Exactly a decade ago I opened my laptop, logged into my new WordPress account, and began typing my first blog post on heartmybackpack.com. Could I have imagined that ten years later, I’d be typing yet another post on this travel blog of mine? I can’t really remember what my expectations were, but from what I know about 25 year olds, I’m going to guess that I thought by my mid thirties I’d bee too old and boring to have anything left to tell the Internet.
But here I am!
Or… am I still here? I’ll admit this isn’t the same travel blog that it was years ago.
In my first few years of Heart My Backpack I had a clear agenda: write good things about traveling through places I hadn’t heard many good things about. And surprise, surprise, these places ended up being my favorite places!
And then I moved to Norway, and I started writing about a country everyone has heard many good things about. And while now I was covering a destination that already had plenty of visitors and didn’t really need any more, I sure did fall in love with blogging about a country I knew so well.
I don’t know anyone who has traveled Norway as thoroughly as I have. In fact, I don’t even know anyone who has traveled Norway as thoroughly as my dog Alfie has. He’s visited every county in Norway, making his way from Tromsø up to the North Cape, over to Vardø, down to Karasjok, through Helgeland to Trondheim, all the way down to Stavanger and across Sørlandet, east to Fredrikstad and Hvaler, north to Røros, west to Jotunheimen and Hjørundfjord, and on and on and on. What a good boy.
Okay that sounds like such a brag, but the truth is, I’ve also never met anyone who wants to see as much of Norway as we (I) do. Sure some of my Norwegian friends like to travel around Norway as well, but they’d probably choose a beach or ski holiday over a 26 hour drive up to Kautokeino.
Of course the biggest change for Heart My Backpack was when this blog went from being my hobby to my full time job. And perhaps that’s part of why I began sharing less and less of my travels.
While I love dragging Alfie to Norway’s quietest corners, my blog analytics make it abundantly clear that few people want to follow us there.
Hang on, I’m not sure I’m being entirely honest about this.
No, writing about Norway’s less visited destinations does not bring in the same traffic and ad money as writing about Bergen and the fjords. I mean, it’s no coincidence that I began earning an income on Heart My Backpack when I started writing less about Armenia and Kyrgyzstan and more about Oslo and Bergen. But that’s not the only reason I’ve found myself sharing less and less here and on social media.
Something changed for me in 2020. I mean, a whole lot changed for everyone in 2020.
2020 was a much better year for Norwegians than it was for many other people. I spent so much time outside that year, island hopping, hiking, skiing, swimming, and all sorts of other fun verbs. But what I did less of that year was photograph. And when I did take photos, I rarely posted them on social media. I guess I felt it wasn’t an appropriate time to share my travel highlights.
And that feeling hasn’t gone away. Maybe it’s an age thing as well. Like it’s cute when you’re backpacking in your twenties, hitchhiking and sleeping on strangers’ couches because you can’t afford a bed in a hostel dorm but you’re finally finished with school and have an intense need to discover the world. But in your thirties when your peers are busy with their careers and families, maybe those travel posts are a bit obnoxious? Or as my mom suggested, perhaps I’m becoming a bit too Norwegian for blogging. Janteloven is finally setting in.
At any rate, while I love sharing travel tips for the places I visit, my focus has shifted more from my experience to yours.
And in general I would say I’m less driven to see all the places all over the world and more excited to find the places I really love, and maybe even that one place I really love. You know, that place people call a home.
Heart My Backpack is of course a travel blog where I share my experiences and advice for traveling the world. However on a personal level, I could also say that Heart My Backpack chronicles my search for home. When I was backpacking full time I used to half jokingly but also kind of seriously consider moving to every place I visited and loved. And then as I began keeping most of my travels within Norway I actually did move to several of the places I loved. First I lived in Trondheim, then Telemark, Mosjøen, Tromsø, and now Bergen.
And if anyone were to wonder why I chose each of those places to move to, they could absolutely find the answer on Heart My Backpack. They would also find that I love a lot of places.
And it’s something that has started to worry me a tiny little bit. As an adult, I’ve never lived in one place longer than three years. And now I’m beginning to wonder if I’m going to keep moving for the rest of my life. And that makes me wonder if I want to keep moving, or if I keep moving because that’s what I’m used to doing.
In an effort to break my pattern, last spring I bought the loveliest little home in Bergen. But I do sometimes question whether I did in fact buy a home, or if perhaps I simply bought an apartment.
A long time ago, when worrying about finding and committing to a career, I wrote, what I’m beginning to suspect though, is that pursuing a passion is a matter of narrowing your focus and making your passion your world. And I’ve just spent the past several years doing the exact opposite of that: traveling the world and widening my horizons.
In the end I found a way to make travel my career, but surely I can’t do the same with my search for a home.
And so I decided to narrow my focus: I started a Scandinavian food blog!
I have no intention of abandoning Heart My Backpack, but it has been so fun to have a new project to work on. And maybe it’s been good for me to spend a little less time dreaming of other places and a bit more enjoying the things I can do here. I’ve always loved cooking and baking, but I was still surprised by how much joy Scandinavian Cookbook brought me last year. Maybe I can do this home thing!
Then again, I did just spend the last month on a road trip with Alfie, and I quickly learned that I can pretty easily film and share my recipes from kitchens all around Norway. So maybe Scandinavian Cookbook isn’t the key (or lock?) to keep me in Bergen.
While driving I thought a lot about how happy and calm I feel when traveling. I used to say that the place that felt most like home in the world was the airport, and when I got Alfie that place became my car, loaded up with everything I need to be gone for as long as I like.
But I think airports and my car feel like home not because they offer an escape from everywhere, but because they bring me everywhere.
Back when I was backpacking through Central Asia and the Middle East there was one recurring theme in my blog posts: while from afar people and their cultures can appear universes apart, when we get up close and personal it turns out we’re sort of all the same.
And so perhaps I haven’t been struggling to choose a home because nowhere feels like home. In fact I suspect it’s the very opposite: everywhere feels a bit like home. Home is in Tromsø and New York and Kentucky and France and Bergen and Scotland and Thailand and Helgeland. And while I’ve never visited Chile or Kenya or Bangladesh, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re home as well.
Home is all these places, and home is loving people in all these places, and home is the great privilege of getting to travel to all these places.
Okay since it’s our anniversary I’ll say it, just this once: maybe my backpack is home.