Why you should introduce the Norwegian concept of Friluftsliv into your travels 

COVER PHOTO BY JULIEN POUNCHOU

You’ll probably have heard of hygge and fika, but there’s another Nordic lifestyle concept that’s currently on our radar. Friluftsliv is all about spending as much time as possible outdoors – a concept that perfectly translates to travel. 

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Friluftsliv is a Norwegian concept that literally translates as ‘free air life’, although it’s meaning is much more detailed. It’s all about having a closer connection to nature and enjoying time spent outdoors, whatever the weather. In Norway there is a belief that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. If you’re prepared for whatever the weather may throw at you, there’s nothing to stop you spending time outdoors all year round. Norwegians typically spend their free time outside, hiking, skiing or huddling around an outdoor fire even during the harshest weather. 

You don’t have to be Scandinavian to adopt this philosophy. Friluftsliv can be enjoyed when travelling anywhere in the world; it’s all about focusing your time on enjoying the outdoors rather than holing yourself up in your hotel. In the Nordic countries, where everyone is surrounded by nature, it’s a natural part of life but there are ways that you can practice this wherever you are. 

Try wild swimming in the sea or in a lake, rather than the confines of your chlorinated hotel pool. Head outside the city limits to discover the surrounding landscapes, visiting dense forests, rugged coastlines and picturesque countryside. Shun public transport and walk everywhere. Take your morning exercise outdoors. Research activities that you can enjoy outdoors, such as kayaking or hiking. 

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Remember that this is all about getting back to nature and immersing yourself in the local environment, much in the way of the early Norwegian explorers. Soaking in a hot tub or floating in a heated pool feels like cheating. Take a leap into open water.

Photo by Juliana Gómez of  No Water for Whales

Photo by Juliana Gómez of No Water for Whales

Think about travelling in shoulder seasons – just because it isn’t the peak of summer doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy long walks and wild swims. If sunshine isn’t guaranteed, come prepared for cold or rainy days so you can wrap up and head outdoors. When the weather is a little cooler and the crowds have dispersed it can be much more pleasant to walk around and explore. If you’re travelling someplace where the sun will be scorching, sunbathing, swimming and al fresco dining are obvious. Is there another way that you could get closer to nature? 

It should come as no surprise that Norway is currently ranked as the third happiest country in the world on the World Happiness Report. It’s been in the top five (dominated by Nordic countries) since the report began in 2012. There are many factors involved in its ranking, but it’s now well documented that spending time outdoors correlates to happiness. Doctors are even prescribing ecotherapy, encouraging patients to spend time in nature to improve their physical and psychological well-being. Being outdoors triggers serotonin – the happy hormone – which can help you deal with stress and anxiety, as well as helping to boost creativity and concentration. 

If you travel for pleasure, it makes sense to head outdoors to indulge in a little friluftsliv and soak up all that fresh air.