Have you ever been on a flight where the person next to you won’t stop talking, when all you want to do is plug into the airline entertainment system and cry over a bad movie? Well, a couple of weeks ago I was that person – the one who couldn’t shut up. Sorry, Liam!
I was returning from a blogging conference and the guy beside me had asked where my travels were taking me to next, so I told him about my plans for a road trip through Northern Norway. And he was like, cool, do you write a lot about Norway then? And I was like yes, well, um… and suddenly all the feelings came pouring out.
The environmentalist in me hates how many flights I hop on a month, when I could be having just as wonderful adventures at home in Norway.
And in fact, while I’m a huge believer in the power of travel to broaden our perspectives and help us better to understand the world, I also do believe that there can be such a thing as too much travel, where we almost become numb to experiences that could potentially change our lives were we to have them only once or twice a year. In other words, it might be better to spend a little more of my time exploring closer to home.
But this is a tricky one, because part of my job involves writing about my travels.
And – here’s the scary part to admit – when I think about why I first fell in love with blogging, it wasn’t from writing about places like Norway.
I first started blogging while traveling through Central Asia, and back then there wasn’t any helpful information about backpacking through the region – all I had to go on were Wikitravel pages telling me Tajikistan is unsafe for travel (it wasn’t). So I began to see blogging as a way to tell other travelers what a place is really like to visit, especially if you’re not some hardcore adventurer/Lonely Planet writer but just like, a normal person like me.
And then after I wrote about traveling solo through Iran and my inbox flooded with messages not from other travelers, but instead from Iranians who were happy to see a new perspective in the media, I realized that, being free from political or financial agendas, blogs offer an opportunity to challenge misconceptions we have about places, especially those that suffer harsh representations in traditional mass media.
And that sort of became my blog mission in a way.
I’ve aimed to highlight overlooked destinations, show people that even scaredy cats like me can go on “scary” trips (because they aren’t actually scary), and promote a new side of places we thought we knew. This might sound silly, but I began to see my blog posts as a teeny tiny way of giving back to the people and countries that have shown me such warm hospitality.
And when I see all the emails I get everyday from people wanting advice for their trips to Norway, or people wanting to tell me how they used my blog to plan their trips here, I see how strong a voice my blog can have. I’ve never written as much about a country as I have Norway, as I’ve never gotten to know a country this well before. I can see what an impact becoming an expert on a place can have. People are visiting the places in Norway I suggest, following my itineraries and staying in the hotels I recommend.
But if people really are going to listen to me, do I want the message they hear to be about visiting one of the richest countries in the world? Any economic boost from tourism won’t make life better for the people living here, and in fact it might make life worse for them, as Norwegians like their peace and quiet.
On top of that, while I have worked a bit with tourism boards here in Norway, they’ve never paid me for any campaigns. That might seem like a petty thing to bring up, but when I consider all the destinations that value my work enough to pay me to fly across the world I wonder why my home has never shown the same interest.
Now, I feel like I should clarify that I do pay for most of my trips myself, and I only go on paid campaigns to places I actually want to visit. You will NEVER see me in Dubai. However considering how much I’ve written about Norway and how many people reading my blog are particularly interested in Norway, I kind of wonder why I have to practically beg Norwegian tourist boards to let me work for them for free.
Of course it’s fine – I totally get that different destinations have different approaches to marketing, but part of me does think if I’m going to be promoting places for free wouldn’t I be better off showcasing destinations like Minsk, the Comoros, and Albania – in other words, places that could really benefit from more tourism?
And then when I’m really in life panic mode I think about how well I’ve gotten to know Norway, and how well I could get to know a place that actually needed tourists if I moved there.
But I don’t want to leave Norway. I love living here, and I am very aware of how absurdly lucky I am to get to call this place home and how ridiculous it is that I’m being so angsty about it. Is this the 30 year crisis I’ve heard so much about?
And another, more important but: there is something so special about this country, and I’m not just talking about the fjords. I can see why a trip to Norway leaves such a lasting impression on people, and part of me does feel like anything I can do to facilitate that is a good thing.
I keep thinking back to how I used to read Norwegian fashion blogs simply to catch small glimpses of Norway. This was before any blogs focusing on travel in Norway existed, and I was so eager to feel closer to my Norwegian roots. I remember I would always first look through a blogger’s archives to find their posts from May 17th, Norway’s Constitution Day, as they would often have the most photos of Norway’s countryside and cities. Reading those posts made me so happy.
And if you’d have asked me then whether or not future Silvia should be writing about Norway I’d have been like yes, duh, what’s up with the question mark? Because whoever you are, a trip to Norway is pretty much guaranteed to change your life for the better. Well, maybe unless you’re Swedish.
Ultimately what it comes down to is that while I’m used to writing blog posts for the destinations and people I visit, with Norway I’m writing for everyone else who wants to see the country. I’m probably not going to get any emails from Norwegians thanking me for saying nice things about the country, but I’ve sure gotten a lot from people planning trips here – and isn’t that the point of a travel blog anyway? Or at least it could be a point, if I let it.
And when I was talking through all my confusion over this with Dan, he pointed out that Norway is also misunderstood. I rolled my eyes hard – leave it to a white male to say that about the most privileged country in the world – but then I realized that he’s right.
I mean, how many people have tried to tell me that all Norwegians are depressed and the country has the highest suicide rate in the world? (It doesn’t – on every list I’ve seen Norway is far below the US in suicide rates.) In fact, I even unfairly judged Norway a few paragraphs ago when I said Norwegians don’t want more tourists here because they like their peace and quiet. It’s not really like that, it’s just – well, it’s just that Norwegians are like cats.
I’m still feeling really torn though. And while I suspect the answer is that I should continue doing both – writing about Norway and the rest of the world – it’s something I’m thinking particularly hard about right now because most of my summer travel plans will keep me in Norway. So like, you’ll be hearing a LOT about this place over the next months. And I hope that’s okay?