I’ve always relied upon the kindness of strangers. And a few good friends.
And this is not an adventure for amateurs. Do not try to do this unless you got long experience in journeys and hard times kids…
I have years of physical and mental training for a lot of obstacles. Through trips all over the world, there and back again! I was finely tuned to face almost anything when I’m in a survival mode. From living affluent to skid row, I have done it all. Or so I thought. I did not however get the right preparations for this journey as I wanted to. It was all about finances. And everywhere I turned, it was the same answer: No! It was as if they did not want me to go. Forces working against my will! They would rather have me tamed and shackled in a dead-end job back home where they could see me deteriorate as the horse in Central Park with blind folds on each side. As if they thought that my days as a mustang was over. Everything depended on my will to do this last jump as it were. The last night, I turned quiet. Focusing all my thoughts into what I was about to do. As to gather strength and courage for what would come next, and how the next week would look like, and if I was going to survive it. Survive the landing on Normandy. Behind enemy lines, to get to the right places, to pick up whatever I needed to be able to go forward. All these things went through my head as I slowly drank my beer.
Sunday morning: D of Days… It was a beautiful easter Morning. According to myths and legends, this was the day that a mythological figure called Jesus rose. And I was going into another battle. Another D Day that would decide my course for the future forever. I woke up a bit sooner than I hoped for.
The hangover was about to do its part. A beer would do the trick. But the dizziness was still doing its work. I packed the rest of my things. Did my last business on the PC, and tried to relax just one more hour. Quarter to 1, Dimitri came into the room and offered one last spliff for my departure. At 1, I was all set. Clean clothes, all packed, and I was in a hurry.
Two puffs, one belch of beer and I was off. I had 1300 kroners for this purpose. Far from enough to make this journey a smooth one. As I walked down to the metro 10 minutes away, there was still time to change my mind. To quit. To go home and fall asleep in my own bed instead. The metro I took was the exact same as I would have taken if I was to go back to my own place. I could have just sat on the train instead of getting off to catch the bus to the airport. I got off the train. Rushed through the station to find the starting point for the airport coach. It was a two-hour ride there. Many times have I taken this ride. The last one I took ended up in loss, a two broken hearts, and a battle lost. Also this was a burden to my venture.
Memories… Sadness, sorrow, and now, a new adventure in a new town in a new country. I could still change my mind, and not check in. Just take the bus back into town. Spend another 280 kroners for nothing. At least I would be safe in known surroundings. But that wouldn`t be me, now would it?
As soon as I checked in my luggage, it would still not be too late. It would not be too late even after going through the security check. It would be too late to change my mind as soon as I would have gone to the gate, and given my boarding pass to the staff.
So I did. A tune went through my head from the series «Band of Brothers» as they were about to embark on the Eve of D Day. They would be dropped wy behind enemy lines. They would be platoons after platoons… Company after company, a full Airborne division. I would go as a one man army. Since my mate had to go back to Norway just days before my departure, second thoughts did cross my mind. But I am a one man army. Nothing is impossible. Was seems to be is just another challenge. The plane went on the runway. For once, I looked out the window as a kid travelling by plane for the first time. Some things need to observed. To go through the experience of something new once again. The plane left the ground. And a suction went right through my stomach as in the old days. The butterflies went through my fingers as when to see a beloved not seen in a long time. The land beneath me became smaller and smaller. There was no telling when I would see this landscape again. This landscape I once called my own country. A country that either didn’t want me, or didn’t want me to go. Soon my head was in the clouds. A title of an exhibition that someone I once loved had set up just before she threw me under the bridge and made me sick for the next 18 months. My head was truly in the clouds this time. Both literally and figuratively. I tried to get some shuteye. I was still tired after too many days of party time and disappointments from east and west. I would know what to do as soon as the plane landed anyway. No point in having 2nd though about it now. This is what I have been trained for. Both physical obstacles from the army, as well as mental obstacles from the same. And years of practice from other adventures the last 20 years. It all summed up to this particular journey. It always does. It’s the last one that counts. Not the previous ones. The plane landed a half hour before schedule. That was good. It gave me hope to catch the last coach going directly to Bournemouth. I was hoping not having to change coaches in London. No such luck. I rushed through the passport check, and straight to the pickup point. It gave me time to change my little resources to Pounds. Now it was time to think wisely. You always have to with limited such. I got to the bus station. A bus left for London just before 7. I was on it. As always, I kept my eyes open for the new impressions.
