What goes up….

My ex-wife had a poster in her bedroom that said exactly that. A picture of a hand drowning in pills. What goes up, must come down. It’s funny how something sticks to you. That poster stuck to me, and I still remember it vividly. I often picture it, and those excact words. 

It was those words that stuck to me when I was walking down one of England most historic airfields, minutes away from reaching another personal pinnacle I never thought would happen to me. I somehow had managed to manouver myself in a position to fly for free in a P-51 Mustang from the second World War. Something every historic aviation enthusiast dream of, but for most people can never be achieved. My father had spoken of trying to be given such a chance for three decades. He never got close. Suddenly, before even being 35 years old, I was about to go on that ride. And I would be doing it over the English countryside pulling 5 G’s in the backseat of one of the most famous aircraft ever made. It was at that moment I thought; “when will I ever come down?”

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In all honesty, looking back, it feels like anything I wanted between 2005 and 2015 came true. I always wanted to travel the world. Suddenly I had racked up 24 trips to England, three trips to the USA, 11 to Israel as well as all of Scandinavia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and more. I finally got to see my fave football playing live, I wrote books and published them with ease. Further; I befriended a childhood rockstar-hero of mine, signed books in England sitting beside WWII veterans, held lectures on historic aviation, got tenure and married a knock-out dark haired exotic girl. I turned 30 and didn’t think one bit about it. I felt at ease with it. I wasn’t an insecure 20 year old. I was reaching beyond anything I could have imagined within my hobbies and interests. All this may not sound much, but for me it meant the world. Everything I hoped when I was growing up was coming true. If this was getting older, I had no problem with it.

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With my head slightly banging on the canopy, upside down over Duxford Airfield, the thought of coming down came creeping to me again. Reaching this level of what I considered personal success; what will come next? Could I possibly continue on like this with what I felt was never-ending success?

Fact is, coming down again was creeping up on me. I just didn’t know it yet. A year later down the road, and my world would look very different.

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It’s culture issue

No, it’s not actually. I often told a few trusted friends the situations I ran into during the first years with together her. They kept saying it must be a culture thing. It wasn’t really a culture thing. It was a personality thing. She just had some quirky personality traits I couldn’t wrap my head around.

However, her home country had some drastic differences to mine. Security issues, density in population, massive traffic, pollution, extreme heat. Perhaps the biggest difference of all; communites so vastly difference from each other to the point you wouldn’t really think you were living in the same country at all. The diversity was something alright, and it’s not all positive. But then again, she could pick friends totally to her liking because there were so many to choose from. She always said that in Norway, you just had to become friends with whatever because there would be no one like you around anyway. She had a point. Her friends were all highly educated people. Bordering on nerds, but not in an obvious way. I was a nerd as well, but not like that. I never excelled in school and never had a lifegoal of becoming a doctor. My nerd factor came from my hobbies, not academia. My friends came from all sorts of places. None of my friends had anythying in common except knowing me. Her friends seemed to have lots in common. She had hand-picked them. I was just pleased I could make friends at all.

Mass-immigration from Russia combined with a growing Arab community made for natural segregation as people tend to seek out their own kind. It’s definetely a warning signal to countries like Sweden who have basically kept an open border policy for cultures so different that they could be from another century. Her country had communites within communites, and none of them really spoke to each other. To me, it felt like 10 or 20% of her countrys population, (mainly the secular, highly educated part) pushed the country forward while the rest simply went along for the ride.

However, all of this didn’t really give us problems. I can point to one important factor why; religion. We were secular. I was more athiest than agnostic. She was perhaps more agnostic than athiest, but it worked. So, no, it was never either about religion or so much about culture. The difference between western countries are really not that huge. We surf the same web, watch the same TV shows and follow the same football teams.

The differences may be in each countrys wealthfare system or how doctors do their job. How you send in your tax report. How much or what type of groceries a small town supermarket got, or whether there are pubs around or not. Whether or not you can go out on a Saturday night depending on the cost of a fancy burger. Coming from me, this is one of the things I’m quite proud of. We never had issues about culture differences. Perhaps it was easier for me since she came to live here and not vice versa. I would definetely have had issues living there, but this also because I’m not keen on living in large cities. I’m not keen on steel bars on your windows either. Speaking of burglaries, she was scared of being alone in our apartment for some time so she even locked the bedroom door with a key at first. Is this culture or personality? I think it’s the latter.

