Hi. I am Kalei and this is my story.

Hi. I am Kalei and this is my story.

Age: 24

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

You know when people tell you to “go to your happy place”? I never really knew what that meant. I’d always try to visualize a generic beach, or a sunset, or one of the other cliché suggestions that people offer up when you struggle to decide on your place...Until I visited Norway.

Two years ago, I decided I was going to do a big backpacking trip in celebration of graduating college early and having a 3-month gap before beginning my full-time career. I planned a 10-week trip across Europe (+ Morocco), starting in Iceland and ending in Norway, meeting up with different friends along the way. My friend Emma and I are big outdoorsy gals – we both grew up in the greater Seattle area, and loved to do hikes and outdoor backpacking trips together. When we were deciding on our Norway itinerary, we started to look up the best hikes in the country and landed on one in particular – Trolltunga. Named after it’s similar looks to a “troll tongue”, this hike was known for being a beast and longer than anything else we’d ever done in a day – 28 km RT and 800 meters in elevation gain. Normally, this is something we’d train for and build up the stamina, but since it was the last stop on a 3-month backpacking trip we decided we’d just have to start super early, be prepared, and go for it!

Living in a 50L backpack for 10-weeks was hard enough with our city itinerary – clothes for travel, bars and clubs, casual hang outs, pajamas, etc., so we didn’t have the extra space to carry around hiking boots. We knew we’d appreciate having them in our first location, Iceland, and our last stop in Norway, but weren’t sure what to do with them for the 8+ in between weeks. Eventually we’d figured out a plan for our boots with a friend in London that we were meeting up with after Iceland, and he offered to keep them with him in the UK, and bring them back to us in week 8 when we met up in Amsterdam again. We joked for weeks that we didn’t trust our friend to remember our hiking boots, we even called his mom to remind him before his trip to Amsterdam.

8 wonderful weeks went by in our lightweight travels and we finally got our boots back in Amsterdam (he remembered!), ready to take on Trolltunga after carrying such massive backpacks on our back through so many countries. We were on the train on the way to the airport (already running late) and I looked down and realized that I didn’t have the boots. I told Emma that I thought we left them at the hostel, and she started to panic – we had to decide to leave our boots, or risk missing the flight. Ultimately, we decided the boots would have to stay in Amsterdam for now, our trip was too tightly planned to afford to miss a flight and still have enough time to rent a car in Norway and drive all the way to the hike. Spoiler alert: weeks later, I tracked down a friend in Amsterdam who was able to pick up the boots from the hostel and bring them back to Seattle on his way home.

We made it to Norway and drove from Bergen to a little town called Eidfjord, which was much closer to the starting point for Trolltunga. We had booked a little Airbnb on the tip of the Fjord and it turned out to be some sort of summer/sports camp with different cabins and outdoor sports equipment. We had the entire camp to ourselves, and the host offered us one of her Canoes for the afternoon. To this day, paddling around Eidfjord in a canoe with my best friend is one of the best memories I have. THIS is a happy place. We were the only people out in the entire fjord, surrounded by breathtaking beauty, in a channel carved out by glaciers. We ate our snacks on the canoes and paddled around for hours just enjoying the peace.

The next day, the hike itself went shockingly smoothly for 2 girls who hadn’t been training and attempted the 28 km beast in worn out running shoes. Trolltunga was stunning, and indeed lived up to our huge expectations after 10 weeks of buildup. We started around 5am and completed the hike with plenty of daylight left (thanks to Norway’s long summer days). All that being said, the hike wasn’t easy; the last several km I was both mentally and physically drained, and I had to drag myself down that mountain side. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to take the same approach to Trolltunga that we did, but I would absolutely encourage you to train and prepare for the gorgeous adventure.

Two years later, and I still smile every time I think about the crazy sequence of events leading up to that hike. A hike we spent so much time planning for, and then immediately lost our boots and thought we’d messed up the whole plan. The funny thing is, the hike itself (as incredible as it was), wasn’t my favorite part of the trip, and didn’t end up being my “happy place”. That evening we spent in Eidfjord preparing for the hike was pure bliss. Emma and I promised ourselves that one day we’d return to Eidfjord, and spend more time exploring the gorgeous country of Norway. So there you have it, a story of some lost boots, a chaotic hike, and finding my happy place.



Travel Advice: “We have nothing to lose and a world to see”


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