Traveling again, or “left my travel routine in 2019”

“So, you gonna pack still tonight, right?” H asked as we were finishing our dinner at 18:30 or so on Sunday evening. “Oh crap! Yeah! I suppose I better go do it right now before the last dog walk!” And I shot up from my chair and dashed downstairs to figure out what I was gonna take with me to Oslo in the morning.

I have been known to pack a proper little flight pack with wheels even for a short one night trip such as this one, complete with a full change of clothes, maybe even a couple of different outfits and definitely another pair of shoes. This time, however, I decided to travel light and take only a change of underwear and top with me. Otherwise, same jeans, cardigan and boots for two days. *Gasp!*

So instead of my roly-poly suitcase I selected my small backpack for my travel bag and stuffed the clothes and toothbrush in the front pocket, laptop, headphones and a bunch of chargers in the main compartment. And then added some. Chargers that is. For the laptop, the travel charge station for iPhone and Apple Watch, for the power bank, for the headphones.

Everything was ready, except for the stuff I couldn’t pack until the morning. Don’t you just HATE morning flights! I folded my clothes ready for the morning on the shelf of my closet and set a note on top, a list of the few items I needed to remember in the morning. I set my alarm for 5, figuring it SHOULD give me sufficient time to get to the airport and through security since the flight wasn’t until 7:30.

Satisfied that all was in order, we took the dogs out, and then I hit the shower. Read a bit in bed after my shower before turning off the lights. Just like always. “Are you stressed?” asked H as I fidgeted next to him after lights out, pushing my forehead against his chest. “Yeah. Stressed and anxious. About traveling to a strange place. About missing my flight. About finding my way at the airport, when it’s all different than when I last flew. About the alarm not going off in the morning (like that’s happened like, ever!). I’ll probably sleep ok until 3 or so and then start checking the time every 45 minutes as usual”.

Which is pretty much what happened, but before that: “Fuck!” I tossed my blanket off and tore my mask from my eyes and ran into the Studio to find my passport. No, as a Finn, I don’t really need a passport to travel to Norway, but seeing as I only have a driver’s license for ID, and that’s not an official ID even INSIDE of Finland, better have my passport with me just in case. Not that I needed to even take it out of my purse once on the trip. Still, better safe than sorry.

Found my passport and set it nicely on top of the note on top of my clothes and went to sleep. I mean, after that I actually fell asleep. And woke up a few times before the alarm and was wide awake as soon as it went off. I hopped out of bed, got dressed, almost forgot my glasses, but since I couldn’t see to order a taxi without them, I didn’t.

Taxi was on its way, two minutes from our house, when I realized that I didn’t have that darn passport. How? Why? How did I miss it? I dashed downstairs to look for it and COULD. NOT. FIND. IT.  It wasn’t on the shelf, it wasn’t on the floor, it wasn’t stuck to my clothes. IT WASN’T ANYWHERE! How can a passport vanish like that? It CAN’T! I started panicking (“My taxi is waiting and I’ll miss my flight and I can’t find my passport!”), which woke up my poor husband and he came to look for it with me.

Finally I noticed the bastard between the sliding doors and reached out to grab it, pulling the doors out of their rails in the action, but I really couldn’t have cared less at the moment. I flew out the door patting my pockets to check I had my phone with me. The taxi was still waiting at the curb and we were off. “To the airport”, I sighed. I sat in the cab, felt like crying or vomiting or maybe both but did neither. I concentrated on breathing.

[Oh, this is gonna be a long one, you think, still not even at the Helsinki Airport. Yeah, I know, sorry not sorry]

Yes, the airport was all different. The taxi driver showed me where to find the taxis on my way home before dropping me off (not that it really helped anything; I still needed to navigate to them through the huge unfamiliar arrivals lobby with help of the overhead signs), and I stepped into the huge unfamiliar departure lobby with none of the confidence I used to have about flying.

No problem going through security, not even a line there. And man those new X-ray machines there are cool! No need to take ANYTHING out of the bags.

With over and hour to kill, I set in search of a coffee shop and spotted an Espresso House that didn’t used to be there, just like the bookstores and WH Smiths weren’t there either. Got a mocca latte thinking it might soothe my stomach and sat in the crowded coffee shop for a while, reading, until it was time to make my way to the gate.

Boarding happened pretty much right on time, we all settled into our seats that were way too close to each other for normal sized people, I mean the Oslo airport train had more leg space. I sat there feeling queasy, not sure if I wanted to nap or read. Just waiting for us to get moving. And wait we did. For a half an hour we waited for the crew to find an iPad(!!!) that worked. Apparently the cockpit iPad (apparently nowadays all of the flight control manuals and calculations and whatnot run on iPads) refused to fuction, and even the spare one didn’t work.

