I'm sitting in limbo right now, pulled between goods and bads. Where's that? The Oslo airport. On the friendly side, it is a beautiful, open and modern building with easy recycling and apparent efficiency. But, its ungodly expensive. I saw a pair of underwear for 30 euros, however much that is in USD. I just bought "lunch," 20 euros for a small smoothie (full fruit content!), some chips and a little bag of nuts, seeds and grapes. Its worth exploring why my traveling has taken me today to learn about my style of doing things, and maybe offer some advice along the way. I've written about some over my overlying travel philosophy, but here is some insight into the day by day, nitty gritty.
I woke up earlier than I needed to this morning, because with a day of traveling I know that I need a good coffee and meal in my belly, and time to shower and digest and get to the airport without stress. This is especially important because I avoid taxis like the plague. They are a horrendous waste of money for all but the most dire situations. I paid 3.40 to take two metros and one bus to the airport and it took an hour total, rather than 30 euros for half the time. Worthwhile savings for me.
A lot of people would choose taxis for the convenience, or because they don't want to haul their stuff through public transit. While that is valid, I believe that unless you are on a very gear intensive trip, you should only take as much as you can carry at once. If that means you need backpack strap and wheels, no problem. But a bag that is too heavy too lift means a lot of stuff needs to stay at home. With a bunch of souvenirs, I"m starting to push the limits. But I've made it so far today.
I've made it so far today, despite my baggage being way over the limit. I'm flying Norwegian Air because their tickets were drastically the cheapest, but I'm starting to find out way. Each bag was expensive to start with, but I sucked it up because I had no choice and it was still the cheapest option. But I found out only this morning that their limit is 20 kg, rather than the standard 23. Each extra kilogram costs 10 pounds, and you have to pay per leg of your journey. My stomach jumped and I felt an imaginary hand digging around in my wallet. I was looking at 200 to 300 dollars worth of charges, maybe more. And that's if they didn't find out my bike was a bike...
So I prepared to charm my way, beg my way, or both to at least minimize them if I could. As I waited in line, the bags felt not just physically heavy all of a sudden, but conceptually. The line seemed eternal and I wanted to get the charge over and dump the bags and get on the plane.
After 30 minutes or so, I noticed the same people had been stuck at the counters for a long time. This didn't change for the next half hour, save for a scurrying amongst the staff. It turns out the system had crashed and they couldn't print anything. Waiting that long was agonizing, as with 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time passed before they got going, still to check in 75 percent of the flight. But they were in too much of a rush to care about the weight of my bags. They couldn't however, check them through to my final destination. A pain, but worth those savings.
We got into Oslo, after a stunning plane ride (opting out of the 30 euro choose your seat charge had gotten me a 10th row window seat, not too bad) and proceeded to pick up my bags. No problem there, and no problem getting them upstairs back to the ticket counter. A quick word on bags, everyone was frantically checking name tags and such to see if the bag was theirs. Come on people, buy something unique, or at least put a ribbon on. Sure, every bag I have on this trip is black, but they are distinctive enough that no one would take them on accident, and if by some chance they did, they'd have second thoughts after feeling the weight...
I did not want to pay for this round, so I knew I'd have to be friendly and charming, and either be persuasive or lie. The persuasive option: I had to recheck, I shouldn't pay. The lie, the lady in Berlin told me the overweight charges were waived. I figured I'd play it by ear. The lie was hardly a lie because it was implicit in the situation in Berlin.
Luckily I got the friendly seeming guy, and he was glad that I started off polite and friendly. Hello, how are you works wonders, even out of English speaking countries. We need to retrace some of our formal routes I believe...I put my first overweight bag on the scale and before I could even choose between lie or persuasion, he chose it for me. "Don't worry, we're waiving those charges today." A win for Luc. I'd gladly do it over again, hell,. i'd carry my bag all the way to the plane if it meant not paying for it!
Then the food dilemma came. I've struggled eating and traveling in the past, because by principle I don't like to pay for food that is arbitrarily overpriced, and is expensive because of monopoly rather than quality. My solution has been to always buy food at the market before a flight. I didn't forget, I just was at capacity with my stuff that I couldn't carry anything. All I could manage was two powerbars and some chocolate. But I like to be healthy, so after great struggle bought my measly items for an exorbitant sum. In the long run, I still am on top by not taking the cab to the airport.
Its weird how your brain works when things are so expensive. In Budapest, 1 dollar was two hundred something florints, so the super high prices didn't seem that odd. But here, where 1 dollar is about 6 kroner, you look at a price a do a double take. What, 30 for water?! Its just close enough to make you wonder...Oh yeah, I'm not kidding. A standard bottle of water here at the Oslo airport costs 30 kroner, or five bucks.
But that's a reality of traveling that has to be faced on a day to day basis. Things won't always go your way. You have to compromise, or even settle sometimes. But stick to your principles and your victories vastly outweigh the little problems. That's how I feel. Tonight, I'll have gotten myself around two new cities, with all my bags, on new public transit and saved a ton of money avoiding the taxi mongrels. And when I get to where I'm going (its a surprise), I'll have more to spend it on what I believe in spending my money on.