'Nordic Bohemianism' - a guide to surviving challenging environments

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

If you have ever wondered whether you'd be happier living somewhere else - ask yourself this one question...

When anyone mentions the word 'hygge' to me - who doesn't live in Scandinavia - I want to cry. Many people assume the way of life here is minimalist, quality-driven and 'cosy' - which it is - but it is also restrictive, conformist and one of the coldest regions in the world.

For a southern hemisphere girl like myself - who was brought up on the expansive beaches of the Eastern Cape in South Africa - hygge just doesn't cut it.

As my husband so eloquently observes, "Hygge is what the Scandinavians made up to avoid mass-suicide in winter."


So how have I survived here for 7 years? And how have my dreams for a sunshine-centred life changed?

Well, I used to dream about the tropical beach life - where my kids were home-schooled, my feet were always bare, my house was full of sun-bleached wood and soft linen pillows - and my soul-friends lived next door.

My reality is a privileged one - but still a great difference to what I grew up dreaming about.

I live in a country where the cold season lasts up to 6 months and where the winter sun dims to only a couple hours a day. It is also one of the top countries in the world for most antidepressant consumption (I know what you are thinking, what happened to 'happiest country in the world'? Yes, when you are financially contributing to its high taxes and conform to its social structure...and dress code of course). It is also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live - and has little foreign acceptance for those who do not speak the language fluently or adopt its blunt and sometimes racist humour.

So why stay?

Well, that's the question I have often asked myself - and finally found the answer in the form of another, more intuitive question...

What are you doing right now to make where you live - Where you love to be most?

Let's read that again - and let it settle in.

For myself, I have travelled extensively. I lived on those tropical islands in the South Pacific - I had that beach shack in Sri Lanka - I moved to that commune in Portugal and had those soul-friends who lived next door - I did home-schooled my kids - My feet were bare for most of my life - and...

None of it made me truly happy.

Because it was always different to how I imagined it would be.

And that is the crux. Sometimes our imagination begins to hold us back from seeing the value of what is right in front of us - and we become escapists.

So now? I run 10kms in the poring rain because it makes me feel good (and a little more Viking). I skinny dip in the Kattegat in the mid of winter, because it makes me feel alive. I smile at strangers in the street, because it makes me feel a little rebellious. I wear that bohemian dress because it makes me feel most myself. I embrace winter through adopting Nordic traditions because I feel the ancient sacredness of seasons. I value my gear - my wool, my good coffee, my headphones and my Carhartt winter suit - because I feel warm, comfortable and make less excuses to not be outside.

When we question a relocation - another job, another partner, another life. Start by thinking less - and doing more of what feels good to you.

Sometimes life plants you in those deep dark, rich soils so that you can grow stronger.

So ask yourself that hard question - and then consider what your environment is trying to teach you about yourself. Only then can you really be free to make the decision of change - with the guarantee that you will be happy after its made.

Thanks for being here and I hope this helps you on your own journey. Subscribe for more freedom-tips, insights and tools below!


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