While working at a school she was shocked that the school did not have a fence around it. Most countryside schools simply don’t around here. It’s just nature that surrounds it anyway. She was surprised children stayed out and played in almost all weather conditions while in her country the kids were rushed inside once a spot of rain appeared. Yes, this is culture. But, all these differences were easy to get used to once she knew the system of the community she lived in. The nature and level of trust people had between each other. In her country, it didn’t feel like anyone trusted anyone. But who does in large cities?

It wasn’t about culture.

 

Chapter 4: And the Sky Full of Stars

I made over ten return trips to Israel between 2006 and 2012. I often photographed a lot of it, videotaped some of my travels as well. While the destination was always what I was looking forward to, I often found the travel itself an added bonus. I loved flying. The photos on this specific blog post are all mine. Often taken with a low quality cell phone camera, standard of 2007-2008.

You can decide to hate airports and air travel, or you can decide to embrace it and make your journey a bit more fun. An airport is the modern day roadcross. From airports, people will travel to all destinations of the world. Being at an airport made me understand that I can travel to any of the destinations on the board. It is a feeling of freedom. It is at an airport I feel I am most in touch with the world.

My journeys to Israel took about 15 hours, give or take. That included all legs of my travel. It would often start with getting a lift to the bus stop by my parents. From the bus I would often send my girlfriend a notice I was on my way. I often seperated my journey into four parts; bus to airport, flight to Prague (I often used Prague as my transfer), flight to Tel Aviv and the train ride up north.

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Blurry photo of boarding a CSA flight in 2009

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Gate at Oslo Airport

From the bus going to Oslo Airport, I would often gaze at the outside surroundings of often melting snow, a foggy landscape slowly waking up to spring while knowing Israel was already in full summer mode (I rarely did the trip in summer or fall). At the airport I would check in my bag at a counter still manned by people. This has now for the most part a disappeared from most airports with all the self-service check-in counters popping up. I would often study people around me, I spotted Israeli-Norwegian couples, business travelers or holiday-makers simply off to Prague. The Oslo-Prague-Tel Aviv route with Czech Airlines was at the time (a decade ago) one of the cheaper and easier options of routing down to Israel. I could often identify people going all the way and seperate them from those only flying to Prague. Nowadays, the route is operated from both Arlanda and Kastrup by SAS and Norwegian, but theres still no direct flight from OSL. Other carriers I flew (with transit) were KLM, Austrian, Swizz, or a mix of carriers within Star Alliance. Other carriers with a connection somewhere would be Lufthansa, British Airways and Air Baltic which I never tried.

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CSA dirty 737 wing flying over Norway

Having good time at an airport is essential for me. I often settled down somewhere with a pizza slice or two and looked at 737s arriving and departing from gates. Perhaps going for a pint of beer if I had the time. My flight departed around 15:40 and arrived in Prague two hours later. From there, there was a good six hour wait for the midnight departure at 23:55 to Tel Aviv. I never thought of those hours as boring as most people would have. I used to sit down in a pub somewhere with my laptop, a Czech beer in hand and surfed the web while the aircraft were passing by outside. During the last years I often used www.flightradar24.com and track incoming traffic on my computer while keeping an eye out for the aircraft outside. On a budget, I often used the KFC restaurant in the departure area for a late dinner. Czech Airlines operated a check-in counter inside the departure area for connecting passengers to Tel Aviv. Here, to handed out boarding passes.

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Laptop and a Czech beer makes for a good time

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Prague Airport getting more and more quiet as night falls

All through the evening, the airport got a little less crowded as each flight left to its destinations. I noticed Prague often had obscure destinations for holiday goers. For example Bournemouth in Britain. It was obviously meant for Brits to come to Prague to party. By 23:55, the airport was usually entirely empty except for those people going to Tel Aviv and the security guards walking around.

The flight to Tel Aviv was usually never fully booked. I could often use all three seats to stretch my legs and sleep for most of the time. One time, I woke up after a short nap, and looked straight down at a major European city, shining in the night. I believe it was either Vienna or Budapest. I often used my MP3 player and tunes in to whatever FM signals it recieved – and by the language I could pinpoint where I was. However, Czech Airlines often used a rather new Airbus on this flight with small screens for each row with the complimentary live flight tracker.

