When I shared news of my move to Mosjøen at the end of last year in this blog post full of photos of my new home town, so many people commented saying they could see why I chose to move here. Mosjøen is beautiful! But what’s funny is, when I told my friends and family in southern Norway about my choice, literally no one understood.
Like, I haven’t encountered so many confused stares in Norway since I finally realized I was mixing up the words for beans and farmers – while working at a supermarket in an area with lots of farmers.
Apparently most Norwegians don’t think of Helgeland as an interesting destination, and a lot don’t even know much about the region.
And that’s exactly why I chose to move here!
Well, that combined with my discovery last summer that Helgeland has some of the most stunning landscape and beautiful towns and villages in all of Norway. You guys know I love a hidden gem, and I was honestly so sick of hearing about the same handful of tourist destinations in Norway over and over again. This country is huge and I was eager to explore a new area and share all my findings with you guys.
Plus I had a feeling the Helgeland coast was quickly rising as a tourist destination, what with its stunning islands and unique accommodation options. And yet it’s still off the radar enough for me to be really excited about promoting it to visitors.
I’ve also been thinking long and hard about what role travel should play in my life, and how I can promote travel in a conscious, sustainable way.
If you’ve been following me, you might have noticed that it’s already April and I still haven’t taken a trip abroad or gotten on a flight, which I know isn’t a big deal, but as a full-time travel blogger it actually does feel like a big deal. I make a living traveling, and I’ve now started to turn down a lot of trips (and money) in my attempt to be a tiny bit kinder to the planet.
Actually I just realized I did go to Sweden in January. But I drove!
So you might imagine how excited I was when a message from Visit Northern Norway pinged in my inbox asking if I’d be interested in partnering with them and Visit Helgeland for a campaign right in my backyard! Okay, not literally in my backyard – in my greater Helgeland backyard.
The Helgeland coast really is so stunning and I was excited to explore more of it!
Except then I looked at the itinerary and saw that we’d be heading to… inner Helgeland?
If you look at a map you’ll see that Norway gets really skinny around Helgeland and not going to lie, my first thought was, what is there even to see between the Helgeland coast and Sweden?
Lol no, you won’t find any of this places between here and the Swedish border, but these are all destinations that I was fairly skeptical about visiting, as I wasn’t sure how much they had to offer. And yet they each now hold a spot on my list of top ten places I’ve ever visited in my life.
Could inner Helgeland be next?
I had the best three days in Hattfjelldal, and I can’t believe how much we managed to pack into such a short itinerary. We went husky sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling and we ate over a campfire and at local farms and stayed in two lovely farmhouses. I can definitely recommend adding the area around Hattfjelldal to your Norway itinerary.
But my biggest revelation from the three days was actually working together with Naturlige Helgeland, a local tour operator here. They organized the entire trip and I actually got to travel with Merethe, one of the founders.
Often when I work with a destination they will hand craft an itinerary to fit my travel style and interests. And while the hope is that you will love it as much as I do because you’re here reading my blog so likely have similar taste in travel to me, I always think how perfect it would be if everyone could get tailored itineraries like this. Of course I try to share all the details of my trip for others to replicate it, but maybe not everyone shares my obsession with dogs and aversion to art museums, you know?
huskies at Aaslid Polar in Susendal ♥♥♥
But guys, that’s exactly what Naturlige Helgeland does!
Merethe and Anita are friends who decided to start Naturlige Helgeland while they were out on a hike (lol so Norwegian), because they wanted to find a way to help more people experience the wonders of Helgeland. I had known them as the people behind Mosjøen’s via ferrata and zipline, but it turns out they offer a wide range of activities in Helgeland. You can choose from their catalog of experiences, or consult with them for a custom trip to fit your interests and timeline.
While I did travel with Merethe, they also offer self drive packages that would be really good for smaller groups, couples, or solo travelers as you’ll get all the unique insider experiences that Naturlige Helgeland can arrange while being able to travel independently.
I also love that a large portion of their customers are local Norwegians. One of my biggest regrets is not appreciating my own home more when I lived in the US (spoiler alert: my first big trip of the year will be an attempt to rectify this!), and I’m always so impressed by how aware Norwegians are of the beauty of their home.
I think I can always fall into the trap of thinking that I have my whole life to explore my home country, and I don’t need to spend money on guides when I’m a local, or on accommodation when I have a home here. Luckily exploring my home is now literally my job, and luckily for Norwegians it seems like a lot of them have a great appreciation for their country. I always think that we are seriously so lucky to live in a country that so many people dream of visiting, often saving up for years for a trip here.
At least this is what I remind myself every time I feel the urge to book a flight across the world!
That said, I’m not going to give up international travel any time soon.
While I am trying to learn to appreciate exploring my backyard more, I also don’t want to forget how much my trips abroad have taught me. I’m so lucky to have seen as much of the world as I have, and I will always continue to encourage others to do the same, as there are some things you can only experience and learn far away from home.
I think what’s most important is to really make the most of those trips abroad and to travel in a way that will most benefit both you and the locals in places you’re visiting. For me this means getting away from the massive hotel chains and big commercial tourist experiences and instead looking for smaller scale local travel experiences.
snowshoeing with one of the family members at Sæterstad Farm
But of course the thing is, it can be really hard to find these experiences when you’re unfamiliar with the destination. Like I totally get why so many people visit the same places in Norway. These are the places they’ve heard of, and the places where tourism is most built up, so it’s going to be easy to plan a trip there. Travel can be stressful and daunting enough without the added struggle of veering off the main tourist trail.
So that’s why Helgeland excites me so much as a tourist destination, because tourism is still quite small scale here, which means basically anywhere you go here will be special.
I remember Merethe and the owner of Furuheim Farm in Susendal, where we spent our first night, saying that they’re not built up enough yet to handle big tour buses full of visitors. And while I obviously do want the region to find success with tourism, when they said that I secretly thought to myself that from a visitor’s perspective that is such a good thing.
dinnertime at Furuheim Farm
I love that each experience I had in Hattfjelldal felt totally authentic and unique, and just so utterly Norwegian.
Like, this is the Norway that I want everyone to get to experience, with old farm houses that have been in families for generations, decorated with textiles that you just know someone’s great-grandmother wove by hand, cheese made freshly just a few meters from the goat, hiking trips with locals whose enthusiasm for mountains is so contagious, and cups of way too strong coffee sipped while silently admiring the view in that way Norwegians are so good at.
Grane Bygdetun – part of the Helgeland Museum
the sauna from which we silently admired the view at Sæterstad Farm
Now I’m embarrassed to say that this was actually meant to be a blog post about what I got up to in Hattfjelldal on my trip with Naturlige Helgeland, and now I’ve rambled for so long about travel that I think I’ll have to save Hattfjelldal for Friday’s blog post instead!
But I would love to know your thoughts on travel both home and abroad, and what steps we can take to make our international trips as worthwhile as possible. Clearly it’s something that has consumed my thoughts (and now blog posts lol) lately, and I would love to hear your input!