Today’s Miles: 23.6
Total Miles: 673.2
Abisko, Sweden – July 27, 2016
I watch the train snake along the mountains and disappear in and out tunnels. I can just hear it in the wind, the metal tracks and wheels, the engine. I think about what it felt like to sit there as the cars rocked back and forth, as I leaned against the window and stared out.
I felt terrified on that train, an hour from Narvik, an hour from stepping off and having to make decisions, to figure out a new country, a new system, some way to reach Mehamn. I never wanted that train ride to end. I wanted it to rumble forward forever so I could always feel like I was going somewhere but never have to decide what to do when I arrived.
Then it stopped and I stumbled off. I had to decide. I had to figure it out.
I remember shyly asking the woman at the information office if she could teach me to say thank you in Norwegian, knowing I would need those words more than any. I remember standing in the store for an hour staring at bottles and translating words to try find something that would burn in my stove. I remember almost trembling when I tried my credit card for the first time and the flood of relief when it came through. Four days of hitchhiking, seven hundred miles of walking. All from the moment I stepped off that train. All figuring it out, one decision at a time.
I reach the tracks late in the day. I stare down them toward Narvik. I think of all that happened in between. The northern points, the mountains, the midnight sun, the days of rain, the new friends, the wild open spaces, the Sami, the reindeer, the routes across the tundra, the rocks, the rivers, the lakes, all of it.
A train blares in the distance. I could get on that train and ride all the way back to Stockholm. I could buy a plane ticket and arrive home with a grand adventure behind me, a thousand memories of the Arctic, more than I’ll ever hold on to in the years to come.
Instead, I leave the tracks and walk toward the town of Abisko. I’m out of food. Twenty miles is a lot on a bag of peanuts.
The grocery store is closed. I missed it by half an hour. Instead, I manage to buy two chocolate bars from a shop just as it’s closing. That’s all I have for dinner.
The train rumbles past, snaking south, the sound disappearing in the wind. Terror and excitement swirl up in me, both from the same thought.
“Ten percent,” I think. “You’re ten percent of the way there.”