Meeting family on the other side of the world
Before we began this world tour, we learned that some of Andy’s family still lives in Norway. One of his close relatives in the US sent us a collection of files she had compiled on the family history. As the trip got closer, she sent us their contact information and encouraged us to reach out to them.
Before we finished Olav’s, Andy emailed them. We introduced ourselves and said that we would be in the area at the end of the summer, then asked if they would like to meet us. We were more than a little nervous, but when else would we have an opportunity like this?
The first family we met was Åsmund. Åsmund is Andy’s third cousin, twice removed. He agrees to pick us up from our hotel in Trondheim to spend the day with him and his wife, Anne. When he arrives in his car, we meet a slender, nicely dressed older man. We are all a little nervous, the car ride to his house punctuated with small talk.
When we arrived, he introduced us to Anne, who had prepared lunch for us. As we sit down together, the conversation warms up, and we talk about our walk across Sweden and Norway. The more we talked, the more they asked us about our travels before Scandinavia. They were in awe that we just stepped away from our careers and left our home to embark on this adventure.
And now to be meeting family so far from home!
One of them remarked on Andy’s baggy clothes and asked how much weight he had lost since we left home. We said we weren’t sure, we hadn’t weighed ourselves since leaving home.
Anne brought out a bathroom scale. Combined, we lost OVER 50 POUNDS, Andy with the most drastic change of 40 pounds.
We calculated our conversions and shared the result. Their eyes were wide and their mouths hung open in shock. I was glad we were meeting the non-American family in peak physical condition. I was also glad they didn’t see me tearing into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the grocery store just a few days before.
At this point in the day, we were all much more comfortable with each other so the conversation turned to “So how exactly are we related?” Andy shared the information that his American relative had compiled, and Åsmund shared a printout of the family tree so that we could follow the lineage. We learned more about the Norwegian family history, and Andy filled in the Swanson part of the family tree.
After lunch, Åsmund drove us to see the farm where the shared ancestor, Andy’s 4th great-grandmother Brynhild, was born and raised in the mid-1800s. We even got to see the church in which she was confirmed in the Lutheran faith.
Åsmund is the descendant of Brynhild’s first daughter, Oline, who was from a previous relationship. Brynhild later remarried, had her second daughter, Ingeborg, and immigrated to the US in 1882 with her new husband. Oline was sadly left behind, never to see her mother again. Ingeborg later married a Swanson in the US, and here we are several generations later.
Meeting Åsmund and learning this history added so much depth to the trip. I am so grateful for the family historians who took the time to compile and share their stories.
We ended up staying so late visiting with Åsmund and Anne that she prepared dinner for us. We were more than grateful for another home-cooked meal. After dinner, they asked us what our plans were for the next part of our travels. We said we planned on renting a car to drive around the fjords of Western Norway.
Åsmund and Anna had a side conversation in Norwegian, then he turned to us, “Why don’t you take my van?”
Åsmund explained that he had a small Transit van that he used for work at the publishing company he owned. He could loan it to us for a week, and he would just use his car.
We were so surprised by this generous offer that it took us a full minute to respond.
“What? Really? Are you sure? Yes, that would be great, thank you SO much!”
So we made plans to meet up the following day to begin our van tour of the western fjords of Norway. ❤️🏔🚐
Before we met to pick up the van, we spent the day sightseeing around Trondheim.
Trondheim is the fourth biggest city in Norway but still has a population of less than 200,000. There are three universities in Trondheim, one of them being the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It felt like a university town, and the swarm of 20-somethings on the sidewalks told us that the fall semester would be starting soon.
We explored a fortress and climbed the tower for great views of the city.
We also saw the “Terra Incognita” memorial dedicated to the 77 people who died in the 2011 terrorist attack in Norway. It was a beautiful memorial in that they engaged students in creating its design and implementing it in this space.
Trondheim was a beautiful place to rest, recuperate, and re-enter civilization. But we were ready to be on the move again.
We threw on our packs, loaded onto the city bus, and headed to Melhus to pick up the van we would be driving and living in for the next few days. ✌️❤️🚐