How can 'friluftsliv' help make you happier now?
By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
A few years ago we hinged our hopes on the much-hyped Danish concept of hygge—a word that loosely means “coziness.” Its Nordic adherents consider hygge a way of life, with the basic idea being to slow down and savor the moment (coffee, faux fur blankets, and friends are hygge boosters). As Denmark consistently ranks high in the World Happiness Report, the world—at least for a moment—slowed down to embrace the concept.
That was then. Now, months into a pandemic, it’s time for a new word, and the Norwegians have delivered with the concept of friluftsliv, which roughly translates to “open-air living” and is deeply engrained in the country’s heritage. “From the remote Arctic to urban Oslo, friluftsliv [pronounced free-loofts-liv] means a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast,” reports Jen Rose Smith.
“The idea is as Norwegian as cross-country skis and aquavit. But amid a pandemic that’s upended rhythms of daily life around the globe, friluftsliv might also be a model for coming more safely—and sanely—through the northern hemisphere’s approaching winter season,” writes Smith. While it’s impossible to know whether the concept has helped keep Norway’s coronavirus case numbers relatively low, one thing is for sure: Embracing the outdoors can’t hurt.
Time outdoors makes you happy, according to experts. “Spending just two hours a week in natural environments such as parks or green spaces boosts well-being, according to a 2019 paper published in the journal Nature,” writes Smith. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906) is credited with the term, which has since been widely embraced. “It’s very tied to our culture and what it means to be a Norwegian,” says Lasse Heimdal, secretary general of Norsk Friluftsliv, an organization representing 5,000 outdoors groups in Norway.
As Smith writes, friluftsliv may help explain the country’s enviable ranking among the world’s happiest places. In the 2020 edition of the annual report by the United Nations, Norway comes in at number five—trailing Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland (the U.S. is world’s 18th happiest nation). As we head into cooler months, get outdoors and embrace nature. And, in the spirit of friluftsliv, let nature embrace you.
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Today in a minute
Wildfires: All national forests have been temporarily closed in California amid the devastating wildfires that have spread in the West. Fires and evacuations are occurring in parts of Idaho after more than five million acres have been charred in California, Oregon, and Washington, and the choking, smoke-filled air won’t let up, the AP reports. (Above, a plume of smoke rises Monday from the Bobcat fire in California’s Angeles National Park.)
Mexico: The U.S. State Department has dropped its “do not travel” warning to Mexico, despite the nation remaining on the CDC’s most stringent travel level. The State Department, however, is listing Mexico’s new status as “reconsider travel,” and “do not travel” warnings remain for five states because of crime and kidnapping, USA Today reports.
Your one-star review: A new series of retro posters and postcards has been launched, inspired by underwhelmed online reviews of some of North America’s most stunning places, KSJD reports. Examples include Utah’s Delicate Arch (“Looks nothing like the license plate”) and South Dakota’s Badlands (“The only thing bad about these lands is the entire experience”). Check out the Subpar Parks collection on Instagram.
Anniversary: It has been a half century since Robin Lee Graham became the youngest person known to have sailed solo around the world. Graham, pictured sailing in 1968 in Durban, South Africa, started circumnavigating the world at 16 and wrote about it for National Geographic. His memoir Dove details his epic journey—and is one of several outstanding travel and adventure books we recommend here.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Sacred land: An area of Colombia, bounded by the the majestic mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, is considered the sacred home of four tribes (Arhuaco, Kogui, Wiwa, and Kankuamo). They believe they are the guardians of what they consider to be the heart of the world—and they seek to maintain its equilibrium of life. (Above, Carlos Mario, from the Arhuaco community, walks around the community of Pueblo Bello.)
Subscriber exclusive: Colombia moves forward after 5 decades of civil war
Overheard at Nat Geo
What’s old is new: More than 66 million years ago, dinosaurs were the original globetrotters. Scientists have found fossils of more than 1,100 distinct kinds of the ancient animals on what are now all seven continents!
To tell this international tale, Michael Greshko spent nearly a month reporting from the Moroccan Sahara to the French Alps for National Geographic’s latest cover story, which takes a sweeping look at the new science of dinosaurs, a story that’s more global now than ever before.
As it surely has for many of you, COVID-19 affected his travel plans. Greshko was reporting in France on January 21, when Chinese officials first announced that the coronavirus could spread between humans. Four days later, he returned to the U.S.
“Thankfully,” Greshko writes, “there’s one way I could still travel for my story. Dinosaurs are ambassadors from the distant past, but to visit that world, I couldn’t use a time machine: With science as my guide, I had to use my imagination, just as I did when dinosaurs filled my dreams as a kid.”
In these stressful times, Greshko urges readers “to let that ember of wonder burn once more. ... And enjoy that journey into lost worlds waiting to be reimagined."
The big takeaway
Beyond the Blarney Stone: So many kisses, so much possible infection: How’s that Irish smooching stone doing during COVID-19? After the 600-year-old Blarney Castle & Gardens reopened in June, one in three visitors are still kissing it, writes Zoe Baillaregeon in a survey of germy attractions worldwide. In 2019, about half of the 460,000 castle visitors locked lips on the stone. (Above, in Seattle, a flag made from chewed gum once waved on the frequently cleaned Gum Wall, which has been a popular tourist spot since the 1990s.)
In a few words
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On Wednesday, Victoria Jaggard covers the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.
The last glimpse
Essential: Maybe travel isn’t the visceral lifeline of a hospital or a grocery story, but it’s essential, nonetheless, argues writer Eric Weiner. “Travel is essential the way books and hugs are essential. Food for the soul,” says Weiner, author of The Socrates Express. “Right now, we’re between courses, savoring where we’ve been, anticipating where we’ll go.” Above, two women gazing at the surf off Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, in 1961.