Tokyo Countdown: Bookworm Heaven

What are your best Tokyo experiences? Easter Thursday I’ll be heading to Tokyo strictly for pleasure, meeting Jenny from Alfred Berg who travels in from Korea. What a perfect timing for my first ever visit to Japan!

Japan’s been on my bucket list for years, and for some odd reason I’ve never got the chance to visit before. I’ve got five full days to explore the best of Tokyo – super grateful for any good insiders’ ideas & tips on where to stay and what to explore!

My plans so far include loads of pink cherry blossoms and a night at the cutest bookstore hotel ever, perfect for a bookworm like me, before Jenny arrives from Seoul..

I arrive just after Slush Japan, but trust there’ll be loads of techies still in town. Cathy Hodge from DigitalShip is also around, prior to Sea Japan. So might be quite a fun trip, this one…🍸

Hoiden Loner on a Sharing-Economy Business Trip

Texas travel letter and thoughts on solitude: Austin brands itself as Weird, though its original inhabitants claim the weirdness is lost through SXSWs hipster status and over-commercialization. Nevertheless – first place in the U.S. that I ever visited where topless is yay and weapons are ney! Austin is probably what you’d get if you put San Diego & Provincetown in a Texas blender. Anyway, with rising prices and loaded L.A. people invading the real-estate market, you should probably go before it becomes completely unweird.

  
I was a lonesome traveller arriving, but never felt lonely. Probably due to my Hoiden personality? 😋 (scroll through the photos below to find out what Hoiden means..). As a mother of 2 small boys, I treasure family time, but always appreciate the small stretches of being completely on my own – whether on a plane or walking between meetings – and the feeling of being unconnected, completely independent and free. A sense of being an outsider, observing the world around from a distance. Where you’re not required to interact or participate, and somewhat invisible. In my opinion, travelling alone is something everyone should do once in a while. It reminds you of which state your relationship with yourself is in. How comfortable you are in your own company. After all, drilling down to the core of our inner person, we are all here in this world by ourselves. In an over-crowded and hectic world, solitude to me feels like taking a medicine, or a vitamine shot.   

If you feel uncomfortable eating out or sitting at a café all by yourself (or, like me, just love to read), you can bring a book. Being alone also makes you more open to spontanious, unexpected surprises. And you get much, much better service. Just to mention some perks.

I’ve travelled alone frequently since 2006, but rarely get the opportunity nowadays – vacationwise anyway.. If not for the security/safety situation and for the fact that I can’t switch gender for just a few months’ time, my ultimate dream is to hitch-hike and backpack from Europe across Middle East to China. Bucket list!

I often travel alone to various places for work, but due to the nature of our industry and the closely tied global network, I always meet people I know. And I usually spend both my mornings, daytime and late nights with a combination of familiar & new industry people. As you try and keep the trips short and utilizing them as efficient as possible, evenings also consist of business networking, and I very rarely have time for much other than sleep and get up-to-date on the most urgent items in my mailbox in between.

This trip was different, as I arrived without knowing any other industry colleagues travelling in for the SXSW Interactive, and entered in as an outsider and visitor. I had communicated with Morgan who’s in charge of SXSW Eco and SXgood with UN Foundation and a few other people, but knew that she was up to her neck in work all week. Also, Oslo Business Council organised their own lounge, but I didn’t exactly travel to Austin to network with other Norwegians (even though they’re great people) 😋

Instead, I have had every opportunity for being open to meet new people. And so I did!

Arriving at Houston airport, I met some really sweet girls from England & Scotland, and carpooled to Austin in a shiny white road monster – gate crashing the first leg of their Texas road trip(!). Good conversations and chemistry – it turned out they were all managers at the Lidl head office in London. With a passion for country music & rodeos, there was a whole lot of loud singing going on. All the country classics; unexpected and really fun!! 

   
Arriving in Austin, I had booked a room through AirBnb in a private flat, as the hotel prices were really high. My host Chilee had recently moved in from Las Vegas, and shared it with a friend from the South. While the other guest was a woman from San Fransisco, a director of a big IT company. 

