Life on Planet Earth in the 2010s

The end of a decade is only a random point in time, of course. And yet, as I sit at my desk and look out at a wintery version of the scene above, this moment inspires some thoughts in me.

Your entire life can change in one second. There is no limit to what a whole decade can do to you.

Ten years ago, I had not yet even met Kjersti, who I now have been married to for five years. It’s no coincidence that she, too, loves to carry a passport. Therefore, us joining forces actually means more travel around the world, instead of what typically follows when people meet and merge their lives. This fact makes me happy.

In 2010 a tall building opens in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa. It’s still the tallest in the world when I go up it in 2015. All it does is to remind me that when too much money gathers in one place, it can only lead to madness and ugliness. Nature builds vastly better vantage points.

Also in 2010, a huge earthquake strikes central Chile, killing hundreds. Six years later I go to where the earthquake hit hardest. I find a vital community with barely any visible evidence of the disaster. Life goes on, because that’s who we are. It’s great to see.

Ten years ago, Instagram didn’t exist. As of today, I have put 426 travel photos on Instagram, from many pretty places. A similar number of people have died while attempting to take selfies in the few years that have followed since that word was invented. Progress always comes at a cost.

Iceland, a country of 360,000 people, goes from half a million visiting tourists in 2010 to receiving five times that many in 2019. If you like travel and being part of a crowd, you will enjoy the future.

The world of travel is always changing. Sometimes for the better, more and more often for the worse. It has become difficult, almost impossible, to argue that people should travel more. While travel still leads to much benefit, it now also causes all kinds of serious and undeniable trouble. This makes me sad. But it is also a fact. And we need to learn from facts.

Anyway, in the following you can watch me age on photos from a selection of my better trips and dearest memories from the 2010s. I’ve sprinkled this post with what I consider to be facts and travel tips.

Maybe you will be inspired by it, or maybe you will just think that I travel too much. You decide.

2010

Waiting for the Petra by night performance to begin, in Petra, Jordan.

The decade begins when Kjersti and I decide to go on a date. To Jordan. Because why not? Petra by night can be hugely romantic.

Togetherness at the Taj Mahal in India.

The date goes well, thank you for asking. So well, in fact, that for our next date, we head for the Taj Mahal in India.

It’s not romantic. It’s India. Full of people who will stare at you, who will invite you to part with your money in oh so many ways, and who always will make you feel like an alien from a nicer planet. If you can handle it, India is the best. But it can also be the worst.

Photo of hiking the Camino de Santiago, Spain.

Being together with Kjersti is nice, but after so many years living alone, I still need some time on my own to thrive.

This autumn I get that time when I spend almost a month walking the Camino de Santiago across Spain. It’s an adventure that I will recommend to  anyone. It’s a highly sustainable form of travel, it makes you want to use your feet as often as possible for the rest of your life, and you get a diploma upon arrival in Santiago.

Go!

On the chicken bus from Belize to Tikal, Guatemala.

We finish off 2010 on a trip through southern Mexico and Guatemala.

Buses in Mexico are usually comfortable. Buses in Guatemala are usually not, being school buses that are bought for cheap from the USA when they no longer are considered safe to use. But you do what you do to get to the legendary temples of Tikal, and you look happy while doing so. Also, young-ish.

2011

Photo of the giant dunes of Erg Chebbi near Merzouga, Morocco.

In April, I go on another solo trip, to Morocco and Western Sahara. It’s a pleasant surprise. The desert is the best, but the people are pretty good, too.

Skip Marrakesh, it’s a noisy and deceptive trap.

Photo of couple kissing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

A one day ticket for Walt Disney World is expensive. But if you buy a ten day ticket, the price per day comes down to a sensible level.

We go all in, spending many days in the various Disney parks in Florida. We try out all the rides and shows, several times. In addition to the amusement, we also treat the entire stay as a study of anthropology in general and Americans in particular. Much can be learned about the human species in this very special and semi-real corner of the world.

Photo of memorial service in Oslo, Norway, following the terrorist attack in July 2011.

