Good to Be Back

I have returned home from my favorite craziest adventure – Summer salsa festival in lovely Rovinj – and I keep on repeating one phrase. “So good to be back”. Wow. I am surprised.

Usually I turn my nose away from the everyday reality (from the need to clean the house, shop my food and cook it myself :)). I post the vacation photos, the feeling of missing it already playing on the strings of my heart. This time, however, I just feel loads of gratitude to the place and the event – but I don’t want to get back into my past emotionally. I enjoy every moment here. And I want to live in my emotional present. To connect with my life which is only happening here and now.

This year – like never before – I am love with my home, my city and the country I live in. I am so used to the feeling of “yuck, this gray and cold place again” – that I even get surprised by my sudden “oh, Scandinavia, how lucky I am to experience this my Norwegian adventure” (adventure? Since when has it become an adventure??? :)) And here are my reasons to love it.

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Pack Lightly. Travel Lightly

I love traveling with only a hand luggage. That teaches me to practice the art of minimalism.

When I can take a big suitcase, I usually throw in lots of things, hoping that they will work. Often I would end up with some pieces that I would never use on a trip. With the hand luggage and a week-long trip, I cannot thoughtlessly stuff in clothes. I need to choose, make combos and use my brain. When I pack then my carry-on, I end up with things I ultimately love. Just the best clothes, my favorite jewelry and simple solutions. I love simple solutions! And such packing makes me think about how I want to live my life.

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My Mindfulness Practice

I am a firm believer that the art of life is created by small steps. Small habits, small adjustments. I have never been a fan of resolutions like “From Monday on I start a new life”, but advocated for the small changes one can make – first as an experiment – in order to change one’s quality of life.

I believe in the health and happiness that start from the inside out – from our mind and soul. I have tried to set big goals for myself, like meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I struggled to keep it as a daily routine. However, the small practices seem to stick with me. Today I want to share those that work for me.

My Mindfulness Practice
my favorite bench

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The Importance of Play

Sometimes I like sitting on the bus without headphones and listen to people. Mind you, on the bus in Norway everyone is usually very silent, except the teens and the foreigners. The locals speak to each other in low voices. One morning, however, I was lucky to hear an interesting talk. A guy was telling about his master thesis: a role of play in learning. He told how the first year of school was first meant as a transit from the everyday playing of kindergarten to the school life. And how it changed nowadays with the prevalence of testing and result-oriented study from the earliest years. “I don’t want to call it play, it is a little bit scary to use this word” – he said (and I smiled internally. Norwegians’ choice of words can be funny sometimes. Maybe, I will write about it one day). “I would better say “learning through exploring” instead of playing”, he continued. And I thought: Bingo!

Because my blog’s name is about exploring, that’s why 🙂 No, not just that. Because I also had been thinking about the concept of “play” – applied to our adult life. Sometimes I ask myself: how come we adults become so boring?

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When the Nordic Happiness is Right for You

Every year, in the weird season between winter and spring, the same thing happens: the UN Happiness Report is released. Every year here in the Northern edge of Europe we delight ourselves in discussing its outcomes. It looks like the report is released in the month of March especially for our part of the world: while other places start watching spring signs, we still walk the icy streets, covered in winter layers, wondering if the meters of snow will ever melt this year. And our only novelty and a topic for discussion is this: who is the world’s happiest country this year? Because it is us. Or our neighbors.

The first place in the happy ranking was occupied by Denmark for so many years that everyone just had to give up. But last year Norway suddenly squeezed in to be the champion. As we shrugged from the snow and sleet in April and pulled on our last resources of patience, we looked at each other with disbelief and amusement: look, we live in the world’s happiest country, what a surprise! The top five was occupied by our Nordic neighbors: Denmark, Iceland and even Finland, with one non-Nordic country (what was that again?) miraculously making its way into the top. This year Norway was moved to the second place, but by whom? By Finland, ladies and gentlemen! I felt like laughing hysterically. The positions reshuffle but you would find the same countries in the top. It looks like the Nordics are really better than the rest of the world: at least, at answering those surveys 🙂

the Northern lights

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Thriving in Norway

Norwegians love to ask the newcomers to their country: “Do you like it in Norway?” (“Trives du I Norge?” which reminds of “do you thrive?”). Which is a difficult question because it doesn’t leave you an option. Well, not really 🙂 Saying no would be rude. And it also would call for a reaction “so why do you stay if you don’t like it?” So, you say yes. I used to say yes with a feeling that I am lying. I could not honestly answer that I like it here, but what could I say? After some years I used to answer “yes” more honestly but still halfheartedly. I would usually say: “Yes, I like it here. After you build your life here, you have more friends and you like it more”.

Norwegians are sweet in this curiosity. In a way they still feel that theirs is a little country up in the North and why would someone come and stay here? It is also a common question if you begin in a new job, they would ask “do you like it?” (trives du?). But it took me many years to accept this question. I felt like I was suffering from the loneliness for quite a long time here and it colored my experience of the country. And even after I got some friends I felt like a lone fighter in this cold landscape, having no one to count on but myself. The struggles were many, and leaving for home was not an option for me.

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May You Walk in Beauty: Snow

The snow has swept across Europe causing troubles and wonders. Paris looks so beautiful in the snow, and, as it doesn’t happen often there, it seems that everyone took a day off to go to the park, make a snowman, take a photo and post it on Instagram. Snow has fallen on the deserted beaches of Barcelona and has created chaos in the north of Catalonia. It was a protagonist on the Catalan news last night. Also in Moscow the extreme volumes of snow created problems for the traffic. As we sit here in our Norwegian homes and watch all these breaking news on tv, I wonder: when will they come here and film our snow?

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