How to Embrace Friluftsliv
The Norwegian concept of ‘free air life’ can be difficult to understand outside the Nordic countries. In Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway, spending time outdoors is a way of life; most people feeling a close connection to nature that results in spending as much time as possible in the wilderness, whatever the weather. How can those who live elsewhere take inspiration from friluftsliv and learn to embrace the outdoors?
In Norway in particular, a greater value is placed on spending time outside. Basic survival skills and outdoor activities such as skiing and camping are part of children’s curriculums and the benefits of exploring the outdoors are taught from an early age. Leisure time with friends is often spent outside with an evening’s ski through the forest holding more appeal than staying inside and watching Netflix. Going outside and being among nature is an intrinsic way of life and the thought of hiding away indoors is perplexing.
You could put this down to surroundings. It is said that everyone living in Norway is no more than an hour’s walk from the wilderness, putting the population in perfect proximity for exploring the outdoors. If you have mountains, fjords and forests on your doorstop, why wouldn’t you spend all of your time outdoors soaking up the scenery?
Or perhaps the weather is a deciding factor in whether or not to step outdoors? Yes, it’s cold up north, but the Nordic lands spend most of the winter months dusted in a thick coating of snow. Not only does this look dramatic, but it also allows for winter sports such as skiing and sledging and is a vast improvement on rain.
Why wouldn’t you head outdoors if you’re confronted by dramatic snowy landscapes, filled with possibilities?
I live in the north of England, in a city where I have to drive for almost an hour to find unspoilt countryside and towering peaks. It rains a lot and the winter months are usually filled with miserable weather and gloomy landscapes. Yet, I try to embrace friluftsliv in my everyday life and spend as much time as possible outdoors. I walk a lot and make it my mission to find easily accessible green spaces close to home, such as rivers or urban meadows. At the weekends, I hop on the train and within less time than it takes to watch one episode of my favourite TV show, I can be out in the open countryside. I walk up hills, along canals and across fields with my dog in tow.
Rather than making excuses (it’s raining, it’s too cold) or longing for more interesting landscapes, I take advance of what surrounds me. I wrap up warm in waterproof layers to make myself comfortable and spend time surrounded by nature. I spend entire days walking and photographing the landscapes that I encounter.
Even if you live in a bustling city and have no immediate connection to nature, you can still introduce a little friluftsliv into your everyday life. Try walking to work instead of using public transport, or walking to the next train station or bus stop if that isn’t an option. Invest in a warm, waterproof jacket that will help you feel comfortable outdoors in any weather condition. Avoid hiring a dog walker and enjoy the bonding experience of taking your own pooch for a walk. Try picking up a hobby that involves spending time outdoors, such as cycling or landscape photography.
There are many ways to help you embrace friluftsliv, or even just to start to open up to the possibility that there are many benefits to spending time outdoors. You don’t need dramatic landscapes and picturesque snow drifts to enjoy being outside, you just need to step out of the door and breathe in the fresh air.