I also learn a few things when the unthinkable happens. 77 people are killed in a terrorist attack in Norway, so close to me that I can actually hear the first explosion from my desk.

There’s no way to undo what happened, but at least we, as a nation, do not panic. Some changes are made, but nothing that makes daily life in Norway any worse. We grieve for the lost ones, and then we carefully move on, never mentioning the monster by his name.

Photo of man looking at map in Rohkunborri National Park in Northern, Norway.

My big hike of 2011 is done in Norway, well above the Arctic Circle.

I walk with my father, as we explore Rohkunborri National Park from end to end. It’s wild, but soothing. Do consider it a valuable inland add-on if you ever visit the nearby islands of Lofoten or Senja. Which you definitely should.

2012

Photo of a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.

Watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve from the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur is impressive, but the best part of any trip to the Malaysian peninsula is a visit to the Cameron Highlands.

This area is prime tea plantation land located in a refreshingly cool climate. The tea here both looks and tastes gorgeous. And they have strawberries, too.

Put it on your list if you ever need an escape from the beaches of Thailand.

Photo of the beach below the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland are famous for the dramatic scenery they bring. If you’re willing to hike a bit east from the main viewpoint, it’s actually possible to climb down to the beach and enjoy the sun.

The effort and the beach involved goes a long way towards explaining the infamous paleness of the Irish.

Photo of Bibola village, taken from the Via Francigena trail to Rome.

As the perfect excuse for getting to eat insane amounts of Italian ice cream, I walk 600 kilometers of the pilgrim’s route Via Francigena, from near Milan to Rome. During a heat wave in June. Not the best idea I’ve had, but also not the worst.

It’s a much more lonely experience than I expected. Very few walk this route, especially compared to the numbers on Camino de Santiago. In many ways it’s a more beautiful hike, though.

Photo of couple kissing on the Swara Plains near Nairobi, Kenya.

The Great Migration across the Serengeti is the best reason for visiting East Africa. Giant herds of grazing animals follow the fresh grass that springs up after the rains. This phenomenon, of course, attracts not only us, but also plenty of predators.

We prepare for the main event by staying in the Swara Plains for a few days, hiking on our own, surrounded by mostly harmless animals.

Photo of man working out at a very basic training facility on Boa Vista, Cape Verde.

Our last trip of 2012 goes to Cape Verde. It’s a group of islands that you never hear about, off the coast of Senegal.

It could have been another vacation paradise like the Canary Islands. Instead, for various reasons, it’s still a poor and typical African community that is a tough place to live, but an interesting place to visit.

2013

Photo of rocky beach on Aruba.

This year begins much as the last one ended, as we visit the ABC islands; Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Technically they’re part of the Netherlands, but the Afro-Caribbean population here makes it feel more like a rich part of Africa. Visit all three on the same trip, if you can. It’s easy and relatively cheap to move between the islands by plane, and they are very different from each other.

Photo of hiking trail on Madeira island, Portugal.

I go to Madeira in search of good hiking, and it’s everything I look for.

Madeira is a Portuguese island full of walking trails, some of them many centuries old. It comes with a suitable climate for excellent walks, short and long, easy and challenging, available at any time of the year.

Photo of guys facing the sunrise on Easter Island, Chile.

The Big Trip of 2013 goes to South America. We start out by bushwacking our way to a mythical geocache in the jungles of Brazil. Then we hike in the Andean foothills near Mendoza, and explore the salt deserts of Bolivia and northern Chile.

The main goal of the trip, however, is to watch the sunrise on Easter Island, together with the moai who live here, and only here.

2014

Photo of a rural house with three cats in the windows.

This is the year we buy a house. Many potential travel hours are exchanged for endless sessions of painting and fixing things. That’s quite a journey, too, of course.

Yes. You can see three cats in the windows. Clearly too many.

Photo of a group of tourists bowing in front of Kim statues in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korea isn’t an obvious choice, but after some thinking we decide that it’s better to see it with our own eyes than to just believe in all the craziness reported from Best Korea by western news media.

