Embracing Friluftsliv

It's easy to retreat inside at this time of year; batter down the hatches, pull the curtains shut and stock up on enough candles to last you until March. When the wind is howling, the rain pouring and the temperatures make you shiver involuntarily, who can blame you if all you want to do is wrap up in blankets and settle down in front of Netflix? This is what we're supposed to do in winter, right? This is the hygge that every brand and blogger under the sun kept banging on about last year?

Personally, I find it baffling when people prefer to hide indoors at this time of year. I love autumn, and it's honestly my favourite season for getting outside and walking in the countryside. In summer I'm usually content lounging or swimming but when the temperatures drop, the conditions are perfect for hiking. There's nothing better than bundling up and setting out for a stroll, camera in hand and woolly hat firmly tugged down over my ears. There's something magical about fresh air. It clears your head, gets your creative juices flowing and even wipes away a hangover. Why wouldn't you want to spend time outdoors?

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll already know that I'm besotted with all things Scandinavian. Last year's hygge obsession may have convinced most people that Scandi folk all nestle up indoors for the winter, but that's not really the case. When you're surrounded by beautiful wilderness, the outdoors always beckons, all throughout the year. The Norwegian concept of friluftsliv literally translates as 'free air life', another of those untranslatable words that has a much deeper meaning when you investigate further. Most Norwegians feel a close connection with nature, spending as much time outdoors as possible, even during harsh weather. 

In Norway, people tend to live closer to nature with it being said that even those living in the middle of cities need only to walk for an hour at the most to find themselves in the wilderness. From an early age, children are taught to spend time outdoors; basic survival skills, camping, swimming and skiing are all part of the curriculum with as much importance placed on these outdoor life skills as is placed on traditional education. A greater value is given to the outdoors than in other countries. The benefits of spending time among nature are valued and time spent with friends and family is often centred on getting outside.

It's easy to read into friluftsliv and shrug it off as something that only works in the Nordic lands. They have closer proximity to nature, they're surrounded by beautiful landscapes, of course they want to head outside in winter when the land is covered in thick snow. Excuses, excuses, excuses. I live in England, a country that Rough Guide's readers recently voted as the seventh most beautiful country in the world (Norway came in at number 17, FYI). Within an hour's drive of my house I can be surrounded by rolling hills, vast moors, towering mountains, tranquil lakes and endless beaches - plenty of which are easily accessible via public transport. There is no excuse at all that we don't live close enough to nature or that our landscapes aren't as luscious.

As for the weather, all it takes is being prepared. When I visited Norway at the beginning of this year, one thing I noticed was that people embraced outdoor clothing and didn't shy away from wearing waterproof jackets, snow boots and fleeces on the city streets. No-one seemed concerned about how others may judge them - if anything, it would seem ridiculous not to venture outside in weather-proof clothing when snow is falling from the sky. In the UK, we're all a little too preoccupied with worrying about how others might perceive us. Our desire to look good can sometimes thwart plans to embrace the outdoors. If you're ill prepared for the weather, not only are you going to be uncomfortable spending the day outdoors but you could even make yourself ill. I'm definitely guilty of wearing unpractical outfits for a walk, but I always make sure that I'm warm and dry.

To get on board with friluftsliv, we have to get our priorities right. Ask most Brits what they most enjoy doing and what they look forward to and you'll probably receive lots of answers around the lines of going out at the weekend or catching up with their favourite TV shows. Ask a Norwegian and they're more likely to tell you about their weekend plans to stay in a cabin, hike in the snow or take their skis into the forest for a cross-country jaunt. Again, this difference in attitude could be put down to the fact that there's much more wilderness to explore in Norway or that we rarely get snow. It could also be accredited to how expensive alcohol is in Norway and that going out to get drunk is a less appealing option financially there. Either way, we aren't living our lives to their fullest if we're sat on the sofa every night.

I wrote an article about friluftsliv for Stylist last year, sharing five tips at the end for how we can all try to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. The most obvious way is by simply choosing to walk to places, rather than relying on public transport or your car. Walk to work via a scenic route that takes you through a local park, take the dog on more interesting walks that your usual around-the-block circuit, get in the habit of going for walks in the countryside with your family and friends at the weekend. Personally, I love walking - whether that's a relaxing stroll through a woods or a challenging climb up a hill. The bit that I find hard is making the time to get outdoors as often as I would like. But even with a hectic schedule and a towering workload, you can find time to go for a walk.

My favourite kinds of weekend plans are those that involve escaping the city and wandering around the countryside. Partially because I want to take photographs, but mainly because I thrive off fresh air. If I spend too long indoors I start to feel restless, distracted and irritable. Perhaps I have a Norwegian spirit. 

All photos my own. Photos of me taken by I Spy Land.