A few weeks ago, my sister’s boyfriend — a fellow outdoor lover and former New Hampshirite — shared this article from Mother Nature Network about 7 cultural concepts from other countries that Americans should embrace, including the Norwegian ideal of Friluftsliv, or “free air life.”
Friluftsliv — pronounced free-loofts-liv — was originally coined in an 1859 poem by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and captures Norway’s enchantment with nature and its philosophy that being outside in an easy, uncomplicated way, being present and enjoying nature alone or with friends, returning to nature in general, is returning home. I absolutely loved reading The Dollhouse in college, I love the Ibsen-Norway connection to my own Scandinavian heritage, which I don’t celebrate often enough, and I love, love, love this newfound way to characterize the way I feel about a way of life that includes being outside as much as possible, even when (maybe especially when) Mother Nature is throwing a temper tantrum.
The original Ibsen poem, titled Paa Vidderne (“On the Heights”), follows a protagonist who needs solitude in nature to clarify his thoughts about the future. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve taken a walk or a hike to clear my head and refocus my priorities or my perception of something, I could at least pay for a trip to the motherland — something I now desperately want to do after binge-watching Lillyhammer on Netflix.
One of the things I cherish the most about living in Austin is the ability to be outdoors, whether hiking with Pixie or just sitting around the fire pit in the backyard having drinks with friends, pretty much 52 weeks of the year. After 35 years living in New England, I’m no stranger to bundling up and getting out for a walk even in negative temps, but it’s so much more infinitely enjoyable when you don’t have to endure any pain for the pleasure of that “free air life.” I often call my morning trail hikes with Pix “my meditation” because I always feel better, more grounded, more energized, more “me” after taking them.
Exploring and appreciating nature — so simple, so connected to who we were as children but that we seem to lose as adults — is something I need in my daily life, and is why I chose it as the word to paint on my thrift store art canvas for this week’s DIY over on the Austin Goodwill blog. I want to see and embrace it every day. I want it to become my mantra. Friluftsliv has no strict definition: it can include sleeping outside, hiking, taking photographs, playing, or dancing outside. It doesn’t require any special equipment, includes all four seasons, and needn’t cost much money. It’s about being in nature just to be there.
I hope you get some free air life this weekend, whether you’re looking at a snowy forecast in Boston, a sunny one in Austin, or some other weather conditions of some other kind somewhere else. Embrace them all.
Here’s a short little 11-minute documentary about Friluftsliv I highly recommend for inspiration: