A warm plate of lingonberry, potatoes, and meat beckons to my knife and fork. A plate of comfort food, even. But, I haven’t traveled all the way to Norway to feel at home. If anything, I’ve come to breach comfort.
Traveling for skiing can often corner you into this situation. You’re on top of a mountain that looks like [insert home mountain here], standing atop your uniform equipment [insert your one-quiver ski here], and making the same turns you do on your favorite run. But, somehow conversational Spanish, empanadas, and arduous dirt-bag bus travel romanticize the peaks of Argentina and Chile. Udon and Japanese onsens transform the pillows of Myoko into something mythical. And the wine, cheese, and coolness of French culture make those Alps a religious experience. Subtract the faraway, foreign feel and you’re left with something familiar—rock, snow, and ice. Or are you?
Norway falls shy of familiarity in many ways, especially if you’re skiing the peaks littering the country’s fjords from a sailboat. For many, the chaotic experience of living from a sailboat in ski boots with ten others is enough to violate comfort boundaries. Slapping on skins and clicking into touring bindings fifty feet from the sea to ascend a 1,500-meter peak and ski right back down to the dark, ominous body of water below is a fully sacred encounter. The alien geography, ghostly birch trees, and Viking roots are just a few more points, tipping the scale towards enchanting exoticism.
In addition to cowering at the menacing cornices in the mountains of Norway’s Lyngen Alps, dog sledding, sleeping in a traditional Sami dwelling (much like a Native American tepee), swimming in the Arctic Ocean, and developing a penchant for the vowels of the Scandinavian language (it quickly becomes obvious that one could easily order wool in place of a beer), are just a few offerings from this land that will remind you that you’re not at home. But the final tick on the belt of imported experiences is discovering the meat you’ve been eating is reindeer: lingonberry, potatoes, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (My inner child, who laid out cookies and carrots for Santa Clause and his reindeer, is horrified).
But, Rudolph tastes pretty good. After all, it is simply personified venison. What tastes even better is another brick in the foundation of travel experiences—this is something I can savor. Norway’s makeup might simply be deep fjords, snow, and ice, but the country’s unique combination of these elements is fairy-tale charming. It is like an intoxicating mid-afternoon daydream. The kind that takes you to a faraway place unlike anywhere you’ve ever been. This is Norway. – Molly Baker