I happen to live in the country that has given to this world the great explorers like Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, the Vikings (who sailed all the way to North America). These guys have set kind of high standard for what exploring means, and, honestly, sometimes that bothers me. Do you also have this idea of exploring the faraway shores, thick jungles and mountain tops that are untouched by the foot of a man? Then I check the Instagram feeds of travel bloggers with their perfect sets in places that I don’t know how to pronounce, the flowing dresses, hats and hipster backpacks all there. I look at them, I look at me – and in my eyes you can see a reflection of an abyss that seems impossible to jump over.
But where is this distance? It’s only in my head, and no one is really stopping me. And I don’t even need to buy tickets to the exotic destinations, pack my suitcase with mosquito sprays and first aid kits, and risk my life hanging from the cliff with my camera in order to call myself an explorer. My mind is like a kid, it needs a picture attached to the word. So these are the pictures I have attached to the word “explore”. But recently I came to realize that exploring is the spirit, not the destination, or a dangerous activity or a cool shot on Instagram. It is more like an attitude, a mind mode that you can tap into any time and any place.
You know this tingling excitement of curiosity when you have arrived to a new destination. Everything seems big and interesting, the unknown streets seem to run away endlessly. Then you get to know the place, and you know that the endless street was not that endless at all, but ended in the little square, and which direction is the station, and you start to recognize corners as you pass them by several times. The charm of unknown washes away giving the place to comfortable familiarity. So what happens when you live in the same place for years? This comfortable familiarity becomes your modus operandi. You dash around the place, knowing how much time you need to get to any given point in the city – but you lose that awe and excitement of exploring. Every human has the need for known and for the unknown, for stability and novelty. So in order to fulfill that need for unknown we dream of new travels and plan the next vacation to an exciting escape. But what if we could create that feeling of adventure in the place that we know so well?
I must admit I forgot the time when I thought Oslo was exciting. I came to this city 10 years ago, and my view of Norway was not the romantic one. I had lived a year on the Norwegian coast, and that year was filled with rain and loneliness, so I was a bit crushed by this experience. In Oslo I was met by rainy summer and more loneliness, and that took away some charm of exploring this city. However, I remember my many walks with my camera and albums on Facebook with names “Doors of Oslo”, “Lights of Oslo”, “Oslo in Detail”, “People of Oslo”. That hints that Oslo was exciting to me and I was indeed exploring. Fast forward to now, after all these years and my many trips to other cities, I came to view Oslo as comfortable and familiar like a good old husband (read: boring), but as for exploring? No, not for exploring.
Last week I got surprised by Oslo again. There were no great deeds. I went out for a photo walk and sneaked in the backyard (usually they are locked). And suddenly that tingling feeling was back. Exactly that feeling I know so well when I am in a new city. A rise of inspiration and curiosity. Suddenly I found myself in a magical vibe when everything seems alluring, getting lost in the streets (that are quite so familiar to me), happy about tiny finds and hungry for more. What was that? A backyard spell?))
Yesterday the weather was nice again, and I wanted to catch the opportunity to make more photos for my Photo Walks series. I planned to go the posh neighborhood with pretty architecture that I love so much – but then on my way I took a different turn, climbed up the Oslo version of Spanish Stairs (those of Rome) and was instantly amazed at the details, arches, facades and corners of the neighborhood (St. Hanshaugen) that was lying in front of me. I have been to it before once or twice – but its awesomeness was revealed to me first now. All my way from there I was like Alice in Wonderland, bewildered, happy and with little jumps in my walk. Add to it bumping into an old friend of mine (whom I haven’t recognize first) and getting a cappuccino at the unfamiliar corner, and all this turns a regular late summer day into a tiny adventure.
This idea of “exploring your own place” is definitely not new in this world, but as it hit my understanding – on an emotional level, it feels very new and exciting to me. I don’t have the recipes of how to get into that mode, but I am eager to investigate more. And maybe, the process of searching for answers is more interesting that having the answers, who knows 😉
Do you have your secrets of how to keep up that spirit of exploring? It would be great to hear from you and make a collection of ideas, so do share with me here! And let’s go on exploring!