Friluftsliv — what’s that?
Say hej to hygge’s lesser-known outdoor-loving cousin. Børge Dahle, contributing author to the anthology Nature First: Outdoor Life the Friluftsliv Way, says, “…friluftsliv, first and foremost, is about feeling the joy of being out in nature, alone or with others, and experiencing pleasure and harmony with the surroundings — it’s about being in nature and doing something that is meaningful.”
Passed down by generations of Scandinavians, the point of friluftsliv is to immerse yourself in nature, without specific plans or expensive gear.
Friluftsliv in action
For many Scandinavians, friluftsliv also means planning your day to maximize time spent outdoors. Start your morning by taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. Follow it up with a bike ride to work, and later, eat lunch at a local park. Kids get in on friluftsliv too, since many Scandinavian preschools have classes outdoors.
In the evening, Scandinavians dine in the sunroom or outside to soak up summer’s longer daylight hours. Many cap the work week with a steam in the sauna with friends, followed by a dip in a cold — but refreshing — lake.
Friluftsliv is an important part of the Scandinavian culture all year round, but during summer vacation, it really kicks into high gear. This ingrained yearning for nature helps explain why so many Scandinavians opt for vacation days spent bunking in a camper van or rustic cabin, over the comforts of a hotel room. Summer break, after all, is not for lounging around inside.
Instead, kids while away their days in the woods foraging for wild blueberries and building forts, or by the water chasing minnows and fishing for crabs. They’re often left to their own devices, and expected to entertain themselves.
Working friluftsliv into your summer
This is in contrast to how many U.S. families spend their action-packed — and often costly — summer breaks, filled with robotics camp, music lessons and travel baseball leagues. If you’re ready to dial back the stress, embracing friluftsliv may just be the answer. After all, research tells us that being outdoors is absolutely key to children’s physical and mental well-being, according to Science Direct.
Friluftsliv encourages children to have downtime, to play without constant adult direction and to even be bored — something that is increasingly rare in today’s society, and highly underrated. According to child psychologist Lyn Fry, boredom can be a catalyst for creativity and motivate kids to get things done. “Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant,” she says.
Scandinavians enjoy an abundance of both nearby natural areas and time off, which makes a perfect setup for friluftsliv. But parents in both rural and urban areas in the U.S. can still benefit from folding in aspects of this nature-loving ethos into their summer plan.