It turns out that North Korea is not one story, but many wildly different stories. None with a happy ending yet, but let’s hope that this will slowly change.

Photo of man hiding from dinosaur in Belgrade, Serbia.

My birthday gift from Kjersti this year is a quick week through Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. So much important history, both ancient and recent.

I also narrowly avoid being devoured by a dinosaur that lives in a fortress in Belgrade.

Photo of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Late in the year, I manage to fit in a quick solo road trip through Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It’s the perfect place for traveling by car. Outside Dublin, the traffic is very easy to handle, even if you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road.

2015

Wedding photo from the Seychelles.

To blend in with the average visitors to the Seychelles, we go there and get married. It seems like the only natural thing to do.

If you ever go to the Seychelles, make sure you spend as much of your time as you can on La Digue island. Staying on just the main island, Mahe, means you miss out on the best parts of this island nation.

Photo of happily married couple at the gateway to Hell, in Turkmenistan.

And then we take our marriage straight to hell.

At least, that’s what it feels like as we stand together at the edge of the gas crater in Darvaza, Turkmenistan. Hot stuff. Later they build a fence around the whole thing, making the place appear a bit tamer. At least on photos. The burn is still intense.

Photo of man sitting on a dead tree in Hiddenvlei, Namibia.

It’s a year full of adventures, and the most satisfying one is probably our 9,000 kilometers long road trip through Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland (now Eswatini).

So many animals, so much desert. Bonus: My first speeding ticket ever.

2016

Photo of Hong Kong skyline.

Following the Nobel Peace Price awarded to human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, China makes it hard for Norwegians to visit. To get around the paper mill, we take advantage of the easy entry to Hong Kong and Macau to get more than enough of a taste of China.

It’s a peculiar mix of England, Asia and Las Vegas. There are even large areas of jungle where we can go hiking.

Photo of happy older couple in Disneyland, California.

After nagging my parents about it for roughly 44 years, my parents finally agree to take me to Disneyland.

They are a bit disappointed to learn that there’s no alcohol served there, but eventually they enjoy themselves anyway. We keep on going through California, Utah, Nevada and Hawaii, seeing all the things from the movies.

Photo of midnight sun at North Cape (Nordkapp), Norway

For the summer, we go on another major road trip, this time almost without even leaving the country. We drive to the northern end of Europe, North Cape, and back home via Lofoten.

It’s 5,000 kilometers of scenic views. Except for the part through Sweden and Finland, of course.

Photo of old bazaar in Isfahan, Iran.

To kick things up a bit on the exoticometer, we head for Iran as soon as the summer heat there dies down.

It’s a wonderful and enlightening human and cultural experience. We’re warmly welcomed wherever we go, and while Kjersti isn’t too happy about having to cover her head, the bazaar and taxidermy of Isfahan more than make up for it.

Photo of couple posing in front of Perito Moreno glacier, Argentina

Kjersti desperately needs to cool down after Iran, so she goes to Antarctica.

I accompany her part of the way, to Chile. While she is the southern Big White, I drive down Carretera Austral for some serious hiking. Afterwards, we meet up again in Patagonia. It’s an excellent way to not celebrate Christmas.

2017

Photo of boat trip on Inle Lake in Myanmar

There’s too much snow to comfortably stay in Norway this January, so we escape to Myanmar and Laos.

The hundreds of temples of Bagan is one big highlight, but Inle Lake is another touristy place that actually is a great place to visit.

Photo of man contemplating the fragility of life while sitting on the edge of Preikestolen / Pulpit Rock, Norway.

Summertime is road trip time. We explore much of the coast between Kristiansand and Brønnøysund, throwing in lots of small hikes along the way.

There really is no better country to be in during the height of summer than our own.

Photo of man who has just parked his cruise ship and is ready to go exploring.

December, on the other hand, is a great time to not be in Norway. We decide to try out a cruise in the Caribbean, a way of travel that we have completely ignored until now.

