In Awe of Scandinavia
I can't be the only one with an open obsession with all things Nordic. Nope, not when you can't open up Instagram without being bombarded with Scandi scenery, not when the UK high street is being taken over by Swedish brands, not when everyone I speak to is planning a weekend break in Copenhagen or epic adventure in Lapland. Why have we all become so allured by the Nordic way of life- or more specifically, why do I feel like packing up all of my belongings and moving to a remote Danish island?
It's hard to pinpoint when my Scandi-obsession started; perhaps it's always been there? When I first started blogging back in 2008, the very first blogs that I started following were all based in Sweden. I loved following the day to day life of Sandra Beijer (aka Niotillfem) and spent my days dreaming of having a house on a Swedish archipelago, barbecuing shrimp and leaping in the water on hot days. All the street style blogs at the time were filled with photos of aloof Swedish and Danish women wearing impossibly cool outfits. And I was obsessed with Lykke Li's music. Living in dreary grey Manchester, I longed to move to Sweden.
Since then, my narrow-minded view of the Nordic countries has grown to include Norway, Finland and Iceland within my wanderlust list. Following a few short trips to Copenhagen and Malmo, I finally threw myself into the Nordic way of life last year with a two week road trip around Iceland. I didn't want to come home. Everything resonated with me: the landscapes, the architecture, the abundance of seafood, the fresh air. This was where I was supposed to be. Thinking ahead now to planning trips for next year, Norway, Finland and Sweden are all tempting me with alluring cities, incredible architecture, miles upon miles of wilderness, the Northern Lights, enchanting wildlife and once-in-a-lifetime-experiences. I've got Scandinavia on the brain, and I just can't shake it.
I wrote a blog post just under a year ago about the Scandinavian home. One thing that I really, really love about the Nordic countries (just a quick interjection here - 'Scandinavia' typically refers to just Sweden, Denmark and Norway whereas 'Nordic' includes Finland, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands) is their attitude towards interior design. In countries where winters are so harsh, its important to have a relaxing and cosy space to return home to at the end of the day. The word 'hygge' got thrown around far too much last Christmas, but it really does sum up perfectly that feeling of snugness and comfort that surrounds you in a Scandinavian home. An abundance of white and grey, natural materials everywhere, Danish Mid-Century furniture combining style + function - all these elements come together to create my kind of decor.
It's not just the interiors that tempt me north though, the architecture is exactly my cup of tea. Rustic cabins meet modernism. Buildings that make me want to visit a city just to stand and stare at them (mainly Helsinki, that one). Remote shacks floating on tranquil lakes. Ridiculously creative treehouses. I just want to travel around the Nordic countries staying in all the different types of accommodation and photographing every single little detail (side note: that would make an incredible Instagram feed if anyone wants to sponsor me).
And then there's the wilderness. The largest, most sparsely populated wildernesses in Europe, located mainly in the far north of Finland, Norway and Sweden. Miles upon miles upon miles of nothing but forests and tundra; places where reindeer outnumber people. Even the countryside close to the cities is just beginning to be explored. I had a small taste of it when visiting Oslo last winter, and I want more. I can't stop thinking about driving around Sweden in midsummer, spending the nights in remote cabins, swimming in lakes and hiking through forests. Or travelling to the north of Norway in the middle of winter to ride on a reindeer sleigh, watch orcas surfacing in the freezing cold sea and hopefully catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights dancing overhead.
There's more to it though. Our obsession with the Nordic countries goes beyond aesthetics and broaches those all important issues such as overall quality of life. Look at the countries with the best work/life balance - Norway is number one and Denmark is a close second. Which countries have the happiest citizens - Norway once again comes out top with Denmark, Iceland and Finland all making the top five. Every single year, the Nordic lands top these lists. What does that tell us, other than to pack up and relocate?
Visions of living off-grid in a wooden cabin, flouncing around a chic Scandi city, or building your own home on the edge of a fjord are becoming more and more appealing as Brexit approaches and house prices soar. Norway, Sweden and Iceland are notoriously expensive? Well, the UK is becoming increasingly expensive and if that's the only thing stopping you, I say go for it, make the move. So you'll have to pay slightly more for your weekend bottle of wine? If you're happier, does it really matter? (And let's face it, Norway prices aren't that much higher than London prices).
I've convinced myself. See you in Scandinavia. (I wish).
Photos from my trip to Oslo earlier this year