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What the Heck Is ‘Friluftsliv’ and Why Do We Need It?

Getting outside and changing our mindset might just help get us through the dark and dismal winter

Vicky McDonald

Published on: October 28, 2020


It was the winter of 2016 when the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced HOO-gah) started gaining international popularity. Hygge is the Danish term for a cozy, warm lifestyle with an emphasis on well-being. The chaotic winter of 2016 — with Brexit and the unexpected presidential win for Trump — was a shock for many and this new cozy-living concept provided welcome relief.

Americans warmly embraced this new hygge lifestyle. It was the year of red wine hot chocolate, slankets, expensive candles and cozying up your living space.     

Fast-forward to pandemic-ridden 2020, when hygge just doesn't cut it anymore. The problem is we now all spend far too much time being cozy in our own homes due to various lockdown orders. Now we all just want to break free and escape, but sadly we can’t go too far as the pandemic rages on. 

It’s depressing, I know. But don’t worry, those happy Scandinavian souls (reportedly the happiest people in the world, according to the World Happiness Report) have a new concept for us — friluftsliv


Friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) is a Norwegian word that roughly translates as “open-air living.” Those hardy Norwegians like to embrace the great outdoors whatever the weather, so friluftsliv is basically a call for people to get outside and enjoy nature. 

Norwegian winters are incredibly cold and dark, so if they can do it, so can we. I know PNW winters are generally dank and miserable, but with the right clothes and the right attitude, a walk in a wild forest or craggy mountaintop can really boost your mood. 

“There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing!” is actually a Norwegian saying and it really is true. With a weather-tight coat, warm boots, gloves and hat, you can still be warm and toasty on a bitterly cold day.

Making it happen

I’ve been trying a little bit of friluftsliv with my own family this fall. Every weekend, we try a few different forest walks, even when it’s raining. As the weather has gotten colder, we've noticed the leaves change color, we’ve seen the most epic spider webs and even got super close to a huge owl. 

Social distancing is a breeze because there is hardly anyone there, especially on the wet mornings. The kids in general love getting out, kicking the leaves, hunting for fairies and jumping in muddy puddles. Of course, after a long trudge through the wet forest, they sometimes complain, but a quick break on a nearby tree stump with a thermos of hot cocoa and some trail mix always cheers them up. When we come home after a long walk in the woods, we all feel refreshed and have a new-found appreciation for our cozy-warm house. 

Fruitsliv is a simple idea but one that we all need to be reminded of. The world is still in a state of chaos, but we are incredibly fortunate to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We are surrounded by awesome mountains, endless forests and glorious lakes. In comparison to a lot of countries, our winters are quite temperate and ideal for outdoor winter activities. Even though we’re all cooped up during the work week, there is still plenty of time to get out, get away from the screens, the data and depressing statistics and spend some quality time with family in the great outdoors. 

Ready to roam? Here’s where to go: 

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