Every time I’ve been to England, I’ve always been passing through. And London is a legendary city. What did it really look like? 90 minutes later, I wobbled out of the coach looking for my luggage. I was getting weary from the travel. I picked it up and went looking for the next departure point. For some reason, it didn’t feel as heavy as before. That’s when i discovered it. My PC bag was gone! My beloved weapon was left back on the airport coach! Panic! I didn’t need this kind of aggravation after just 5 minutes in worlds greatest city on my way to somewhere else! First I tried to go back to where I got off. But i thought that the bus might have left already. I hooked on to a staffer and explained to him what had happened. He grasped my peril immediately and asked me some quick questions before we rushed across the compound to the part of the station i got off. We went to one coach, but it was not the right one. «It might take a while to locate the bus» he said. «No can do», I said. «I got to be on the coach to Bournemouth by 9.30». The friendly staffer got into the bus that he thought I might have been on to make a few phone calls. The bus was still at the station. After 10 minutes we located the right one. With a beating heart I ran over to it. I recognized the driver. I jumped into the bus and looked for the place I sat. There it was! My true love and weapon against the world was right there! All alone, yet still safe! The departure point was practically on the same compound as where I got my PC back. I could relax. But I was getting hungry. The only thing I had eaten all day was a chocolate bar, «Kvikk Lunsj», and a hotdog on the airport. I got a baguette and a coke to eat one the bus. It was getting dark now. Too dark to be able to get any good view of the country. So I ate, and drank, and was soon fast asleep. I didn’t leave my PC on the shelf this time. But had it right beside me at all time. I was too tired to worry about getting shelter on arrival. Too tired to think about the address of the hostel I had planned to go to. Figuring out that it would be right in the neighbourhood, trusting the locals to know their way around. The soft voice of the female driver woke me up way too soon. It was the stop before Bournemouth. Which meant it was only 30 minutes to the last landing. I turned around, shut my eyes once again, and let it come when it came. Again, the voice woke me up way too soon. I was drowsy and dizzy from the long trip. Not very willing to leave the warm comfort of the bus. Outside it was getting cold. It was almost midnight. I have noticed something throughout the years. Any map never really tells what the geography truly looks like. Specially in the cities and towns.’ Bournemouth travel Interchange looked a bit confusing at the start. I did not know where to go, and it was dark. I started walking in the right direction. But was having some doubts. I went back and straight to the taxi stop. Figuring out that some would know where «Bournemouth Backpackers Hostel» would be located. «You have an address» a tall pony tale punk driver asked me. «Sorry, I forgot to write it down» I replied. «Besides, you’re supposed to be the local, knowing the ins and outs. And you are asking me about these things! I’ve never been here before, counting on that at least the taxis would have a half a brain to know where things are!» I was getting annoyed. And tired. I was longing for a warm bed in the cold. We figured it out eventually. But the whole house was bathing in the dark. I knocked on the door. A sign on the door said «Reception Closed»… What the hell was this kind of business? A hostel with no reception? We went to the next place. A YMCA in town centre. «Let John Wayne in» said a punk kid. It proved not to be the kind I was looking for. In the meantime, the taxi was waiting. And the meter was running. It drove me buggy. Then we went to the Night Shelter. But they denied me. I had to be a local to get in there. Despite that I did have my old NIS number, it didn’t help much. We went to Travelogde. They bragged about having rooms for 19 quid a night. But that was all advertising and not much tangible with it. You’d have to book 6 weeks a head to get it at that price. Now, why don’t they put that on their billboard? Is this what we can define as false advertising? I certainly think so. Besides, it was fully booked anyway. And I didn’t have 50 pounds to spend anyway. My spirits went low as I ordered the driver to take me back to Interchange. This joker already cost me 14 pounds for nothing. And I had to look forward to spending the night on a bench somewhere at the station. Again he mouthed me off about «not being prepared». I think he was trying to hide behind some sort of local guilt. something about the militaristic orderly fashion of the English society. And now, he tried top put some blame on me for it. That bloody bastard. I will never forget his ugly face as long as I live. He should get a haircut and change business if he don’t know shit about his own town. I went into the platform of the train station. It was about to close. It was almost 1 at night. And I was cold. It was a small breeze in the air. Tha cab driver was worried about me being target for thieves. That made me more awake than ever. For quite a while, I did not dare falling asleep. This was by all means a new town with many unknown factors. The bench I was sitting on was not very comfortable. I couldn’t lie down and stretch out. Instead, I took out my pen and my note-book and started writing. Ate one more chocolate to keep my energy level up to some point. I call it my Elvish waybread. Some staffers was going about doing their business. Cleaning up the station with some loud machines. I tried to shut my eyes for a bit. But the noise was bothering me. An uniformed station attendant told me to put out my cigarette. It was prohibited to smoke inside the station. Outside?? Every once in a while a train went by. It would soon be quiet. I took a chance, and left the safety of the locked station and found a bench right outside the Tourist Information. strategically close to a phone boot in case of trouble. I carried my PC with me at all time. Even though the whole station was all quiet. Not a soul was nearby. Just me. I was de facto homeless at this moment. I took a stroll around as I chain smoked. At 5 in the morning I finally went into some uneasy sleep. My joints were getting stiff. The winds were sneaking under my collar. So I tried to pack my neck as best as I could. My feet were getting frozen. My two jackets, my blazer covered most of my body. My «lusekofte», the one that my old grandma once made for me 20 years ago kept me warm. Like so many times before, it has saved my ass from the chills in the summer night as well as from the winter chills. I as drifting off, knowing what I had to do the next day…
D Day + 1. I woke up at around 7. People were coming and going at the station by now. Busses started to arrive and leave. As much as it soothed my mind, it didn’t give me much sleep. Every time someone were close, I put my ears up. My instincts were at a survival mode now. At 8, I got my luggage stored at the Tourist Information as I went to my business. Finding internet, bus routes, and some warmth. The night have been rough. Throughout the day, I strolled about the town. It was getting warmer. But most places were closed yet. I found a place close to the station where they served cheap lunch and had wi-fi. But it didn’t work that day. So I went downtown again, and found a coffe shop where I could log in. I was over tired. Trouble keeping my eyes open as the place warmed up a frozen body. Soon I would have to pick up my gear and find a place to stay. I did. At 5.30, I knocked on the door to Ferriby Guest House. A middle aged mate opened the door. I had to use my bargaining skills to get a deal for the night. I only had 23 pounds left. And I did not want to spend another night out. And I needed bus fare, a meal as well. I gave him my word as I paid him 15 pounds straight up. As a former paratrooper he could rely on another veteran. My word of honor. That was good enough for him. I would have to sort things out with the company the next day. Using all my wits to get what I needed. Charm the ladies at the HR and convert them into my world. It was a relief getting a private room. My own shower, and a double bed. I went around the corner and got a burger and chippies. The shower warmed up cold and stiff limbs. It was orgasmic. I stretched out on the bed in a warm and cosy room.
Never have something so simple been so valuable. People are living like this every day.
For months and for years at a time.
Completely disenfranchised from any warmth and safety from a home.
A fire-place and a bed. A warm meal and a hot shower. And a loving family that would care for you.
I understand now why so many look so worn out. It cost them too much just to try to stay alive from day-to-day. As I drifted into a night of warmth and soothing dreams, I have come to appreciate the simple things more than ever.
Tomorrow I would have to serve my case to the company and appeal to their integrity… At least I would have gathered some strength to do so. Things were still not resolved. My task had just begun. It’s all a part of being a warrior. An adventurer! A journeyman…