Monday, January 22, 2018

Traveling for a Cause

Every once in a while I run across people who remind me why I work at a hostel. Their adventures are inspiring, and I want to quit my job and go with them; I can’t, however, so I sit and listen, enthralled, excited that I even get to hear their stories and support their journeys. Ola’s is one such story that I recently encountered.

It’s extraordinary how these moments transpire. I was at the front desk working the night shift. One guest decided to cancel last minute, opening up one of our private rooms. It was already 7pm, and our hostel closes at 10pm. Great, I thought, we lost money on that room. All we had left were female dorms. With a ratio of 3 guys to the girl we’ve had recently, the odds of filling up for the night were slim.

About an hour later, I get a phone call. What sounds like a Scottish man asks if we have any rooms available for the night. Thinking it would be slim chance he’d take it, I pitch the private room. Sure, he says, if you can give me directions to the hostel, I’ll be there soon. Sweet! I thought. Plus, he had an accent. I already couldn’t wait to see what story he’d bring.

About an hour and half later, a tallish bearded man walks in. He’s wearing a black leather jacket with black jeans, has long brown hair in a ponytail, sort of the biker type. He didn’t look like he belonged, so I assumed he was my caller.


Ola, on the left, with Nigel Mogg of the Quireboys.

“You have a reservation?” I ask.

“Yeah, I was the one who called.”

Turns out he’s Swedish–didn’t see that one coming!– and we get to talking about why he’s in Portland just for the night. Ola is driving through the States as a test run for when he and some friends will trek through Europe to Mongolia with an organization called the Adventurists, which is all about having reckless crazy adventures the old fashioned way. This is all to raise money for a charity, Water Aid, this summer.  He started in San Diego and is making his way up and over toward New York to fly back to Sweden and start his adventure in July.

Already he has had some crazy adventures, like he was telling me about purchasing a car for this trip, which entailed dealing with insurance and getting stuck in Eugene, OR, where he met some of the friendliest people at the hostel there. I am enthralled, knowing I should get back to work, but wanting to sit down with him and hear it all. He had worked like a banshee for months to save money, then quit his job to do this trip, all because he believes in the cause of water for all.

…We need rainforests, not just to create oxygen but to get lost in. Without rainforests we’d have no pith helmets. We’d live in a world with no tigers to run away from. There would be no cock gourds, no poisonous tree frogs, no tarzan, no great apes, no David Livingstone, no Mary Kingsley, no Mungo Park.

-quote from Adventurist website

If he had asked me too, I would have seriously considered doing the same. This is why hostels exist, to support those who are doing worthwhile things on behalf of the world, fostering community through travel. For a moment, I am reinspired to live out the dreams I have. For a moment the world seems small again. And to think I wouldn’t have met him if someone else hadn’t canceled.

Ola, thanks for your willingness to risk for others. I hope your trip is memorable. We’re rooting for you at the Portland Hawthorne Hostel.


If you want to follow Ola Ersfjord’s adventures through the States and beyond, you can go to He’d also love if you would support his cause.