I sent an email to my customer contact that my flight was late, I’ll let them know when we land.

Finally we took off and were on our way. If there was one thing about flying in November: I got to see the sun. Sunrise, actually, but sunlight anyway. For 45 minutes or so I had rays of sun streaming through my little toilet seat window. Otherwise there seems to be a blanket of thick clouds over the Nordics currently. Not a crack in the clouds as we flew over Sweden, and the fog was thick until we were basically on the ground. The top of the Oslo airport flight control tower was inside the low hanging clouds.

I checked my phone for emails as soon as we landed, and found instructions to take the Airport Express to the Olso Sentral Station and a taxi to the office from there. What?! Somehow I’d checked that the office was so close to the airport that it was best to just take a room at an airport hotel, but I nope. Kicked myself about that. A city center hotel would’ve been better, but it was too late already.

Off to look for the train I went anyway, resigned and still or already tired. Got another coffee and a croissant on the way; my stomach finally felt like handling food now that I’d gotten that far. Bought a return ticket, making it through the menus and choices in Norwegian because I didn’t see the language menu at the top corner until I was at the payment part (at which point the language switched to English due to my foreign card anyway), and soon enough I was whizzing through a scenery that was uncannily similar to Finland. If I hadn’t known better…

At the Sentral station (yes, it’s with an S in Norwegian) I was baffled again. It was huge and had a mall or two attached to it and signs this way and that for different exits, and even some Taxi signs, but they kinda stopped before I got out and so I exited to a street where there were no taxis, only some trams and a huge ass scull on a flatbed. And a statue of a jungle cat, tiger, I imagine. I took photos of both and traced my steps back to the last Taxi sign I’d seen and tried a different exit.

I finally found the taxi station, or one of them as I learned later on, and briefly wondered how reliable the Norwegian taxi services are and whether or not I should prioritize one over the other. Shrugging mentally, I next tried to discern where the front of the taxi line was, i.e. which car to head to. And failed. The driver whose car I tried to get in, got out and started pointing at a different car at a different spot and I vaguely got the idea he spoke neither English nor Norwegian, but I might be wrong about the latter.

The taxi seemed ok enough, and I got to the office safely and for a decent price. People were already waiting for me, but hey, shit happens when you travel. Flights are late and you get lost and stuff like that. We had a very good workshop day nad around four or so we wrapped things up for the day and I got into another taxi, this time together with the contact person, and so there I was again, at the shopping mall of a train station.

I thought I’d try to do some shopping there, but as I walked past storefront after storefront, I noticed I really wasn’t intereted. I was too tired. I contemplated on having pizza at the station before heading back to the airport for the shuttle to the hotel, but decided to get the pizza to go from the airport where I’d seen a Peppe’s right there in the train and bus lobby. So I whizzed back to the airport in the gray bullet train with my return ticket and dragged myself to the Peppe’s.

I ordered my size S Chicago style pizza, Green Garden (with avocado and marinated mushrooms and bell pepper and onion) and sat down to wait. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. half an hour passed and I started thinking to myself that at home I can get a pizza delivered faster than that. So I got up to as about my pizza and there it was. Siting on the shelf just waiting. Why didn’t anyone TELL ME that my pizza was ready? I was sitting right there next to the counter, waiting! Airports, I tell ya!

Feeling slightly pissed off (not having enough energy to be majorly pissed off) I set off with my already cooling pizza, in search of the hotel shuttle. I thought I found the correct one on the info screen, jogged to the bus ready to be off, and tried to buy a ticket to Scandic Oslo Airport hotel, only to hear that the bus for that was a different one. Okay, no biggie, the platform was just 30 meters the other way.

The correct shuttle bus was due to leave in five minutes so despite my plans to eat my pizza in front of a movie in the relative comfort of my hotel room, I decided to grab a slice. I was still munching on the last bite of the slive when the bus rolled to the platform, so I let this couple get on board first to give me time to swallow before needing to speak. I got my ticket (8 fucking euros for a 10 minute shuttle ride! I bigger places like Brussels they offer it for free! Or at least used to back when the dinosaurs walked the earth) and found a seat in the back and off we went, into the darkness of the nordic November.

I had done my hotel check-in in the morning while on the train, so getting my key was the fast operation of stating my name and giving my credit card for scanning (“but I already gave it when I paid on the app” “we can’t see any card here” “ok, here”) and getting the necessary info of breakfast and restaurant schedules, not that the latter one interested me in the least.

The hotel was like a goddamn Swedish cruise ship with long corridors this way and that from the elevators. My room was almost at the end of one and I nearly lost my confidence halfway, but trudged on until I found my room. A very standard Scandic room. The kind of sterile looking nondescript room with beiges and light grays and no minibar – not that I needed it: I had my own iced tea and water bottles, pizza, nuts, and candy to keep me happy for the evening. At least that much I remembered from the olden days. Always have your own drinks and snacks. Rather too much than too little. You can always take the leftovers with you. As I did and finished the nuts today, stashed the rest of the candy in my drawer.

