With its endless forests, howling fjords, raging rivers and miles of open countryside, Norway has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the earth for many years. Perhaps there is something in the water that keeps us coming back, or perhaps it’s simply the pure joy that comes from experiencing a landscape that feels so prehistoric. It is incredibly easy to leave behind the busy streets and the winding roads that signify civilisation, and once you step beyond those boundaries and enter the wild and rugged natural landscape, it’s easy to imagine our ancient ancestors roaming the very land we walk upon now. As if nothing at all has changed.
My love affair with this country started years ago when, as a child of 8 or 9, I visited southern Norway in passing on a family holiday. I remember very little about that trip or the places we visited, but I do remember the sense of belonging that I’ve felt in my soul ever since. There’s something that just feels right about being here. Fast forward a few years, and my wandering feet led me to Bergen alongside one of my closest friends. On my first trip to Norway as an adult, I revisited those feelings from my childhood and fell even more in love. (..Especially when I discovered how easily accessible cinnamon buns are everywhere in the city and on a couple of the mountains surrounding it!)
Upon leaving Bergen back in April, I knew that I didn’t just want to pass through Norway on fleeting visits, experiencing only flickers of what it has to offer. I knew that the end of my Masters degree was approaching and the great unknown abyss of a future after education was lying ahead and, quite frankly, I was ready to do just about anything that would delay thinking about nine-to-fives, rent and gas bills. So, I set about researching possible opportunities to live and work in Norway for a time, because there’s no distraction from real life quite like packing up a suitcase and running away to a new country for a couple of months! All of these events led me to where I am now: working in a hotel and living in a cabin in the mountains of Jotunheimen National Park.
As I’m typing this, I’ve been here for three and a half weeks, and have a further 5 weeks left before I travel on up to Trondheim and then back down to Oslo, when I will make my way begrudgingly back to normality. I can confess that for a time, I struggled very much to feel settled. I don’t for one minute want you to believe that I approached this situation with fearlessness: I am incredibly introverted, very shy around new people, and I’ve never been away from home longer than two and a half weeks. Settling in was hard. Within the first week, I faced strange situations, big changes, unfamiliar cultures, I met new people and I started a new job; these are all things that are so intrinsic to adventures, and yet in the face of them all, I had to admit to myself that I was genuinely terrified I’d made the wrong decision.
It was the nature I fell in love with all those years ago that helped me find my feet in the midst of all this fear and change. It was an endless comfort to know that, even if I felt isolated, scared, stressed or anxious, I could step outside my cabin door and walk directly into the forest. From there, I could climb mountains, walk alongside aquamarine rivers, sit on the soft moss in the dappled light of an afternoon sun and read until I felt myself again.
I’m settled now, I have a routine, I know the best walking routes and I’ve come to rely on daily excursions to the waterfalls or the nearest mountain. My soul feels lighter, somehow. I feel like my eyes shine a little more and my skin glows, I go to sleep at night with a familiar, comforting ache in my limbs that reminds me how lucky I am each day to get to experience this place, to learn it off-by-heart, to have a favourite tree to read under, a favourite mountain to climb.
In my long and convoluted way, what I’m really trying to say is this: fear is inevitable, but some of the best experiences in life happen when we look fear directly in the eye and tell it “you will not stop me today”. Go out and chase those dreams, even if they’re small, or even if they’re huge and seemingly impossible. Mother Nature will always be there to welcome you into her magical, leafy arms and she will set you back on your way with a new sense of purpose and of courage. You will live out your dreams eventually. And then, in the wise words of Flynn Rider from Tangled, “you get to go find a new dream” to chase.
Happy Monday, my dearest friends. I hope this week brings you joy!