We drive to the house of Pete and Trine. They left yesterday for the next leg of their great journey. They want to get from the northernmost tip of Europe to the southernmost, on human power and spread out over several years. Three years ago they set off on skis at the North Cape; a year later they hiked for an entire month. Last year they paddled a sea kayak for six weeks, which was also their honeymoon. This year they paddled further south. No wonder we get along so well. In the meantime, we look after the house and cats again.
As we drive into the village, we see that another piece of forest has been cut down. Although we know that most forests are for production, it always hurts when we see such clear-cutting. What is wrong with sustainable and selective logging. No, only the economic counts, so clear cuts are the solution. It looks like a war field what is left behind. Also around Pete and Trine's house last winter a lot of logging was done. The only advantage is that now they get more sun and light on their house.
We have spent a month in the Netherlands and Belgium. We got used again to the luxuries there. Fruit and vegetables that are so cheap in the supermarket, the bicycle we can use for everything and the family that is close by. When we had to pay €150 for our groceries this morning, we were shocked. Prices have gone up again since July. But also the house feels so empty. We have been with family and friends all month, and really not a minute alone. It feels a little lonely. Most of all, we feel the uncertainty returning. We still don't have our own place and no job yet for the coming winter. We have written some cover letters, but don't feel the confidence that we will get the job. In Norway, everything works "via-via". Finding work without knowing someone in the company is very difficult, unless you are a doctor or nurse. As foreigners, we always start a job application with a handicap. We try to call every time so they hear our interest, but even then we feel a kind of suspicion on the other end of the line. It feels like it would be so much easier in the Netherlands, or are we just deluding ourselves? It is easy to look at situations negatively and see them as setbacks or difficult. Yet that is what we do the first few days we are back in Norway. We may keep those adaptation problems until we really find our place here.
There are really only two periods a year when houses are sold in Norway. Between April and June, and from August to October. In the winter months the market is almost completely at a standstill, and in July all of Norway is on hold anyway. We notice this very well in the number of houses that become available on the housing website Finn. Therefore, the next three months are our hope and opportunity to find a place.
Most of the houses are in the cities and those houses are often in good condition. Lillehammer is expensive and comparable to prices in the Netherlands. For a single house we quickly pay half a million, but there are also houses above a million. Outside the cities the price drops very quickly, but often so does the quality of the houses. Many of the houses for sale there are in poor condition. The advantage is that they often have a lot of land, just what we are looking for. Still, the cost of renovation can become enormously expensive in Norway, especially if you don't have experience or desire to do as much as possible yourself.
Then there is the style of houses. Many Norwegian houses are big, very big. And not the most beautiful, in our opinion. Except the cabins, which are almost always smaller and just very nice. Unfortunately, those cabins are often in cabin fields at the top of the mountains where the cross-country ski trails are. And then when we find a gem that is not on top of the mountain, there is often no road, no water, no electricity and no neighbors. Idyllic, but to live permanently? We are actually looking for a cabin, but within cycling distance of Lillehammer, with a few neighbors, with water and preferably with electricity. There are almost none of those which makes our search so difficult.
When we were in Norway for a few days in June, we did one house viewing. The house was a little further from Lillehammer, actually too far by bike. We feel that it is difficult to find what we are looking for close to Lillehammer and try to open up to widen our search circle a bit. The house we saw was not interesting. The first thing the realtor said, "it's a very bad house," and it was. Olivier had scoured the map in the area and discovered two places that were in the woods. By bike, we went to explore. The first place wasn't an option because the cabin was owned by a family from Oslo who visits often. The second place was promising, though. The house was old, with a fair amount of work, but the view was fantastic with a large terrain. We called a farmer friend who lives in that region and asked if he knew the owner. Again, the Norwegian "via-via" culture applied. Our farmer friend called for us and introduced our story and basecamp search after which we were given a phone number to call ourselves. To our surprise, the owner said: "Yes, I am interested in selling. Come by sometime." It was the first time we didn't immediately hear "no".
A few days after we return to Norway we are invited to see the house. On Sunday morning we drive to the house. The father, mother and daughter are waiting for us. They show us around, show the whole property, invite us for coffee and share their time with us. It is a beautiful place, but the house is a big project. First of all, the roof must be replaced, the bathroom is no longer usable, the electricity must be renewed to be safe, all the windows must be replaced and a septic tank must be installed. Together, that already costs well over a 100.000 euros. Everything depends on the asking price for the house.
Moreover, Olivier has a gut feeling. The house is about 20 kilometers from Lillehammer. In the Netherlands that would be an hour's bike ride, but from Lillehammer it's more than 500 altimeters making it more than an hour and a half. Not for every day and certainly not in winter. Olivier feels his freedom is restricted and knows that we will rely heavily on the car. This is a very big sacrifice for Olivier.
We are getting a little despondent with the search. Are we ever going to find our place? Is there a place that meets our needs? Is Norway even suitable for us? We think in the negative spiral. It gives an apparent sense of control when we let our fears dominate. The only result is that we are proven right when things go wrong. That is not constructive and not the motivation we need. Fortunately, we notice it quickly and realize that it is related to the "adaptation period". We change our attitude and put events in a positive light. A world of difference in which possibilities and new opportunities suddenly arise again. One such encounter may be our golden opportunity.