A lot of people have a foreign country they get attached to. Sometimes it’s after they have been there, but a lot of times it’s from photos, stories, and people they’ve seen from there. For example, my little sister has always loved England, and learned everything about the British history and the royal family.
My country crush is Norway. Ever since I made friends with my first Norwegians back in 2012, I have been a little secretly obsessed with everything Norway. From skiing I have made friends with quite a lot of Norwegians, and learned a lot about the country through them. It’s my favorite country of all time, and I’ve traveled the world.
I’m writing because I’ve finally gotten to experience the country for myself these past two weeks. Of course, a two week trip overseas is one of the best birthday presents ever, but being able to actually go to Norway and visit my friend for two weeks was pretty unreal.
I arrived on a Wednesday night to a jungle party at Vilde’s cabin. Now, Vilde’s cabin is a 10 minute walk down a grassy path through the woods, across a field, and directly towards a clump of trees by the water side. I happened to arrive during the only hour of darkness this time of year, so waking up to see where I actually was turned out to be quite a surprise. I really enjoy the feeling of arriving someplace in the dark and waking up to see where I actually am. It's kind of like opening a present after anticipating what’s been inside.
Norway in June is really light, and even in the south where we were the sun was rising between 3 and 4 am. The first morning I was up with the early birds, and tired of just lying around I decided to get up. Since I arrived so late I did not get drunk during the party, and since everyone else was hungover I knew they would sleep for hours longer. What I decided to do will make everyone think I’m totally crazy (besides my mom because she knows I get my crazy from her). But I decided to go for a 40 minute run in the soft morning light. Breathing the clean air, feeling the warm rays of sun, and moving my muscles was perfect for me. I loved seeing the little cabins and farm houses, just as picturesque and perfect as the pictures and postcards that has made Norway seem so enticing to me over the years.
Whenever I travel, everyone always asks me about the U.S. and if things are similar or different than their country. Since the U.S. is so big with so many different types of land, people, and cultures, it’s a hard question to answer. Here in Norway, I know a lot of the skier and snowboarder kids. They have all been to the US a lot, except they have mostly been to the mountain towns in states like Colorado, Utah, California, plus some of them have seen LA and New York City.
But none of these places are anything like Norway at all. I grew up in a really small village in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. I have not been back to New Hampshire in 6 years, but so much of Norway is so similar to my home. For example, one afternoon we went cliff jumping, into cold cold water, the kind where you have to be excited enough to get yourself in and use the term “it’s refreshing” a lot. It reminded so much of the cold waters in New Hampshire.
I came to Norway to celebrate my 20th birthday, but unfortunately Vilde had to work over the weekend. But, being the problem solvers that we are, we created the perfect plan. I have a friend from Sweden named Sara who lived in Park City for 3 years before moving back to Sweden a couple years ago. Since Sara moved back, I have only seen her the few times she’s come back to Park City. But of Course Fredrikstad in Norway is a whole lot closer to where she lives in Sweden than Park City is. So Sara came over and stayed at the cabin with me for the weekend. This way, when Vilde went to work and was really tired the next day from bartending, we perfectly entertained ourselves.
It’s really a funny thing to have friends you know in one stage of life and then don’t see until you are in another. Its pretty silly, but Sarah and I had the best time being young adults all grown up together, cooking food, drinking wine, visiting the old towns. Gamle is one of the oldest restored areas in all of Europe, dating back to the mid 1700’s. Everyone might not love history as much as I do, but walking around cobblestone streets looking at handmade buildings and soaking in a totally new cloture is something everyone needs to do.
After our splendid grown up dinner at the cabin, we had to have a Taylor Swift pre-game dance party. I love to dress up, and hell I’m in norway celebrating my birthday. So I put on my favorite white lace dress (I have 10… I know I have a problem, but they are all just so pretty) and put some flowers in my hair. Maybe I looked dressed for a casual wedding, or maybe like I was in Sweden midsummer to other people. But for me I looked 100% me, and no outfit could scream Jeanee more than this one.
After Fredrikstad we made our way to Hemsedal where Vilde grew up, stopping in Oslo for lunch. We sat at an outside table watching the people, and I got to learn about the Norwegian government. Right when we ended lunch it started to rain. I don't really believe in previous or afterlives, but if there is such a thing I was definitely a princess in one of my previous lives. Growing up playing royalty was my favorite games, and I was always very realistic in my clothing and behaviors (my little sister can vouch for it, she always wanted to be a prince purely because she could wear less clothes).
