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top of preikestolen

20 April 2015. Preikestolen, Norway

My feet hung over the cliff, where 600 meters (1980 feet) below, the blue water of the Norwegian fjord settled like blue concrete.

My right hand held a Kvikk Lunsj chocolate bar (basically a Norwegian Kit Kat) as my left hand held on for dear life. My friend and travel companion, Harald, took my picture as I tried to look as relaxed as was possible while sitting at the edge of a 600 meter drop.

I was at the top of Preikestolen, aka Pulpit Rock, named the #1 most breathtaking platform by the Lonely Planet.

My travel companion, Harald, was the reason I was there; not just there at Preikesetolen that specific day, but also the reason why I was in Norway to begin with.

I had met Harald three years ago at The Humor Project in Silver Springs, NY. He was there to improve his own humor education and I was presenting on how to effectively use humor at work. We connected afterwords over a shared love of standup comedy and stayed connected after the conference via the Facebook.

A few months after that, a friend of his was visiting New York City and he put the two of us in touch. She happened to be the producer of a comedy festival in Norway and was looking for talent from New York City. We hit it off and six months later I was in Norway for the first time to help her kickoff her production company.

Now, in 2015, I was back for the second year of her comedy festival which had taken place over past weekend. Harold had offered to take me to Pulpit Rock and I agreed. He even took the day off so he and I would be free to make the journey, and a journey it was.

To get to the top of the rock required a 3.8 km hike (2.3 miles) up 334 meters (1,095 feet). And though the temperature was 10°C (50°F) down on the ground, the trail still included quite a bit of snow once the elevation increased.

Preikestolen Route

During the climb, Harald and I caught up, talking about a wide variety of things, from nature to comedy to having kids to the hike itself (“Whoa, this is more strenuous than I thought.” “Yup.”).

We eventually got to the top where we took in the stunning view. There were quite a few other people hanging around, including a group of Frenchmen who were preparing a slack line to cross one of the gaps between the two rocks.

I had started off very cautious at the top, army crawling my way to the edge. My confidence slowly grew until I finally felt comfortable enough to sit at the edge (while holding on).

Sitting on the edge of a cliff while feeling a slight breeze as you eat chocolate has a way of making you think philosophically.

I thought about how spectacular view was. I thought about how so far on my journey, some of my best experiences had taken place in the company of other people, despite the fact that I consider myself very much an introvert. And I thought about the nature of effort and reward.

The view was naturally stunning. But it felt even more amazing because it had to be earned. There was no driving up to the top, there was no tram, no shortcut, no elevator. It required a somewhat strenuous hike that included ups and downs, wide rock landscapes and narrow snowy paths, easy strolls and hard climbs.

The hike up had taken 90 minutes. The hike down would take another 90. Depending on how long you stayed at the top, you might spend more time getting to and from the destination that actually enjoying the destination itself.

The same is true for setting goals in life. It’s not just about the end destination, it’s also about the journey to get there. And most of time, there’s more work to be down, even after you’ve reached the top.

My grip on the rock loosened ever so slightly as I took another bite of the Norwegian Kit Kat. I had enjoyed the journey up. I would enjoy the journey down. But for the moment, I was enjoying being at the top.

Peering Out

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norwegian harbor

19 April 2015. Stavanger, Norway

I swallowed the last of my homemade ice cream and set the spoon down.

I was seated at the kitchen table of a near-stranger’s home, with two near-strangers as tablemates.

To my left was Amanda, a Vietnamese woman who had recently moved to Norway for a job. To my right was Tina, a Norwegian woman, whose home we were currently in, and who had prepared not just the homemade ice cream we had just consumed, but also the fish dish I ate prior to that.

I was there in the Norwegian home because the night prior, I was performing at the touMAZEing Comedy Festival. After one of my sets, the two had come up tell me that they enjoyed my jokes.

We talked and I discovered the two were close friends from work and had come to the festival because they thought it would be fun for an entire group from work, but rest of them had already left.