I set up the wifi on my laptop and struggled for a bit with Netflix as it tried to log me into the Norwegian site, failing. Finally I got in and started browsing the Christmas movies; I mean it IS that time of the year! Selected one that seemed both funny and fuzzy as it well should. Something where the main character has amnesia after a ski accident instigated by a local Santa, in order to fulfill the wish of a little girl. Can’t remember its name, and while it wasn’t on the level of Hallmark (unfortunately ever since Netflix started making their own, no more Hallmark Christmas movies for us here), it was cozy enough and left me feeling good. Purpose served.

After a call with H and the dogs (no, they didn’t really understand that mama was there on facetime and went back to napping after an initial ear perk from hearing my voice) I set my alarm and went to sleep.

As expected, I woke up some 45 minutes before my alarm, so I showered and got dressed and went in search of breakfast way earlier than needed. It was a very Sacndic breakfast with the scrambled eggs made of powdered eggs (I actually like that stuff!) and bacon, fresh bread, cheeses and meat slices, with some fish and fruits and stuff thrown in. Very much as expected. That’s one thing about staying in a safe bet. It’s boring but it’s predictable.

On my way back to my room I asked the reception to call me a taxi in an hour or so. I figured that between the shuttle fee, the train ticket and the last bit in a taxi, it couldn’ be much more expensive to just have a taxi take me to the customer from the hotel, plus it’s faster and more comfortable. It was somewhat more expensive, but worth it.

After another successful workshop day I was in a taxi again, on my way to the train station. I spotted an Espresso House on my way to the platforms and asked for a tall cahi latte to go, please. The girl behind the counter looked confused for a second, then lifted two fingers and asked: “two chai lattes?” “No, one, a big one.” “Oh okay! Because tall (tolve) is twelve in Norwegian so I was confused a bit!” she chuckled. Heh, I would’ve been too, but it didn’t cross my mind.

I bought another train ticket, one way and in English this time and was at the airport, again, in no time. Found the security line just to be ushered to the next one, which was the fast track, but “your ticket doesn’t qualify for fast track”. No no no, the NEXT one, 50 meters that way! I wasn’t the only one who got the guard all wrong.

Oslo Airport doesn’t have those fancy new machines, so it was the old familiar routine of take out every device from your bags and strip down to your underwear. Well, maybe no stripping involved and actually no routine anymore either, so just a big fucking hassle during which I managed to accident-dial my son. Plus I forgot to take out my liquids, but I guess it didn’t matter. Nobody asked before and nobody said anything after either. So just the devices, those darn culprits. Laptop, iPad and phone.

I checked the gate, well double-checked it. My boarding pass said D6 and the info screen agreed. So I set my course towards the D terminal. Going throught the doors to the international flight area I found myself in the taxfree shop and figured I might as well bring some candy home for the kids, and ourselves too, why not. Some mixed chocolates for the offspring and mixed Lindt for us. My favorite, but overlooked by them kiddos. In a souvenir shop I found a fridge magnet (I almost forgot!) for myself, a mug for the youngest one and keychains for the two older ones. Presents for kids, check.

I suppose I could’ve eaten something proper or at least better at some eatery or another while waiting for my flight, but my stomach was feeling a bit queasy again, so I just got a croissant, a chocolate bun, and a Froosh from one of the Kiosks and walked to the gate to eat and work a little before the flight. Which was late. Again. Started boarding at the time when we were supposed to be taking off. I just wanted to be home already!

The plane was even smaller than the one on the way there. Four seats per row; can’t remember the last time in a tiny tube like that. Some domestic flight for sure. The leg space was more, though, while the seat belt so short that anyone bigger than me must’ve needed an extension!

An hour and twenty minutes in the sardine can, “a blueberry juice, please” (I never speak Finnish on international flight, even on Finnair flights, for reasons I cannot exactly explain), and a bit of working, blog writing and even reading, and finally we landed at the Helsinki Airport. I couldn’t have gotten out faster, except if I hadn’t stopped to use the toilet on the way. I speed-walked towards the exits which were where they didn’t used to be. I followed the taxi signs and found the taxi lines, and selected Taksi Helsinki, because it’s the only one I basically trust anymore after the taxi scene became a wild wild west. Bring back the taxi laws!

So home, finally! Doggos practically flew to greet me when I came in, H following them with a bit more patience and a smile on his face. I’ve become a total homebody. Never wanna travel again. Except in a week and half from now, to Berlin for company Christmas party and stuff. No but seriously. I don’t miss business travel. Not. At. All.

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