Filling my days with conferences and seminars, my evenings were unplanned. I had some invitations to various networking events and parties, but didn’t really know anyone well. So I pinned the venues in my SXSW app, and went out exploring. And I had some amazing meetings with inspiring and engaged people from all over the States – and other regions of the world;

  • Saturday breakfast with Jim from Seattle and a girl from Dublin
  • Coffee and mutual sharing of all-time low life challenges with a heavily tattooed and rocker-style writer and former PR Director from London (yupp, the classic 40-something self-realization stage, but amazing conversation)
  • Lunch with an environmentalist couple from Argentina/Chile, where he was a client of a Sweedish shipping company 
  • Dinner with a group of friends from Washington 
  • Nylon party and concerts with George from San Diego, two girls from South Africa and a couple from Israel. Arriving at the party, I bumped right into Swedish artist Sara Larsson, and it turned out she was among those entertaining us(!)
  • Sunday breakfast with two Indian guys, a Mexican girl and a Chinese girl
  • Sunday lunch drink at Coyote Ugly (just to have been there..) spent discussing war & peace with a U.S. Army veteran (Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine etc) from Alabama with Norwegian ancestors, who’s jaw dropped when I told him his last name was the same as that of the new big Norwegian oilfield (Kastberg)
  • And Sunday dinner with a really nice guy from Austin, as I discovered a small Indian place off the beaten festival tracks. Learnt a lot about Austin!

Not to mention all the mind-blowing innovators, entrepreneurs, speakers and panelists I was able to discover during these days! 

By the way; I got some great tips alltogether ref to the best of Austinn, that I’ll have to save for my next trip due to the purpose of this one, but meanwhile I’ll share them with you;

  • The locals’ own intimate festival “Eeyore’s birthday” in the woods – hippie style every April (apparently lots of nudity too)
  • Pop-up flea markets in South Congress
  • Restaurant Odd Duck and small charming shops along South Lamar
  • All-year swimming in Barton Springs Pool, which used to be the big gathering area for hippies & locals cooling down before A/C was common

   
  

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
    
      

Riga without a plan

Espen was booked for Liverpool trip with his friends last weekend. As I had to cancel my original visit to my hard-working doctor-to-be friend Helene in Riga, it meant great timing for me and Knut to spend the weekend there.
Getting there was quick’n easy; one small bag packed for both of us, nursing bag & extra porridge to-go, and off we went. Stroller on tram to Oslo Central, airport express and lots of flirting at the air port (wonder where he gets that from…?!). We had made no other plans than simply hang out and relax, and I hadn’t checked out any travel tips or articles whatsoever.
A 1,5h flight and a 20 min cab ride later, we arrived in a really nive neighbourhood that Helene shares with some embassys and rich Russians. Paris look-alike!
We had lunch at her neighbourhood cafe, The Flying Frog. Frog figures in all shapes, which remind me of Roger Grenouille in St.Germaine ( – except for 10 less frog dishes on the menu..). Just the quirky type of place I like.

We went walking through the parks and into the Unesco listed old town, had another coffee, more walking and then took home some sushi for dinner. Being something of a social creature, Knut wouldnt sleep, but eventually couldn’t resist lullaby combined with Helene’s great gitar skills.. Girls’ time for us = white wine & strange snacks we found at the local deli.
Saturday morning we spoilt ourselves with hotel breakfast, before the dedicated student had to dig into her books. Me & Knut went exploring without a map, hunting down home-knitted socks, a painting and a bag of local bakery specialities. Yummm!! As Helene was done studying dead corpses (or something.. ;-)), we grabbed some food before visiting some of her friends.

Sunday was a walk in the park – literally… After a very late and very long breakfast at Helene´s regular cafe, Knut slept for a good while and I got time to finish my book. Helene came down to join us after dutifully completing her study hours (yes, also on a Sunday!) and we explored the parks of Riga. Trees, branches, people, ducks and playgrounds suddenly becomes so much more fun when seen through the eyes of an adventurous, curious baby. We also discovered beavers and found a real hidden gem; the eclectic restaurant Fazenda on Nomenu Street. Bit of a distance from the old town, great food for all and the atmosphere was just as random & laidback as the interior. It´s a combined diner, cafe and bakery – both the cakes & breakfasts(!) are worth a trip to Riga on their own…

Monday morning I found a great bookshop & wine-place (only coffee for me..), Robert´s Books. And of course brought home a nerdy combination of used books for me and a few for Knut. Books = my favourite “souvenir”…. 😉

Inside tips for travelling mom´s; Take the green cabs, good price & safe drivers + baby seats available. No need to pre-order, it will just cost you extra. If you need baby food, the trend of organic food has also hit Riga, and in the embassy districts there are several places where you can get a great range of baby food..

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