So after a rest day in Steinkjer (Day 61) where I set new levels of doing very little (alongside eating my own body weight in cheese and chocolate), it was time to make the 28km journey to my next stop – Sund Folkehøgskole.
Prior to the school visit I was nervous, I had no idea about what I was going to say, whether the students would be interested, how many students there would be, what the school would be like… I could go on. But I won’t. Because it turns out that the school was incredible. The people were incredible. And whether or not they were really interested they pretended to be, listened intently and asked some really great questions.
I enjoyed my visit to the school so much that I found myself leaving very slowly, stopping after just 5km to sit and write about my previous days experience.
And now, I will share that experience with you, because hopefully you will be interested too. Or at least put on a dramatic display of interest similar to that of my Norwegian hosts…
Day 62 – October 3rd (It’s October 3rd) – Steinkjer to Sund Folkehøgskole…
I awoke on day 62 feeling pretty well rested – but reluctant as ever to leave my sleeping bag. As my alarm went off for a second time I found myself shivering – disappearing back inside the sleeping bag for ten minutes in an attempt to defrost a little.
After ten minutes however, I decided it was time to get up and did so with haste, eager to get inside the warmth of the campsite kitchen with a hot cup of coffee. This is never as straightforward as it seems – it involves getting out of my sleeping gear and into my running kit, which in turn usually involves accidentally touching the outside of the tent, which in turn makes everything a little more damp, all of which cause me to be a little bit more groggy (maybe grumbly is more accurate) and more in need of that cup of coffee.
Having hung out my tent, sleeping bag and roll mat (not to mention their respective cases) in the excessively hot toilets (that’s not a complaint at all), it was off to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Maybe now is a good time to mention that the purchase of boiling coffee has led to me being unable to consume coffee in ‘cup’ sized portions, now opting for ‘pan’ sized servings. This is probably not good for me, but it sure does taste good so again, I’m not complaining.
It was around this time that I remembered where I was heading today and what I had to do. Suddenly the nerves returned and I started wondering how I get myself into these situations.
People who know me will probably be surprised that I was nervous at all. Around people I know, I will happily admit, I am fairly confident and often pretty good at talking. Lots. However, public speaking has never been on my list of strengths, at least not before having consumed four pints down the local.
Naturally, to prepare I spent my time looking through old photos, bringing back memories from earlier in the trip, then being distracted by a message or two and not continuing to prepare.
This morning though, these two text message shaped distractions were definitely worthwhile. In response to my online plea for layers, along with some emails and blog posts which stated my main fear was the cold, two people (very kindly) offered to help that morning, with promises of a warm jacket, gloves and that essential warmer sleeping bag being promised to me. To these two people I can’t say thank you enough. I don’t know if it will be enough to keep me warm for the rest of the trip, but I do know it will make a ruddy great improvement to both my comfort and my chances of making it to Germany. I owe both of you a beer (or many) when I return. In addition other people have come forwards with offers to help top- and I in no way want to devalue those offers (I am sincerely grateful for all the help I can get!) I just felt the need to mention these individuals as this is not the first time either of them have gone above and beyond expectations.
Coffee drank, tent packed and school phoned with warning of my imminent arrival (at 3pm that afternoon), I lifted my rucksack and set off. By this point curiosity was winning over nerves and I began to feel excited, lifting my pace to a steady run for most of the day (this may have also been because I had promised to arrive by three and left late…) but it felt good and I was happy.
The scenery (once again) had changed, the view mostly consisted of rolling fields, countless tractors and huge amounts of Cows. I did have to stop and engage in a staring competition with one of these cows – however this ended as the farmer came bobbing along the field in a tractor. I recommend trying it though – they don’t even flinch when you pull faces. A worthy opponent.
Eventually, the road wound down a hill into Straumen, a small town just 1km from the school. I stopped briefly for a drink and to take a couple of photos, I had once again wound up in a truly beautiful place.
I arrived at the school around quarter to three, still a little nervous, but more overwhelmed by the fact I had turned up somewhere not only on time, but early, for the first time in a long time.
My first impressions on arriving were that this was a beautiful school, in an idyllic location, and that there were kayaks in the driveway. I stepped through the front doors, half expecting to find a reception desk, but instead found a group of what I assumed where students and a couple of teachers, one of whom was Jakob who I had spoken to previously.
As they were expecting me I didn’t get the usual looks of ‘who on earth are you and why have you never showered’. Instead I got looks of ‘ahh you must be the running girl, you should probably shower’. After a few brief words I was given a room key, showed to my room (via the presentation room) and told dinner would be served at 3.30. Hardly able to believe I had made it in time for lunch, I quickly made off for the showers so I wouldn’t cause too much offense in the dining room.
