A few months ago I (Kassiani) decided that, after 6 years, I needed a break from work. I wanted to travel and chose Norway as one of my destinations. I wanted to live amidst nature and enjoy long hikes in the mountains. In the beginning of September I made my way to the north of Norway, to a village called Ågskardet. A beautiful place overlooking a fjord, where I volunteered at a farm in exchange of accommodation and food.
Friluftsliv: Norway’s connection with Nature
During my stay I made amazing hikes and while talking to the locals, I discovered that time spent in nature is considered to be extremely important for the Norwegians. It is part of the philosophical lifestyle of friluftsliv [free-luufts-leav], directly translated as “free air life”. It captures a deep understanding and closeness with nature, describing a way of life that is predominantly spent outdoors appreciating the great wilderness that surrounds them. It’s understood how being among nature can reduce stress, boost creativity and increase happiness.
The Swedish government typically defines friluftsliv as spending time outdoors to get a change of scenery and experience nature, with no pressure to achieve or compete. It’s about the happiness and wholeness we feel in nature and it’s also about sharing it with others. When we venture into wild places, our brains receive the stimuli they were originally developed for and we regain our natural rhythms and energies. This in turn explains why we feel harmonious and happy in nature.
The word friluftsliv first appeared in a poem of the Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen, ‘On The Heights’ which describes a man who ventures out into the wilderness in search of solitude as to clear his mind and plan for the future – “filuftsliv for my thoughts.”
What genuine friluftsliv is:
- Developing a love and respect for nature through direct experience;
- Understanding your own place in the natural world with nature as the teacher;
- Using all senses to create a deep sensation of connectedness with nature;
- Rediscovering our natural, biological rhythms through nature immersion;
- Growing self-esteem as well as physical, social and survival skills in the natural world throughout life.
If I had to describe Norway in one word, it would be “serene”. Everything from the pink and purple tinted sunsets, the vast conifer forests to the Norwegians themselves evokes a feeling of tranquillity. And this tranquillity is deeply rooted in the feeling of oneness with nature.
Author: Kassiani Nikolopoulou
Communication & Media lecturer | yoga teacher | photo enthusiast | currently on sabbatical traveling to Norway and India.