Hiking in the Lofoten Islands

“Julie, do you remember Beverly Barlow?” My Mom asked when she called to wish me Bon Voyage on my upcoming trip to Norway. It was more of a statement than a question. “Mary George’s niece, from Louisville. Remember her?”

The name was familiar, and I vaguely recollected a freckle-faced red head kid from many years ago.

“Yeah, I remember. She was my age and we used to play at the country club swimming pool when she came to visit.”

“That’s her. Well, guess what?  She lives in Norway!  You should visit her!”

Just that simple. I was leaving on my trip in three days. Not being a traveler herself, Mom obviously didn’t realize how meticulously I had worked on the perfect itinerary.  I discounted the idea initially. Upon continued reflection, though, I admit I was a tad intrigued.

Jeff and I had been planning a 2-week vacation in Norway for several months, and I had perfected our itinerary down to the latest bus schedules. Our plan was to have the “greenest” possible trip, using only public transportation, hostels and small, local lodgings when possible.

Since turning fifty last year, I‘ve had a self-revelation of sorts. There’s something about hitting the half-century mark that has encouraged me to reflect on life and the paths I chose to take. More than ever, I have been thinking about my past and long-lost relationships. My introduction to facebook has offered possibilities to rekindle old friendships as well as make some new ones.

Since Mom knew nothing more than Beverly’s married name and the city she lived in, I “faced” her, just out of curiosity.  Despite the decades, I immediately recognized the bronze-headed beauty that popped onto the screen.  Hmmmm….

Why not? I sent her a message. “Hey, Bev, you probably don’t remember me but…” yadda yadda yadda…

Within minutes, she “friended” me and sent me her response.  “I may not remember to put on matching earrings, or what I ate for breakfast, but I remembered you as soon as I saw your name in my in-box.”

After a few more messages, we figured out that she lived a good six hours from my northern-most stop in the Lofoten Islands, a good bit north of the Arctic Circle. Since my schedule was already set, circumscribed by non-refundable tickets and reservations, (Norway is billed as the most expensive travel destination in the world), we agreed that while it would be fun to hook-up, it may not be feasible logistically. We agreed to confer via email once I arrived in Norway though, and see if either of us could figure something out.

After examining our self-prescribed itinerary, Jeff and I agreed to combine two days of hiking and sightseeing into one, freeing up our last day in the Lofoten Islands.  After several back and forth emails and ample opportunities to opt-out, we agreed to meet up at the halfway point. Jeff and I rented a car and drove three hours north to Harstad, Norway. Bev took a ferry south.

Hiking above Geirangerfjord, Norway

“So, how long has it been since you’ve seen each other,” Jeff asked on the drive.

“Well, I think it’s been about forty years. We were around ten years old is my best guess.”

“Were you good friends?”

“More like ‘amicable acquaintances’, I’d say”

“What are you going to talk about?” Jeff, like a lot of guys, doesn’t see the point in meeting up with someone without an agenda.

“I really don’t know. Whatever comes up, I guess.” Now he’s making me question my motives. Am I crazy? Is this going to be awkward? I sit in silence much of the ride, second-guessing my motives.

As she stepped off the ferry, I immediately spotted her long auburn locks and easy smile. That’s her, no doubt about it. Running up to her, we hugged, then sat at a nearby café table with Jeff and chatted a bit before deciding where to have lunch. She already had a restaurant suggestion that she had researched. Ah! My kind of girl–a pre-planner.

Lingering over lunch at a lovely café just steps away from the water, time flew by. Fluent in Norwegian, she ordered us a beer and helped decipher the menu. We talked nonstop, not about our past (since there aren’t many memories), but of where our lives have taken us.

“I’ve lived in Norway for eight years,” Beverly explained. “My soon-to-be ex husband’s parents were Norwegian, so there are family ties. Even after separating, I’ve decided to stay. I can’t imagine leaving this place.” (I don’t blame her, Norway is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen.)

All of the taboo subjects were on-limits, including politics, religion, and the shared teenage/young adult experiences that go along with coming of age. Our experiences are remarkably similar, our philosophies and beliefs on par with one another’s. We laughed in near amazement, but not surprise, that we have many of the same general mantras and aspirations of writing books. We both agreed that after turning fifty last year, we are becoming more comfortable in our own skin.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the ferry. I regretted having to leave so soon, there was so much more I wanted to learn and share with Bev.

We hugged each other goodbye, but in reality, this was a hello hug. A welcome to my life, friend, hug.

Bev and me with Willy and the Boyz