As I ambled into the dining room just after half past (back to normal…) I was greeted by a huge room full of students. 100’s of them. Well 100 to be more accurate. Luckily I didn’t have to stand for long with 200 eyes focused on me as no sooner had the second year student (most students only stay for one year) beckoned me to sit with them, lunch was served, and all attention was turned to the (amazingly huge) plates of food.
It was during lunch that I was made aware that this was in fact not a normal (and by normal I refer to academic schools) school. It was in fact a school for students who had completed state education and were still unsure of what to study in the future, or who wanted to enhance skills/knowledge they will need when they go on to university or further education in the future. In short it was basically a school for gap year students. A place where they could relax, have fun, grow as a person, study something they are passionate about and make friends who share the same values. Being more about experiences than grades the atmosphere was relaxed, fun activities were a daily occurrence and everyone got along beautifully. To use the words of the students there, ‘Folk school is like kindergarten, for adults!’.
Now if you know how my brain works – it will suddenly be making sense to you why I loved this place so much. And why I am keen to go back to spend some time there in the future… if they’ll have me!
After lunch I went off to put together a quick presentation, being treated to views like these outside the window as I did so.
My presentation was no work of art, however it was good enough and I had time to phone a friend quickly before my second free meal of the day.
Supper at the school was a little less formal than lunch, with students helping themselves to a buffet (loads of cheese 😍) and then finding a place to sit. As always laughter was the main thing I could hear and for a little bit I felt a bit nervous again – I couldn’t spot the second year girl who had been looking after me so well, so I would be forced to sit with new people. As I asked a girl to sit down however I saw this wouldn’t be a problem. Immediately I was asked questions enthusiastically and made to feel like one of the group. They even sat with me til I had finished my dinner – something which took a while due to the amount of questions heading my way.
After dinner it was back to the presentation room to give my talk. Around 25 students appeared (which I am told is a good turn out for a voluntary session) and I pretty much got stuck in.
Going through old photos made me realise just how far I’d come and more importantly how lucky I was to be there. All day I had been worried about what to say, but once I got going I found it easy to keep going. Fresh memories popping up every now and then, pictures on the screen making me smile to myself and the videos getting a laugh from the crowd and making me feel pretty emotional. This has been one hell of a journey so far, and it was great to share it with other people. Especially as it seemed to make them smile, it always feels good to put a smile on someone’s face.
At the end of the talk I was asked some questions. The one that sticks with me most is ‘what keeps you going?‘ At the time I gave a mixed answer involving competitiveness and seeing the charity pot growing. I reflected on this on the road though and thought about how I’d answer given more time. Doing this I realised that for every tough day out here, I have at least 3 good days. And for every moment where I think ugh/ow/why, there are at least 3 where I think wow/look at that/I’m so lucky… and that’s something which doesn’t just apply here.
Nothing lasts forever. So if you are struggling today, know that it won’t last forever and that better times are in sight. Or as someone kindly pointed out on the page recently, ‘without the bad bits, the good bits wouldn’t feel so good’.
So talk done, I spent the rest of my evening drinking tea and chatting to some more of the students, including a girl who had studied in Wales for a year and another girl who had the most British accent I have ever heard, despite being half Norwegian and living in Switzerland. I told her that her accent reminded me of Lindsay Lohan but I’m not sure she appreciated that…
Either way the evening was great, I slept like a brick and I went to assembly and breakfast in the morning with a big smile on my face. I could have happily stayed in that school had I not got a job to do, and it was with a heavy heart I packed all my stuff up and headed off. Before doing so going to thank Jakob, and extending an open invitation to 100 Norwegian students to come and stay in England whenever they want (heads up mom..).
Day 63 rolled round and I spent most of it forming new dreams in my head. I had uttered the words, ‘we have nothing like this at home’, several times in that school and I realised that maybe we should try and create something like this at home. A place where students can go to make friends and learn about themselves, where they can study something they are passionate about and make a difference, and a place where they can relax before jumping into university or a career. Surely that’s a year better spent than getting drunk in Thailand? (Not that I’m saying don’t do that – just maybe for a few weeks instead?). It definitely got me thinking to say the least. It would be one hell of a challenge to get off the ground – but I can’t think of many things (that I am capable of doing) that could be more rewarding.
So that was that, I’d fallen in love with another Norwegian concept, but I also had to keep plodding on on my current mission. I travelled only about 28km that day but I’m still on track for Trondheim and I can’t wait to be able to share some of my stories with two of my oldest friends when I get there. I’ll leave you with some pictures of day 63 to prove that this country never gets any less beautiful – and I’ve seen nearly 1700km of it now 😁