Show & tell with 70-Something on the Norwegian Fjords

August 10, 2012 2 comments
I stumbled upon Judy Kugel’s blog 70-Something when she featured the trip she (74 years old) and husband Peter (83) took in June in Norway with their 40-something son Seth. Seth is the travel writer behind the very successful NYT blog The Frugal Traveler, Seeing the World on a Budget. I was moved by Judy’s account of their trip as a way to share rare but precious moments with their son. More than the account of going up North along the Norwegian fjords, what I found moving is the experience as a 70-something mother to connect with her adult son thru travelling, a passion they both share. Judy’s feature is about togetherness, a term I’ve used so often since our trip around the world last year with our children. To me, togetherness is the true meaning of having a family. And as children grow older, those shared moments are rarer. Travelling is an enriching opportunity to share one-one time with the children, far from the routine and the busy daily living.
On a side note…I don’t know if you’re like me, but my desire to have a big family is secretly driven by the selfish expectation that I will be older (read old!) one day. That’s when children & grand-children will hopefully be there for me, after I have been there for them as they grew up. I’ve often had this idea that I will be 70-something and we will have a family ritual of a big summer reunion by a lake (in my dream, it looks a bit like a beautiful Adirondack lake..) where all the little ones will run around and jump naked in the cold water, our children and their partners will gather at the lunch table and chit chat, and Ceki and I will feel a huge sense of accomplishment, pride and happiness. I know. It’s a cliche, but hey…don’t we all have this in the back of our mind?
My husband and I live in Cambridge, MA (USA). We traveled far and wide with our two boys when they were young–starting at ages 8 and 10. And as grownups for very special occasions like milestone birthdays e.g., Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and to Oxaca.
Now Seth is the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler and we have joined him for one week of his annual long summer trip for the last three years. (Nicaragua and Croatia were the first two times) He is single and 42.
The 70-something blog is four and a half years old.  I have always been interested in transitions and always surprised at the unexpected good of each decade.  But 70 seemed like it could be a turning point in many ways, and I wanted to document it.  I have always written (Seth is not the only travel writer in the family) as a free lancer, but I have a challenging more than 40-hours a week job, so I don’t do as much as I would like.  Anyhow, I hope the blog will serve as a guide to those baby-boomers as their 70’s are coming up, and I plan to turn it into a book at some point.  Surprisingly, I have many young readers also.
When The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler (aka our son Seth) invited us to Norway for a week as part of his frugal summer in Scandinavia, we were thrilled.  Although we joined him the last two summers, first in Nicaragua and then in Croatia, we would never take another invitation for granted.
Our trip started when we met Seth in Oslo and left on an eight-hour bus trip to Fjaerland where we spent two nights at a campground at the end of Norway’s longest fjord.  My book lay unread on my lap as we traveled through a countryside dotted with farming villages, snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, deep green hills, and grazing sheep, all under a cloudless sky. 
Our trip ended with two nights on a sturdy old cruise ship sailing along the western Norwegian coast.   It was the season of the midnight sun, and at midnight we joked that we couldn’t tell if the sun was rising or setting.  Peter and I had a cabin, but Seth slept in the lounge in true Frugal Traveler fashion.
In between, we visited Brønnøysund, Bergen, and Balestrand. We biked on the island of Vega just south of the Artic circle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the friendly locals invited us to share in a festival marking the summer solstice, and a young woman named Ina opened the eider duck museum just for us because we arrived there after it closed.  People were kind to us everywhere, partly because they were charmed by Seth, but mostly because they were just nice.
There were many unforgettable moments. One, in Brønnøysund when we were killing time waiting for the ferry to visit Vega, we came upon a choral competition in the center of town.  We sat on benches and listened to  groups from all over the area singing their hearts out.  We had no idea what was going on, but we loved it.
At the campground where we stayed for our first two nights, Peter and I went for a walk after dinner while Seth wrote.  It was about 9:00 p.m.  The sun was shining on two houses high in the mountain, one a deep red and the other a dark mustard color, typical of the region.  We went back to get Seth because it was such a beautiful scene. The three of us walked together, taking pictures of the mountain and of each other, a family without a care in the world.
Over coffee on our last morning together, we looked at the hundreds of photos of our week that Seth had downloaded to his computer and tears flowed (mine).
The trip itself was a dream come true, but what really mattered was the chance to watch Seth work, to laugh at his jokes, to have him laugh at some of ours, and just to share a piece of his life.
At our age, we realize that our best days may be behind us, but as our trip with Seth suggests, there can be some very good ones to come. 
Ps: Here is the link to Seth’ account of the Family Reunion in the Fjords of Norway on the Frugal Traveler. The photos above are a mix of Judy’s and Seth’s.

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