It turns out that there’s a reason for that. Cruise: Not even once!

Twice have I seen a fistfight break out over a hamburger; among starving homeless refugees, and among obese cruise passengers. They crazy.

2018

Photo of suitably dressed man visiting the bamboo forest of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan.

This year starts slow, as we are buried in piles of snow at home. Eventually we dig ourselves out of the mess, and we make it to Japan just in time to see the last of the cherry blossom season on Hokkaido, the northernmost large island.

Tokyo and Kyoto are also on the menu. I prefer less crowded countries, but Japan is a great destination, full of surprises.

Photo of man hiking Rondanestien long-distance trail in Norway.

The perfect antidote for the busy cities in Japan is a long walk in the woods.

As it happens, a long-distance trail from Oslo to Rondane passes near where I live, so I start hiking Rondanestien in June. I only make it about half-way, as the trail is full of that broke and fell down during the heavy snow this winter.

Some day I’ll go back to Elverum and pick up the trail where I left it.

Photo of road trip in Albania.

We’re far from done with the Balkans, so we head down there again for a road trip in August.

The photo lies a bit. It’s actually a surprisingly pleasant journey, although some of the roads are really bad, just like most of the local drivers. Highly recommended, but drive with extreme care.

Photo of Bjørn and Harley Quinn at Warner Bros Abu Dhabi

You can’t get much farther away from the rural Balkans than the insane luxury world of the United Arab Emirates.

I’m no fan of excessive luxury, especially the oily Arab version of it, but I am perfectly capable of being amused by Harley Quinn at the Warner Bros World on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.

2019

Photo of a playground covered in snow in Trondheim, Norway.

I studied in Trondheim for about five years, but my winter memories from there are not exactly pleasant. Rainy sleet and Christmas exams is a combo that is hard to love.

When I visit Trondheim again this January, I’m thrilled to find the whole city look like a proper winter wonderland, like I never remember having seen it before.

Photo of hikers on top of the cliff in Calp, Spain.

To celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of my parents (that’s 50 years!), we go on a road trip together in southern Spain in April.

Hiking, culture, people, food. It’s all good.

Photo of hot hiker on the Lycian Way in Turkey.

This year’s challenge to myself is a major hike; the Lycian Way through southern Turkey.

I imagine it to be a nice amble along the sea, but in real life it turns out to be a hellish hike up and down wild and dry mountains on a badly maintained, almost invisible, trail. The many ancient ruins I have all to myself along the way is a bonus, but in general I’m both happy and surprised to survive this ordeal at all. #notrecommendeduntiltheyfixafewthings

Photo of man jumping in front of a waterfall with no name in Northern Norway.

Slightly miffed by my experience in Turkey, I head home for a better hiking experienced. Together with my father, we traverse the little visited Lomsdal-Visten National Park in Northern Norway.

On long summer days it’s the best place in the world to be hiking. There are no trails, probably no other people, and as long as you hike responsibly, no problems. It’s just a large area of world class mountains with barely any trace of civilization.

Photo of couple standing probably near a leopard in Kruger Park, South Africa.

My last trip of the decade is of the kind that I enjoy the most.

Kjersti and I spend two full weeks exploring the Kruger National Park in South Africa from end to end, all on our own. We see thousands of animals, and between the many impalas, zebras and elephants, we are also treated to rarer sights, such as nyala, leopard, tsessebe, honey badger, and many, many other species.

Every day begins with no plan. Every day ends in full satisfaction. I don’t know if a safari like this will be available to others than wealthy people at the end of the next decade. I hope it will be, but I fear it might not. Supply and demand will soon inevitably and violently clash.

And that concludes the official story about my life in the 2010s.

While I feel some shame from having grabbed so much travel for myself, I can’t help but also think that I have been smart enough to take advantage of many travel opportunities that may not necessarily be an option in the near future.

It’s a wonderful world out there, and I’ll try to enjoy it even more responsibly in the coming years. And I’ll keep sharing it with you.

Happy new decade, everyone!

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