One of the most expensive countries in the world, Norway is not very solo traveler friendly (unless you’re on absolutely no budget, I might add). The few hostels that do exist are extremely expensive, and public transportation isn’t great after August 31 (the end of tourist season). This would have been fine, except that I arrived in Stavanger on September 1… One day too late.
While Preikestolen still had a bus running for 250 krone (~$31) roundtrip, Kjeragbolten, I was told, would be nearly impossible to reach without a car. I searched for guided tours, since those always include transportation, and I found one that looked perfect, minus the fact that it was about $124 for a day (the price had just gone up on September 1). That was nearly 2.5 times my daily budget, but if that was my only way there, I’d suck it up and pay it… that’s how badly I wanted to do these hikes. But before booking anything, I hopped on Couchsurfing and looked at Local Discussions in the Stavanger area, hoping maybe someone else was in the same boat as me.
Sure enough, I came across an Australian girl named Maud’s post from a few days prior. She and an English guy named Keiran had already hired a car and were planning on driving to Kjerag and Preikestolen on September 2nd and 3rd, and they were looking for more people to share the ride and hike together. I couldn’t believe it… They were doing the exact same hikes on the exact same days as me! A Russian couple Valentina and Evgeny had already responded that they would join too, so I immediately messaged Maud and asked if there was one more spot in the car that I could chip in for. Though I would be the fifth person in their small Toyota Corolla, the four welcomed me with open arms.
The trips to Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten were still not cheap to say the least. Between the rental fee, parking, petrol, and ferry tickets (all of which are pricey in Norway), we spent around $85 each for the two days of hiking. But in comparison, this was only half of what I would’ve spent had I done everything myself. Plus, I got to meet some awesome hiking buddies!
After Stavanger, I’d planned to go up to Odda to hike Trolltunga, which was the number one thing on my Eurotrip list (Kjerag had been #2). Trolltunga is a very challenging hike that takes around 10 hours roundtrip, and all over the internet, bloggers warn future hikers to take a map/compass, warm clothes, enough food, and be prepared to even stay the night in case you don’t make it back down before dark. They also warn people not to go alone.
When I didn’t have any luck with responses on my Couchsurfing discussion in the first few days, I posted on the Lonely Planet forum as well, and I got a response back in just a few hours. A girl named Lydia (coincidentally also from Los Angeles) was traveling solo and also wanted to hike Trolltunga the same weekend as me, so we made plans to meet up and hike together.
Unfortunately for Lydia, her flight was delayed, and she wasn’t able to meet up with me. I had already booked my travel and was sure I’d meet people who were hiking Trolltunga that I could tag along with, but just in case, I checked Couchsurfing one last time. I came across an American girl named Rebecca who would be hiking Trolltunga with a few other friends the same weekend as me, so I messaged her and asked if they’d be willing to have one more join. They said sure!
The day of the hike, I met up with Rebecca and her friends, who were all extremely friendly and easy to get along with. Plus, meeting new people and having conversation constantly flowing made the hike go by sooo much faster! Though Trolltunga is an epic hike regardless, my best memories are not just of the breathtaking surroundings, but of the incredible people I met that day too.
Aside from hiking buddies, I also used Couchsurfing to meet up with locals. In some cases I stayed with them for a few nights (i.e. in Oslo I stayed with an Australian named Raden who’s lived there for year, and in Stavanger I stayed with a Norwegian local named Jone, who drove me around the area and showed me that Norway does, in fact, have some nice beaches).
In other cases, I already had a place to sleep, so I just met up with locals who were happy to show me around. In Oslo, I met the sweetest girl named Marianne, who took April (a Korean couchsurfer) and me to local favorites such as Sognsvann Lake, showed me Oslo city, and made sure I tried all the typical Norwegian snack foods such as Leverpostei (meat spread), MagerOst (squeezy cheese), Brunost (brown cheese), and Norwegian waffles. Things I probably would not have tried had I just been in a hostel…
Then in Bergen, I met up with an adventurous Norwegian named Andreas, who led me (and some other Couchsurfers, including Rebecca) on some amazing hikes up Bergen’s surrounding mountains. Funny story actually… Andreas was showing Rebecca and me Fløyen Mountain around sunset, when a German guy named Chris came up behind us asking, “Are you guys from Couchsurfing?” “Yes…” we replied. Turns out, Chris had seen the discussion Andreas had posted about heading up to Fløyen that evening, and just by coincidence happened to find us at the start of the hike. Talk about being in the right place at the right time… So the four of us continued up Fløyen and witnessed the most magical sunset from up in the clouds.
During my eleven-day trip to Norway, I met up with ten different Couchsurfing members, and I honestly can’t imagine how different my trip would have been without them. Remember a few months ago when I posted How I Afford To Travel The World, I said I wanted to try out Couchsurfing in Europe? Well, I didn’t just try it out… I plunged in headfirst. And while my initial reason for joining was to save money, it turned out that the best part about it was the amazing people I met, unique experiences I had, and memories I made that will last a lifetime. Who knows… maybe I just got lucky in Norway and happened to meet up with the best people, but I think there’s more to it than luck. There’s something special about the type of people that Couchsurfing attracts, and I can safely say I’ll be an active member of the Couchsurfing community from now on. And whenever I next have “a home,” I can’t wait to give back and host others. :)
Shoutout to everyone I met in Norway via Couchsurfing: Raden, Marianne, April, Jone, Maud, Valentina, Evgeny, Rebecca, Andreas & Chris – you guys made my trip!!
Have you used Couchsurfing? What was your experience like?
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