This is part 6 of a TBT Travel Series: A Taste of California. Check out these posts on why I picked California, how I saved money on travel, the magic of hiking in Malibu, why you shouldn’t miss the Getty Villa, the sacredness of friendship, and how the mountains will wreck your plans.
There’s a concept in Norwegian culture called friluftsliv. It’s difficult to translate it exactly into English, but it roughly means “open-air life.” It’s a way of life that values communion with nature and exploring the outdoors.
What I love most about this idea is that it is not tied to money or vacations. It’s a way of living that seeks to embrace nature wherever you are. Living in accordance with friluftsliv could be as extreme as rock climbing the face of a mountain or as simple as walking around your neighborhood in the evening. It’s a spirit of adventure that is the impetus for friluftsliv, along with a belief in the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of movement and being in nature. It doesn’t matter if you live near mountains or in the plains, near the ocean or in the desert, if you have skiing equipment or just a pair of old shoes: you can live with friluftsliv in your heart.
A year ago, I probably would have laughed at this idea and thought it applied to people way crunchier than me. I mean, I eat Paleo and work out . . . but my happy place is the couch, in my never-used-for-yoga yoga pants, watching Netflix or reading a good book. With the blinds closed. Because I like to feel like I’m in a cave. It’s weird, I know.
When we planned our California trip, I felt like I was “giving in” to Dan and his desire to visit Yosemite. I’d seen mountains a handful of times in my life, and I thought they were pretty cool. But I didn’t really want to spend two precious vacation days at a national park, when I could be sitting on a Malibu beach and reading a book and pretending to be rich.
I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
Last week, I shared all about our crazy journey to get to Yosemite. During our drive in and out of the park—at the golden sunset hour, no less—I couldn’t believe the majesty I was seeing. It was the kind of majesty that knocks you off your feet and knocks the wind right out of your lungs. I couldn’t wait to get back to the park the next day and get up close the granite rock faces and waterfalls.
One breath of the clean mountain air, one gaze over the sprawling Yosemite Valley, one touch of the uninhibited sunlight and the cool breeze on my skin. That’s all it took to intoxicate my heart with the bounty of Creation and flood my spirit with a thirst for more fresh air, more movement, more exploring. Though I didn’t yet know what this feeling was, friluftsliv was burrowing its way down into my bones.
When we had arrived at Yosemite early that morning—the spring air still crisp and cold and palpably filled with expectation, the grass damp with dew, the birds just starting to stretch their wings and whistle their tunes—I had laughed at the backpackers we saw starting their journeys. I’d whispered to Dan, “Ugh, that looks miserable. Carrying everything on your back, even a tent! What do you eat? Where do you pee? What’s the point? I can enjoy everything they can and still go back to my hotel room tonight.”
By the end of the day, my whispers had changed from condescending to expectant: “How much do those backpacks cost? Are they really that heavy? Do you think I could do it? How much farther into the park could we get? Can we try it next year?”
Being in Yosemite made me do things I’ve never had the desire nor the courage to do. I’m terrified of heights, but I wanted to keep climbing higher, not stopping until my legs gave out. I don’t like getting wet in the middle of day (Weird? Yes. As you can imagine, I hate water rides at amusement parks.), but I had to get just one more foot and then one more foot closer to the waterfalls, even if it meant getting soaked. By the end of the day, every layer of my clothing was damp, my skin was caked in dirt, my sweat had dried and left behind a salty residue on my skin and in my hair . . . and I never wanted to wash the beauty of nature off my skin. I never wanted to leave the park.
(But I did want to stay married, employed, etc. so I took a shower later that day.)
I could go on and on about the splendor of Yosemite, but my words cannot do it justice, so I’ll just leave you with a few more photos. Of course, the photos can’t do this kind of beauty justice either, but they can certainly do better. And if you ever get the opportunity to see Yosemite, do it. In fact, create the opportunity yourself. Book the tickets right now. Just go. You’ll catch the spirit of friluftsliv and you will never be the same.
Just remember that to live a in a way that values friluftsliv, you don’t have to get away to Yosemite or live in the mountains or go on extravagant vacations. You don’t even have to be a backpacker or hard-core nature lover. You just have to get outside wherever you are and soak up the grandness of Creation. Since hiking Yosemite, I’ve tried to be more intentional about going for long walks, taking my bike out for regular rides, and just sitting outside instead of in my comfortable, air-conditioned home. I want to live my life outside my walls and inside wonder.