As soon as I can I get my itinerary from the production assistant, I do – she emails it. Check. Leaving Oslo at 9:30 AM, CONNECTING in Amsterdam through to Seattle at 12:50. Great. I immediately reach out to friends in London and Prague to see who wants a visitor. Prague responds first – done. Jump on Kayak.com – what flights go Amsterdam to Prague? 7:45 PM direct flight for less than $200!? Sold. I’ve never been so spontaneous, but this is absolutely happening.
“How are you feeling Lars? It’s okay to be sad or frustrated, a bubble is bursting.” This is all true, but behind my genuine “I’m doing great” is another adventure just hours away that I have to hide, but is SO damn exciting. I stay awake hours into the night preparing. My goal is to pare down to the bare essentials and literally live out of a normal school kids backpack for another week or two. Since I’m already in Europe and my boss has agreed to let my sabbatical continue until the show is done filming – this just makes way too much sense. (I’m so damn lucky to work for such a great employee first company that genuinely treats us like real people and can see our perspective. That kind of stuff doesn’t go unnoticed and builds up huge amounts of employee loyalty.)
Four pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, 3 shirts, my travel everywhere UW shorts, one down (but super compact) puffy jacket, and one pair of lightweight (super compact) rain pants. Then it’s just toiletries, my big camera (hands down the heaviest item), hat, and sunglasses.
I chat with Laura in London – she’d also love a visitor! Perfect! I’ll try to rebook my Amsterdam to Seattle leg if it’s possible, if not I’m more than willing to buy a one way ticket home. I’ll figure out those details in the “morning”. I go to bed a mere 2.5 hours before my alarm is scheduled to go off.
“How are you feeling this morning Lars?” “I’m really really good!” “It’s okay to be sad.” I’m told. “Oh I know – but I’m great.” I’m sure the production assistant felt like I had some sort of emotional disconnect whereby I was unable to feel sad or frustrated – I definitely can, but this sort of spontaneous trip is literally a dream come true (unlike being on Alt For Norge which I never could have even dreamed up.)
We arrive at the airport and the production assistant uses her one last chance to keep an eye on me until I literally disappear from sight passing through security.
I’m free. It’s go time.
I quickly talk to a rep about changing my Amsterdam to Seattle flight. Because it was booked “on one ticket” you can’t split the legs – damn. That means I’ll be buying a one way ticket home. Whatever, I don’t have a car payment and I drive a “brand new” 2001 Subaru Wagon. Life is about choices and I’ve made the choice to be frugal elsewhere so I can do things like this.
Now I have a conundrum. When do I let my Amsterdam to Seattle flight know my plans have changed and I’d be going to Prague? I’d love the bags to just go through – no shipping, no hauling, no nothing. Is 30 minutes enough time to toe that line?
Smart people learn from their own mistakes, wise people learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from mine.
In this day and age of security, NO bag travels without its owner. My 30 minute plan turned into a “walk 5 minutes down the terminal and talk to the transfer desk”, turned into “wait 10 minutes to talk to someone”, turned into “What!? No you can’t do that, you have to get on that plane!” turned into “FML What?!”, turned into “this will cause a delay, every 1 minute costs us approximately €3,000, and if people miss connections in Seattle, we could have to pay €200,000”, turns into my head in my hands, “What the hell have I done!?”
If you were a passenger on that plane and it was delayed because of me, my sincerest apologies.
They find my bags on the plane and offload them fairly quickly, but to get them back I have to pay a “financial impact penalty” of €275. Not the way you want to learn your lessons, but a way to make them stick – and considering the burden the airline bares, not a huge percent in the scheme of things. Luckily it’s total and not per checked bag.
It seems like forever, but ~1.5 hours later I finally actually get my bags. Now what? I refuse to haul these around Europe. I find a service that can ship them home in 10-15 days for a very fair price. Awesome. I’m FINALLY free. Next flight leaves at 7:45 PM and it’s 3:00! Amsterdam here I come!
In line for train tickets I meet Tony, a nice, but slightly awkward later 30’s early 40’s Chinese businessman who quickly attaches himself to me and figures we should explore Amsterdam together. (Okay that sounds weird when I write it but he was a nice guy who’s married with a 3 year old girl.)