They decided to stick around and saw me perform in the Random Room, a stage setup for “random comedy.” I had decided that “random” meant I shouldn’t perform anything pre-planned, so I did an improvised set using a suggestion from the audience and the text messages of one of the audience members.

It went well, mostly thanks to years of improv training and having played a similar style game of “Texts from Last Night” while in ComedySportz.

While talking after the show, I brought up being from Ohio. Surprisingly they had heart of it; unsurprisingly they had never been. I told them that if they ever went, they should go to Graeter’s ice cream because it’s some of the best ice cream in the world and one of the best things you can ever put in your mouth.

Tina, the Norwegian and more talkative of the two, mentioned that she herself made homemade ice cream. I was impressed as that was was something I didn’t really think you could do, or at least something people did.

She said that she was a very good cook and she and Amanda often got together; Amanda would host while Tina would cook.

I said, “That’s crazy because while you may be very good cooks, I’m actually a very good eater.”

I said it jokingly to make small talk, but Tina took it as a possible invite. She replied, “Amanda and I were actually thinking about getting together tomorrow to cook. You’re more than welcome to join us if you want.”

I had decided recently that I was gonna try to say yes more, especially during these travels. Having talked with a fellow comedian who had a number of ridiculously fun stories, he had mentioned that they all came about because he was willing to say yes. So I thought, “why not?”

Sure, it might be a little bit strange, to go over to a complete stranger’s house in a foreign country… but they seemed nice enough and homemade ice cream was up for grabs.

Now, having finished that ice cream, I was happy that I said yes.

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fishing rod

19 April 2015. Stavanger, Norway

I casted my line out into the water. The lore made a “plop” sound, much like an Oreo does when you accidentally drop it into your chocolate milk.

I’d finally gotten the hang of fishing without a bob after many many attempts. I was in Norway, enjoying a gorgeous day, standing on the side of a pond. It was private property, but I was assured that the owners (probably) didn’t mind we were there.

There were five of us comedians total. We had all performed in the touMAZEing Comedy Festival in Stavanger. A few people had wanted to go fishing, and on a last-minute whim, I decided to join them. I didn’t have anything else that I needed to do that day and hadn’t been fishing in at least 10 years, so I thought, “Sure, why not?”

The other comedians with me were hilarious people. Two of them were Norwegian natives. Tom Weum specializes in musical comedy, known for his ability to work with kids and also the creator of great song parodies. The other Norwegian, Pål Espen Mulder Kilstad, is an actor and dad in the area and was quite the outdoorsman.

Comedian #3 was Tim FitzHigham, a British comedian known for sailing across the English Channel in a bathtub. And #4 was an Argentinian comedian, Adrián Minkowicz, now based in Norway.

So there we were. 5 comedians, fishing for 4 hours, using a total of 3 rods, in 2 different locations, and we caught… 1 fish. Not even a big fish, a small trout about 6 inches long.

Fishing in Norway(The one who hooked the fish? Adrián.)

Afterwards, we took the fish back to Tom’s house where his sons were already cooking some delicious burgers for us. We threw the fish on the grill along with the burgers and I had an internal battle as to whether or not I’d eat some of it.

I’m not much of seafood person; I don’t like the texture, taste, smell, or sight of fish but other than that… And still, I decided I had to at least taste the spoils of our hard work.

I took a small bite of the trout and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t taste too fishy (which has always been a little weird to me, the taste of a good fish is that it doesn’t taste like fish).

Prior to this outing, I had always considered fishing to be on the more boring side of leisure activities, right up there with watching plants grow (aka gardening) and watching plants die (aka gardening). But when you’re out with four other comedians making jokes and doing bits, time certainly does fly by.

Maybe that’s what made the fish taste better. I didn’t want to think that I wasted four hours outside and got nothing in return. Instead, I picked up great tips, great stories, and a whole bunch of laughs from the other comedians.

I’m told the next time I come back to Stavanger, I’ll be treated to a proper game dinner with reindeer that’s freshly been hunted, prepared the right way, that takes a day to make, and a couple of hours to thoroughly enjoy.

I’m already looking forward to the return trip.

Comedians Fishing

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