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KFC to go at Prague Airport

After having done several flights, I knew how to ask for certain things to get the most out of their service onboard. Like two cans of Coke and extra water, or other gems they might offer but you need to ask specifically for. Later on, most of Czech Airlines trolly service went all “pay”. Too bad.

The most interesting part of the flight was the last 20 minutes or so approaching Tel Aviv. I could clearly see the lights from the shores of Israel from some distance away. If I was seated on the left side, I could almost see as far as Haifa. Coming in to land, the highways below were often empty, but for a few cars and trucks.

Already slightly jet-lagged, I had to stand at passport control in front of a young Israeli girl in uniform asking me questions she had done thousands of times before – totally uninterested in her line of work. “What is your purpose of your visit?” “Where do you live?” “What is your girlfriends name?” Regardless of these young girls unimpressive approach, I found Ben Gurion Airport very safe due to all the checks they did. Especially when departing.

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Czech beer for this first flight down to Prague, ca 2007

Sleep deprived, I found my way through the final checks, picked up my baggage, and met up with my girlfriend waiting in the terminal. The clock was often around four or five in the morning which meant she had been taking a train down to Tel Aviv in the middle of the night to meet me. Both lacking sleep, we often hurried to the train for the last part of the journey up north. Usually, we went to sleep at eight in the morning. A long travel, but I always enjoyed it. I was traveling the world, had a girlfriend from abroad and had stars in my eyes.

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One interesting incident in 2008; the captain of this CSA PRG-OSL flight forgot to add flaps before take-off, subsequently aborting take off halfway down the runway

Lonely Nights

In my field of work I meet a lot of lonely people. The state of loneliness is something I care much about as it got much to do with the fact I’ve seen what it’s about. I’ve been there, and experienced it.

Loneliness comes in many different ways. I can honestly admit I am lonely as I write this. I am lonely in the sense I do not have my own family. I do not have a wife or a girlfriend, and I do not have my own children. But I am not lonely in the sense of having friends or family or being busy socially. I am. I have always had a family for example. I know many people who do not even have that. What I do know is how it feels like not to have any friends. If you feel lonely, and an increasing amount of people do, I hope there is some comfort in this little break from my usual chapters.

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If you find yourself lonely, it’s up to you to get out of it. How to get out of your state of loneliness is up to you. I ended up lonely because of a poor mix of education, shyness, low confidence and other unfortunate choices. It can happen. If you have friends and ignore them for whatever reason, they will in the end forget about you and move on. If they are not to your liking, that is fine, but then you need to find someone else. Otherwise, you might end up lonely.

I realized I was terribly lonely at some point. At first I didn’t know what to do with it. But I knew why it happened. Not being accessible to friends and pushing them away, not taking the same path as them, not going to the same school or taking the same course. Moving away to work in a heavily female oriented choice of work. Using the internet way too much, spending long hours in front of the screen. The reasons were many.

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I blamed the internet first and foremost. But in a moment of clarity I decided that it could also be the internet that would get me out of the mess. So, I started to hang on out in chat rooms specifically for my home town – daily striking up conversations with locals. Up until that point I had kept my chats worldwide, focusing on finding people with the same interests – which I could only find in other countries. I lay that to rest. It was through these (now) vintage social media channels I developed friendships. I soon got invited to parties. I had never really been to any parties before, but I decided to suck it up and go. From there on I met my first girlfriend and made friends I still have to this day, 15 years later.

Creating a social network from scratch takes time, but it’s doable. In 2016 you can use Facebook to connect with old friends. I’ve done that too. Many friendships have blossomed due to my usage of social media. One of them was a childhood friend which I had not spoken to for almost 20 years when we started to hang out again. Friendships can be created at your work as well, if you let yourself be accesible to it. One of my best and trusted friends is a co-worker. And let it be know that friends online you have never met but know and trust are also your friends. Why don’t you buy a ticket and go see them? You don’t need anyone to take you there – you can take yourself.