So before leaving Oslo I had to see the royal palace. Yes, I know the royal family does not even live there any more (or even rule the country), but more often than you might think I am still that 8 year old little girl who liked to be a princess. We trudged up to the palace, getting photos (and getting wet) in the rain. We suddenly noticed what time it was, and when we realized that our garage ticket was out in 5 minutes, we started our mad dash back to the main street. We hopped in a cab, told the driver where we were headed, paid before we stopped, and then ran like we were escaping dinosaurs for a full block before finding the right door to get to the elevator and down to the car. Luckily, we didn’t get a ticket.
Heading to Hemsedal I finally got to drive for the first time in Norway. It’s wasn’t too bad, with nice roads and pretty scenery. Little did I know what was coming when we would finally make it to the west side of country, as driving through the fjords the next day was quite the experience. If you’re from the states you mainly drive on two lane roads unless you are really in a small neighborhood or farmland. But in western Norway, you get roads that are one lane with every 100 to 500 feet having spaces just wide enough for two cars tp pass (usually less than a foot apart).
Just imagine driving on a one lane road with a steep hill on one side, and the ground falling away to the water of the fjords on the other. This is all on a skinny road with oncoming traffic possibly waiting around every corner. And when you meet that oncoming traffic, you both promptly put on the brakes, and whoever is more conveniently close to a passing spot pulls on to the shoulder while the other car continues forward. Most Americans could not drive on these roads, and I was no exception. My first few days there Vilde had to drive for me.
Everything about Norway is so beautiful and romantic that I don’t understand why it's not more common honeymoon location. I would strongly recommend to anyone looking for a good trip to take a trip to Norway, staying in the city for a couple nights and then traveling around the breathtaking countryside. I would also recommend staying in the town’s local inn, as they really provide a sense of the culture. Vilde’s childhood neighbors and “second family” have the cutest inn right on the waterfront of the fjords in the small town of Herand. We got to stay at the inn and ski the glacier Fonna everyday for a week, which was a nice change from training and competition skiing.
Fonna is about a 40 minute drive from Herand, and about 20 minutes of the drive is on one of the roads I was describing earlier to a slightly bigger (but still tiny) town before you climb up one of the truest mountain roads I have ever seen. Barely big enough for one car, you wind around cliffs, lakes, and sharp turns to match the curve of the mountains. Not to mention the road is in open range farm, so around any corner you might meet a cow, or a mama sheep with her lambs enjoying the heat of the payment.
A lot of people think you should travel when you are old and have the time and money to do so. That's great and all, but I don’t think you should wait until you’re old to travel. I believe traveling the world when you are young and broke is what makes you into a cultured and experienced person. For me, getting to be in Fonna, meeting other skiers and snowboarders from Norway, taking part in after skiing activities like paddle boarding, making waffles, and playing loads of card games has been such a great experience.
Another part of this experience was learning some Norwegian, even though almost all Norwegians speak english pretty well (which is very helpful to me who can only speak one full sentence, which happens to be ‘Shall we brush our teeth with toothpaste”, which is great ice breaker but totally useless to communicate with). The fact that it's so common for them to be so fluent in two languages and the fact that I am not makes me feel less educated. I’ve always believed every classy, well-educated, worldly adult speaks at least two languages, just like my mom who can speak French, English, and even some Spanish. I am vowing to learn another langurs or two from this point on.
Vildes favorite thing to tell people about her time in the states is how good of a pickup line saying “I'm Norwegian” is, but how can we help it? Of course, every person from Norway is not blonde and everyone is not beautiful, but I can tell you that some of the most beautiful boys I have ever seen have been Norwegian. This trip I definitely got to add some new eye candy to my life, but the best part of these eye candy boys is the fact that they have personalities to go with their looks. At least the very least, the ones that I met were so nice, sweet, and fun that I would just smile and laugh every time I was with them, which them even more beautiful to me.
I have a lot of friends from all over the world, and I get to see these friends all over the world and make the best memories with them. It's so rare for me to actually get to go to one of my friend’s home country see the places they grew up in. In Vilde’s case, it was a perfectly designed and decorated log home built by hand by Russians without nails. The logs were wax painted white to have both a natural log look and a light and airy feel for optimal living. I also got to see the cabin Vilde has been going to every summer since she was a kid, and I got to spend time in Herand and Fonna with Vilde’s “second family”. Also, on the way back to Oslo we drove through the town Vilde used to live in, so I got to see her school, the apartment she lived in alone starting at 16, and I learned all about Norwegian traditions and culture.
This experience was really special to me, I’m definitely more in love with Norway than ever before. As Vilde told me, “You know, being in Norway is bad for your health.” When I asked her why, she replied, “Because now you’re going to get so addicted Norway with all it’s beauty and culture that you’re going to have withdrawals when you get home.” And she’s probably right. I’m already missing Norway, and I’ve barely even left yet! After most good trips I get withdrawals when I get home, but luckily for me I have one of the best lives ever. That being said, I get to go home for a week before taking to the air for my next big adventure!