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The North Way

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A sailboat embarks on an evening cruise in Oslo harbor (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler)

Seven hours across the Atlantic, I nose-kissed the airplane window and waited for my first glimpse through the invisible whiteness below. As we dropped back to Earth, the white clouds pulled away like white cotton stuffing, revealing white snow.

Spring snowdrifts still coated the upper reaches of the growing landscape: a blanket of fir trees among the piles of gray stones, a few unplanted fields and farms and then the silvery stretch of sea, unmarred by a single wave.

“So this is Norway,” I thought to myself, and with that simple revelation, everything I had ever read on the subject was replaced by my own brief first image of a place I have longed for ever since I saw it on a map. You can study a place your whole life—dream of traveling there, hang your wall with the most compelling travel posters of all time, but none of it will never compare to arriving there yourself for the first time.

The name “Norway” (or Norge in Norwegian) derives from the old Norse words norð vegr, or “North Way”. As a traveler, it’s hard not to fall in love with a country named for a cardinal direction—and it’s equally impossible not to admire Norway’s illustrious travel traditions, from the swarthy Vikings who set off in open-air longboats to ruddy polar explorers like Roald Amundsen who maintained that, “Adventure is just bad planning.”

Norwegians taught the rest of us how to travel—to explore beyond the limits of what we see from our own front door and to use whatever we have—the wind, the waves, a team of dogs, or skis strapped to our feet—anything at all to propel us forward and into the world. This is what the “north way” means to me—to never stop exploring; that only by traveling do we find our own true home.

Norway is home to so many adventurers and explorers that I wanted to come here and discover the homeland that inspired so many: Heyerdahl drifted west, Amundsen went south, and the Vikings sailed as far east as Istanbul. And me? I will head north.

I came to Norway to follow this ancient and northern way and for the next few weeks I will be exploring this most magnificent country, one fjord at a time.

The thrill of my northern adventure combats my jet lag just enough for me to tap out this wee blog post from the quiet heart of Oslo.  It is well past my bedtime, but outside, the sky is as bright as a morning in Tuscany.

Indeed, light is the subtle secret of Scandinavia, now growing stronger by the day. As  a traveler, I am lucky enough to be following the sun as it moves north, across Norway.

I hope that you’ll follow along with me. That way we can all chase in summer together. . . the northern way.

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