We walk around for about an hour and a half past the Royal Palace, over the beautiful canals, through the red light district, and past Anne Frank’s house. I spent a few days in Amsterdam 16 years ago – the things I notice now that I didn’t then: 1.) The ladies working in the red light district (at least those working Wednesday afternoon) were a lot older than I remembered. 2.) The girls are beautiful and TALL! Holland is the world’s tallest country, but as a 12 year old all adults are “tall”. I’m a big fan of (really) tall girls, so needless to say, Holland, you’ve got a really good thing going!
At this point I feel a little bit strange, 24 hours ago I was in Norway hoping to continue my adventure, but less than 24 hours from that door closing, I’m already exploring the canals of Amsterdam and I’ve got a flight scheduled for Prague! If you told me a day ago, “In 24 hours you’ll be enjoying the sights and scenes of Amsterdam”, I’d have said “1.) You’re crazy and 2.) That’s awesome!” So much of what I loved about being on Alt For Norge was the adventure of it all. Exploring the unknown and seeing new places. Realizing that my next few weeks may be just that gives me so much peace. Sure I’ll have to foot the bill and there will be 100% less Michelin restaurants, but I’m SO damn content, even if I finished 8 of 12. To quote the great title of Sami Whitcomb’s (old) blog, it’s funny how things work out. I never expected to be here right now, but wow – how cool.
Tony and I part ways and I sprint to the train station and make the train to the airport by 2 minutes. I forget the ride is less than 15 minutes, and I end up at my gate almost an hour early. I’m now flying over some beautiful wispy clouds and land in Prague in ~1 hour. So appreciative of Alena and her boyfriend for taking a guest for what might be 6 nights on 24 hours notice! Alena is one of the two awesome Czech girls Keyan and I met at the Sol and Sam Lachow concert ~2-3 years ago. We later went to the Macklemore show, and all became fast friends over their last month in Seattle.
As it currently stands, my hypothetical itinerary:
1.) Fly to Prague and explore the city for a few days with Alena and Kristyna
2.) Fly to London and explore with Laura – perhaps take a quick trip south to Dover
3.) Train to Manchester to explore with Anna Conrad-Smith
4.) Continue traveling… but where? Paris? Ireland? Iceland? I’ve got nothing booked right now.
Alena, Laura, and Anna are all awesome girls who either studied at the University of Washington or in Seattle, who I’ve been so happy to play Seattle tour guide for over parts of the last 3 years. They’re all serious world travelers, and super cool, down to earth people. To be able to “cash in” and visit them all back to back to back (assuming everything works out) is SO damn cool! Like Askeladden, you can get help along the way on your journey!
My flight will be touching down in Prague (country #22) in less than an hour!
(Sidenote: Yesterday, even after the competition knowing that I’d almost certainly be headed home, I can’t get that “I know, it’s gonna be good times, it’s gonna be good timesssssss” song out of my head. It certainly seems appropriate.)
I shake my head in a bit of disbelief as “Welcome to the Czech Republic” sign flashes in front of me as I touch down in Prague on a flight I’d booked 22 hours earlier.
I follow Alena’s instructions to the bus and subway, but first exchange $60 into Czech monopoly money. Instantly I’m a thousandaire! (Until this moment I didn’t know if they’d give me Euros or something else.) I got Czech Crowns (CK’s). The exchange rate is approximately 24.23 – so 100CK is just over $4.
I get to the subway stop, and as I’m going up the stairs in the opposite direction I see what looks like the UW W log on a shirt! WTF?! Ohhhhh! It’s Alena!!!
We grab some quick latenight food and Burrito Loco (RIP Holman Road Burrito Loco in Seattle) and head back to her apartment. She lives in a cool part of town just beneath the Žižkov TV Tower – once voted the second ugliest building in the world. This apartment has been in her family for ~60 years, and she just did a few renovations in the last year! Best part – the couch is folded out and bed is made for me! I’m so lucky!
Later Alena’s boyfriend Vojta comes back – I’m instantly a huge fan – super welcoming, down to earth, relaxed guy. Good work Alena! What a day!