In order for you to understand how I wound up moving to the southwest coast of Norway in the first place, I need to rewind a bit and fill in a few gaps of the story: namely, the places that I had traveled to, which sparked the thoughts that turned into the crazy ideas that consumed my mind and made me question the kind of life I wanted to live..and where I wanted to live that type of life. It all comes together at the end in a rather ironic way, I swear!
I’m a pretty low-maintenance kind of girl. I don’t have a problem buying generic brands. I will happily buy something that is used if it is in excellent shape, rather than paying for something that is brand new and costs more than I’m comfortable spending. I love thrift stores and hand-me-downs from my girlfriends. I don’t wear a lot of makeup or spend hours in the bathroom primping before I can go out of the house and begin my work day. And most days when I walk to my job, I can be found wearing my hiking shoes while toting my phone/lunch/water bottle/other necessities in my black backpack, instead of my nice purse. Don’t get me wrong, I like pretty things (I’m not ALL tomboy), and I love the opportunities that come my way to doll myself up with the extra makeup, curl my hair, wear my high heels and take my fancy purse out with me, but I don’t need these things on a daily basis.
However, I do like to think of myself as an extremely picky person when it comes to a few things. For example, I will not skimp when it comes to my favorite perfume, Band-Aids, Q-tips, or facial moisturizer. This high(er) maintenance side of me also has some very high standards when it comes down to the location in which I will live: a visual and mental checklist of requirements, if you will.
In what seems like a whole other lifetime ago, Belize had swept into the top spot on that list of places I would gladly move to. It met all of my visual and mental requirements, and I had been in the beginning stages of checking up on what it would take in order to turn that dream into a reality. I needed to start this new phase of my life in a place that would both enchant and challenge me (but not too much).
I had been on a short scuba diving trip to Central America a few years prior to making these plans, and was instantly hooked. From the moment I arrived, I knew it was going to be very difficult for me to leave. I fell in love with the white sand and the pristine turquoise-aqua-turquoise waters, which stretched out as far as the eye could see. The visibility below the water was incredible, and the variety of abundant, colorful marine life was to die for. (The world’s second largest coral reef system, the Great Mayan Reef, runs along the coastline of Belize.) From my seat at the palapa bar, I could see beautiful fan palms swaying now and then with the soft, island breezes. Dark, round barrel grills stood next to a large, unoccupied square palapa, from which five or so colorful hammocks hung swaying in the same breeze, just waiting for someone to come along and take an afternoon nap in them. The weather was deliciously warm, but not overly so. For the first time in my life, I could imagine myself living somewhere else, in a country that I could thrive, relax, and feel welcomed in. There were mountains, Mayan ruins and jungles to explore. Plentiful mango groves and rivers for kayaking..and let’s not forget about the never-ending opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving. Belize had (still has, I believe) a decent and stable economy, low cost of living, friendly people, and a laid back lifestyle (it’s national language is even English-yay me!!). It was what I considered a winning combination, and I just didn’t see how I could lose. I’d have a suntan nearly year-round too, no doubt. Ahhhhh, the possibility of a move to Belize was absolutely the best way to kick off this new phase of my life, now that my two older children were grown and gone. I couldn’t imagine anything that could possibly be better. Without a doubt, it was where I wanted to be, and that was that. Decision made.
Now this is where things took a very ironic twist: I had been so busy planning, that I had forgotten that things don’t always go according to plan. And a third child had definitely not been factored into that dreamy, envious new lifestyle that I had been busy concocting for months. Not by a long shot. Belize was gone faster than you can say, “due date”.
After I had finally come to grips with the death of my short-lived dream of a brand new life in Belize, I decided that I would banish any thoughts of moving out of Colorado from my mind. Forever. It was where Rowan was born, and it was where we would live for the rest of our lives..or for the rest of my life, at least. We lived in a nice house with two of the nicest roommates we could ever ask for, tucked back into a quiet little subdivision off of Highway 72 in the foothills of Coal Creek Canyon. We were content, happy and thriving. She and I both needed a large selection of outdoor locations to go to (state/national parks) at a moments notice, where she could release all of that super-charged energy..a safe place to explore and learn about nature, where she could feed her imagination and quench her thirst for knowledge. A place where I could breathe and soak up the warm sunshine while she was doing her thing. We had all of that there, and more. Something I also thought was highly beneficial to her growing up in Colorful Colorado is that the people who live there are some of the most genuine, educated, honest, and friendly people you will ever meet. They have a true understanding of what it means to have an open-minded awareness for the environment and for others. Just ask anyone tent camping out in the Rockies during a very dry summer about if it’s ok to start a campfire, and you’ll see what I mean. We had a plethora of fun things to do at our fingertips, and we had the best and closest knit group of friends we could ask for. They were our family in Colorado. They will always be our family.
So there you have it. Our lives were all planned out once again. I’ve got lots of experience in that area. No need to ever move, unless our roommate decides that he will put his house up for sale, and even then, I’m sending Rowan in for negotiations… Nope. Not moving. No way. We’re happy right where we are and we’ll just stay here, thank you very much.
