gelato from Grunerlokka, a very trendy neighborhood in Oslo

 

My daily chocolate croissant with a cortado

 

Transportationyou may not have read that like I meant ithear a high vibrato note flow from the heavenlies… transportation… is fast, cheap, accessible and easy to understand (well, for Chad and Carley… I just follow them around). Special tip for any Norway travelers – get the Oslo pass!
The Viking Ship Museum, Kon Tikki, the Resitence Museum, The National Museum, the Royal Palace, and Opera House… ok, there’s the list of places we made it in two days. Yes, we were exhausted and yes, they were worth it. The two that stood out for me were the National Museum and the Resistance Museum. Chad’s Grandma was 15 during WWII and since Hitler was convinced an Allied front was going to happen on the shores of Norway, he took control early on, forcing Norwegians to work for his army. It was sobering for all of us to think that Grandma Simone spent such formative years of her life enduring the Nazis. She left soon after the war for the states. I also have to note the National Museum, which houses paintings from Van Gogh, Picasso, and Munch. I had to try not to cry seeing such famous and powerful work. Chad and I were so humbled by the work of Munch. He had a unique burden to bear as he depicted raw human emotion. Very few are able to connect that deeply and carry the ability to portray it. The only person I’ve ever know with this same ability was my dear brother in law Nicholas. It was comforting to see similarities in their abilities.

Taking a small boat out to the museum island to see The Fram, Viking Ship Museum and more

 

The Scream by Edvard Munch at the National Gallery in Oslo

Language – almost everyone speaks English, but they have awesome nuances like instead of greeting with “hello” or “hi” it’s “hi hi” like double hi… it makes me feel extra well greeted 🙂 – and instead of asking if we want our coffee to go, it’s “take away”. It just feels classier, and I’ll take any opportunity to feel a little fancy.

My traveling companions… are amazing! I have to give them a shout out because traveling in a group (6 of us total) can be a bit intense, but everyone is gracious, sensitive to the groups needs and excited in their own way to see Norway. Stephen and I are often just following the herd, coffee in hand. Scott has filled his usual role – providing delicious nourishment along the way. Carley is both our fearless leader and my creative inspiration, allowing me to be her yoga photographer from time to time (follow her on Instagram – she’s a total freak of nature in the best way possible – Carley_yoga ). Chad is in normal police officer fashion, aware of all things at all times, but totally soaking up his roots. Susan is the heartbeat of the trip, connecting us all to this experience with amazing facts and love of her country and each of us.

 

The crew in Stavanger standing outside of the home Susan’s Great Uncle lived in

 

Carley striking a yoga pose at the Stavanger Cathedral

Sometimes I wish I knew more languages so I had more words to express my feelings. I suppose the word I’ll choose to sum this up is… humbled. I’m humbled by this family and their fight for hope and joy, and appreciate their desire to track down family across the world to find new connections and meaning to their story. I’m humbled by the privilege I have to travel, with people I adore, and to see some of the most amazing places in the world. I’m humbled by the ability Chad and I have to leave our jobs and set out on adventure. And I’m humbled by the ability to move so fast and somehow slow down enough to soak in the special moments along the way.

I hope you find yourself here someday, both in Norway and in an experience where you are left struggling to find the right words.

Closing Reflections

Just eight days ago I wrote my Beginning Reflections. Since that time we have traveled around 900 miles via trains, buses, ferries and bikes. We walked more than 70 miles through Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Bergen. It’s nearly impossible to capture the experiences so I’ll focus on what had the greatest impact on me and share some tourist insights for anyone planning to travel to Norway.
If you are ever in a situation to meet relatives, even distant relatives, please don’t hesitate. Yes, it can feel strange to meet with family you don’t know in a city you’ve never been to, but the reward far outweighs the first few awkward moments. We shared seven hours of life with my husband’s 3rd cousins and experienced love and depth. We said goodbye with tearful eyes and hope for a reunion in the future.

Meeting family in Kristiansand

Pulpit Rock, Stavanger – do it. Just please do it for heavens sake! We woke up early, got on a bus, then got on a ferry, then another bus, hiked about 4 miles on rugged stone steps up a mountain and arrived to an experience of a lifetime. This was one of those life moments where you know you can’t possibly fathom the beauty you are seeing but you also know you have to try with all your might to take in every single moment. A hike like this would not exist, at least with a maintained trail, in the States. There are no guards, rails or fences between you and an 1,800 foot drop to the Lyse Fjord. It was exhilarating, albeit slightly nauseating – but simply breathtaking.

What a view!

 

Yes, Chad and I are sitting with our feet over the ledge in the above photo and no, I did not look down!

Stavanger Cathedral – The Stavanger Cathedral was built 900 years ago and is the church where Chad’s grandma was baptized. In fact, we got to see the basin they would have used to baptize Grandma Simone. Chad shared that he was overcome with emotion upon entering. While this had special significance for us, I think this is a Cathedral worth experiencing for anyone.

 

Chad at the Stavanger Cathedral

Bergen – one of the most photographed cities in Norway. Often referred to as the Gateway to the Fjords, Bergen draws tourists from all over the world. Before you go, you should know Bergen gets no more than 60 days of sun a year. If you’re from the Pacific Northwest, you’ll no longer complain about rain after visiting Bergen. Chad and I took off for a run to get acquainted with the city and came back soaked to the bone, but it was well worth it. This city has a unique story being the first capital city of Norway. The Norwegians regained control and wanted to tear down Old Town and put all the bad memories to rest after being ruled by Denmark and Germany for hundreds of years. Luckily, excavators discovered stones indicating the city predated the Germans and proved Bergen had rich Norwegian heritage and significance! Today it is recognized on the UNESCO list as a World Heritage Site. This charming city captivated us with amazing seafood, incredible history and spectacular natural beauty. If you find yourself in Bergen, be sure to ride the Floibanen Fenicular up Floyen Mountain to see the city and fjords from a birds eye view.

 

Beautiful Bergen

 

On top of Floyen Mountain

The. Train. Ride. From. Bergen. To. Oslo. It is said to be the most beautiful train ride in all of Europe. I tend to be a little skeptical with things like “the most” or “best of”, but I was stunned. It was like watching the most epic and captivating movie…like Planet Earth on steroids. Imagine an ice blue fjord with mountains darting up to the sky with waterfalls endlessly flowing from the heavens to small lakes and rivers, and then you round a corner and see a remote Norwegian village with houses tucked into the hills perfectly perched above the clouds humbly living among paradise. This goes on for 7 hours without a dull moment.

 

Train ride from Bergen to Oslo

 

I’m sure that’s more than enough to chew on and hopefully you are convinced to move Norway to the top of your travel list. Just make sure you start saving now 🙂 Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, but it is worth every penny. Our Norwegian adventure came with rich connection to family and culture, unparalleled natural beauty, delicious food and memories to last a lifetime. Even if you aren’t tracking down Norwegian family, you’ll feel a special connection to this corner of the planet.

Saying goodbye to Norway in central Oslo