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Even if you can’t seem to make friends right away, don’t let that stop you from doing things you want. Like travelling, going to the cinema, or seeing your favorite band on stage. I’ve done all that alone several times. Not because I am lonely, but simply because I want to live and experience stuff. If no one wants to go and see a rock band with me, I will simply go alone. Do not let anything stop you from doing what you want. Dare to put yourself in a situation you may at first find awkward. If you feel uncomfortable, bring a book. I’ve done several trips alone – foreign and domestic. When I told a previous girlfriend that I’ve been going abroad alone she was shocked. She would never have dared to do it. Why? Screw it! Just do it! You won’t regret it. Some of the best travel experiences I’ve had – I’ve done on my own. It doesn’t mean I’m lonely, it simply means I do not need others support or companionship to have a good time.

I travelled around Norway last summer and decided to talk to a girl on the same sightseeing boat as me. I admit I was hesitant at first, but I did it and did not regret it. She was from Atlanta, Georgia, and we ended up having dinner together that evening as she was also travelling alone. You simply need to step out of your comfort zone. Many will think none of all of this, and talk to anyone. Others will be physically sick by only thinking of it. Instead of withdrawing, accept that you feel this way, and mentally prepare yourself to do it anyway. Take that step. Next time it won’t feel as bad. Then do it again, just don’t do it once a year. Being social takes practice and you just lack training. You may have that sort of shy personality, but remember; you can alter your personality traits – it just takes practice. I used to be quite afraid of talking in public until one day I decided to see if I could leave that behind and simply talk in public without being afraid. It took a few years and it took practice, but it was doable and it was far from my hardest project either. It pays off. I can speak in public with ease now.

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Stop comparing yourself to others. Show them the finger (mentally) and understand that they are just jerk offs like yourself in one way or another. Be up front with how you feel, and accept it. Decide what to do with it, and make a plan. Loneliness is common. Do not be a perfectionist – I know I’m falling into this trap many, many times myself. I demand much of myself. So do you. Don’t let it become something that pulls you down just because you haven’t reached to where you want to be yet.

Do what feels right for you. Do not be afraid to fuck up. Everyone does. So you speak to someone, and then they shy away from you? Not your fault. Try again. Accept a no and move on. Greet yourself with compassion. You fucking rock in your own way, and you know it. And if you suck at first, just try again. And again, and again.

Chapter 3: The Parliament of Dreams

She got in touch with me first. Rumour said she had run out of Finns to talk to, so she turned to Norwegians. Her country was under siege, being bombarded with deadly rockets from terrorists in the neighbouring country up north, striking her city.

She had gone further south, away from the attacks, to her cousins place. There was little left for her to do than to stay online. Our chats were often disrupted by air raid sirens which meant she had to take shelter just in case any of the rockets reached her area inland. I wasn’t thinking of a relationship because she was so far away from me I didn’t consider it to be anything serious. Until she said she would meet me in Prague. Visiting Prague was a week-long trip I had planned with my brother and a few friends months prior to meeting her. The trip wasn’t meant as anything to do with romance. I didn’t even take her seriously when she said she would go. But she did. We met in the square of the old town of Prague in lovely sunshine in October of 2006. At first I had an eerie feeling about it I couldn’t shake. Perhaps it was my intuition warning me of what was to come 10 years later. I can’t explain what it was, or why.IMG_4892

After Prague we met in Finland in November. She had a thing for Finland. I don’t know why many foreigners seem to do. Norwegians have absolutely no “thing” for Finland. I flew out on an early morning Finnair flight. We spent a few days in Helsinki before going to Norway. I took her to see my parents. We were already acting as a couple and I had no strange intuitions any more – it had disappeared after the first hour of meeting her.

As for Norwegian girls I could not talk or impress enough to go out with me, it was a feeling of leaving them behind victorious. Through most of that first college year I had a huge crush on a girl from my study group – which turned out to be a subsequent failure of me trying to date her. Of course.

So a foreign girl being much more direct about what she wanted – and completely honest in being attracted to me, felt so much easier to deal with. It was easier. My devloping prejudice towards local girls had been confirmed as true. They didn’t like me, but foreign girls did.

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I went to her home country in February 2007. For a whole month. Not only was the final destination of my journey worth it, but I got to travel. I simply love flying and traveling. Even transits at airports in Europe fascinates me. I was suddenly a world traveler, I was doing well in college, and I had found an absolutely smashing, exotic girl. It was also a bragging right that I was going to what Norwegians looked at as a “semi war-zone”.  It was too good to be true. I was suddenly racking up flights like a madman, spent tons of money doing it, but yet managed to save up a considerable sum between 2006 and 2010. We traveled her country extensively, got to see all the sights, and I plastered everything about it online. I was proud. We even had our photo published online by the biggest online (and offline) newspaper outlet in Norway under the headline “we are traveling all over the world!”