It was then that I met Rune, through some sort of strange twist of fate and mutual friends..and we fell in love. It took almost a year and a half (on my end, at least), but it happened. During that time, he spent almost every three months traveling back-and-forth in order to see his American girls, and we communicated on a daily basis via various smartphone apps, email or Facebook. It finally got to the point where we knew that the inevitable decision had to be made about where our relationship was heading, if anywhere. We discussed it over FaceTime and came up with a solid plan for me to take a nearly three week vacation overseas at the end of May 2012. I was NOT thrilled to be handing this bit of information to my new employer…so of course, I put it off for as long as I could. I really did like the dentist I was working with, so it was extremely tough for me to tell him when I knew that I would be putting the office in a tight spot while I was out enjoying myself on my little European romp.
From the moment I landed in Oslo, I loved Norway. I can’t say that it was out of pure fascination, because it is a country in Europe; and as a lover of history, who has just landed in a shockingly gorgeous country crammed FULL of history, there was a real chance of that happening. I loved it because I actually felt like things were done differently here, and that it was done with a spirit of equality and in a way that made you feel at ease. The people were charming and friendly, but they don’t go over the top with it. Norwegians are a genuine and honest people, and they don’t believe in being pushy or bothersome. For example, you won’t find your waitress or waiter in Norway asking you, “Is everything ok with your meal/Can I get you anything else” every 5 minutes, or my all time favorite, “Can I help you find anything/Is there anything in particular you are looking for”, being asked by a completely new salesperson every single time we went into a different section of the same clothing boutique. People basically leave you alone, and I LOVED it!
Anyway, back to the main point. After spending some time in Oslo, we came to Rune’s hometown of Haugesund, and his mother picked us up at the airport. She was lovely, sweet and talkative (she still is!), and we got along splendidly. Rune and I were able to spend our days together at his hytte (cabin) near Sveio, where we did some hiking with his parents, a lot of sightseeing in his boat out on the fjords, and a little bit of swimming (or in my case, a quick dip in the fjord to say that I actually DID it). Somehow, at the end of one of our sun-filled days outdoors, I got engaged to him. The next thing I know, I’m actually having an excited, breathless conversation with him about moving to Norway even though I’m exhausted from all of the fresh air. Wait..what the…WHAT?!? I remembered the last words that my sweet boss back in Denver said to me as we (the staff) were parting ways in the parking lot, the day before I left for my trip: “Don’t fall in love with a Viking!” Oh, geez.
When the wonderful, romantic trip to Norway ended and I returned to Colorado to my normal everyday routine, it all began to slowly sink in. This is not only going to be tough, but it’s going to be a LOT of work over a long period of time. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about thinking of this ginormous move ahead of us, in the beginning. I really wasn’t too thrilled about it during the middle and end parts, either. I mean, moving 45 minutes from one house to another can be a real pain in the butt..and I KNEW Rune won’t be able to physically be in Colorado to help when it came down to the actual sorting and packing for said ginormous move. The amount of work involved on my end was suddenly looking as tall as one of the many 14er’s I’ve hiked, and all I wanted to do was hire someone to do it for me, take Rowan and crawl into a hole to hibernate until it was time for us to get on the plane and go.
But we did go, finally, and looking back, I wouldn’t have changed my mind about our move. Not at all. Here are some the reasons why…
The quality of the air and drinking water here is beyond compare. When was the last time that you actually felt safe drinking the water straight from your tap or without instantly conjuring up images of Julia Roberts playing Erin Brokovich? Our tap water doesn’t taste like chlorine or salt or smell of sulphur. When we lived in Colorado and I would drive down the canyon to work, 80% of the time, there was a heavy layer of dark gray or light brown smog hanging over the stretch between Boulder and Denver. I have never even seen a hint of that since we’ve been living here. The crime rate in Norway is low. Little kids can take the city buses alone (I saw this firsthand in Oslo and was still in shock when Rune explained that it was normal here), without fear of being kidnapped or hurt. Coming from Colorado where topics involving a violent crime became frequent headlines in the news, I found this to be one of the biggest motivators (the Columbine High School shootings or the gunman who walked into the Aurora theater and opened fire during the film, “The Dark Knight Rises” are a few of the many examples I could give). The landscape here is other-worldly beautiful; I have no other way to describe it. I can go hiking literally ALL DAY in the summertime, because it doesn’t get dark until almost 2 a.m., with the sun returning again two hours later. There is no lack of outdoor activities–on land or at sea–for us to do. Norwegians are the epitome of lovers-of-all-things-outdoors, even on rainy days. Although the temperature of the sea is much colder here than it is in Belize, I have been out to snorkel and scuba dive a few times, and plan on getting both my dry suit and wreck diving certification before too long (there are lots of really cool World War II wrecks to explore here!). The lifestyle is laid back, the people are friendly, the food is better-maybe a bit bland at times if you’re an American who loves international cuisines, the work weeks are shorter than they are in the States, and my work benefits are exponentially greater. Sure, I had to learn to speak Norwegian in order to live here, but the majority of Norwegians can speak English very well. So all of those things I listed about Belize that I loved? I can do the majority of them here in Norway. All of those things that I listed that we did in Colorado? We do them in Norway every chance we get. But instead of having the mango groves, tropical jungles and Mayan ruins to explore, I’ve got the apple orchards of the Hardanger region (http://www.visitnorway.com/us/where-to-go-us/fjord-norway/the-hardangerfjord-region/), towering mountains that hold countless legends in the Jotunheimen region (http://www.visitnorway.com/us/where-to-go-us/east/jotunheimen/), and the most breathtaking fjords that you’ll ever see (http://www.visitnorway.com/us/what-to-do/fun-activities-in-fjords-and-mountains/). Norway has offered us everything we’ve ever wanted..and more.