I talked her into opening a Facebook account so I could change my relationship status to “in a relationship with”.

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She wasn’t only pretty, but took whatever I had of low self confidence away and pulled me up to her level. She was one of the reasons I had no hesitation writing a book in 2008-2009 (the first of many). After acing my bachelors degree and ending up dating a beautiful foreign girl like her, there was no stopping me. My untraditional ways had paid off. I was right, everyone else were wrong. I had no hesitation investing all the time that it took in a long distance relationship. Why wouldn’t I? I got travel, and she adored me. Besides, I did not understand Norwegian girls, and they did not understand me. My crush the previous year was proof of that.

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The last part of 2006 was absolutely a smashing time. So was 2007. In retrospect, It was like I could only think about something, and it would come true. If I wasn’t flying to see her or she was off to see me, I was flying to England for air shows and beer. I had been dreaming of going to England since I was a child. Now I was doing it every year.

Things had finally turned around.

Chapter 2: What can I say – I come from Tuborg and Sleaze Rock

Between early 2004 and the summer of 2006 I tried to be more traditional. That is, if binge drinking during weekends are traditional. I have a feeling it actually is in this country. I was never too keen on drinking when I was in my late teens or early 20’s. It was another thing where I deviated from my peers. After my girlfriend dumped me in January of 2004, I decided to re-think a couple of life choices. I felt my way of doing things wasn’t not working out.  So I decided to start drinking like the rest of the country. I was drinking to get over her, to get over myself and to change myself into something else. I was tired of being me.1280666-16

I was 23 and obviously had issues getting over her. I grew my hair long, tried to look “rock” and even sported the odd drunk eyeliner-look once I was wasted and started to feel inspired by Motley Crues book “The Dirt”. Heartbreak and drinking; what others experienced being a teenager, I was experiencing for the first time in my early to mid 20’s. I was catching up. Was it the raddest time I’ve had or was it the sadest? I am not sure. My best friend was 18. We went nuts, but usually never in danger of wrecking ourselves or anyone else. Perhaps just normal Norwegian weekends for young people. Except for the eyeliner and the hair. People had trouble understanding that part. I once entered a room full of countryside stereotypes in the middle of nowhere with my hair spiked up, and black eyeliner smeared across my face. The room went dead silent. I liked it.

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I started college August 2005, and drank more than I studied. Surprisingly, it didn’t really make my grades suffer. Considering the amount of time I invested in my field of study, the two-year course was either too liberal and easy or I was simply much smarter than I thought. I have a sneaky feeling it’s was the first, but I will pretend it’s the second.

Girls wasn’t going my way. I had a few offers, but I didn’t find them interesting. One had a boyfriend but had a strong interest in cheating on him. With me. I said no. I actually have morals. Another was, to be blunt, dumb. I was quickly done with my business there. Another one was so desperate for a boyfriend she could have picked anyone. I aborted that one too. In early 2005 I met a very cute girl from the other side of the country. She was a student in my home town. She sent all the right vibes and the more she drank, the more clingy she got. Up until specific physical contact. I should have smelt a rat when she pulled out when I tried to kiss her once. I had gathered up all confidence I could find up until that point and was 99% sure she would kiss me back. She didn’t. She was a new type of breed for me – a tease. I understood later that many female students around 20 years old have often gotten involved in serious relationships during their teen years and have no interest in doing that again now that they are free and off to college on their own. So they like the flirting, but pull out once you actually make a serious effort. That happened a few times those years.

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The more time went by with trying my luck and failing miserably, the more bitter I got. One of the more nasty mistakes you can make as a single guy. But who can blame them when I was so wasted I could hardly mutter a decent sentence when I met someone out on town. So, I gave up and went back to being untraditional. I went back online (but I was never really away). MySpace was cool and so was this foreign girl that got in touch with me. Considering my experience with American girls, this felt instantly right. She was foreign after all. Foreign meant foreign and not Norwegian. I was truly convinced I did not understand Norwegian girls or how to talk to them. And I was just as convinced they did not understand me either. We just didn’t get along. Nothing had changed since high school. If I was to go somewhere with girls, I had to go foreign again. And so I did.

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