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Dreamhouse wanted

October 2, 2023
Black Forest cycling route
October 26, 2023

Sunday August 13 - Lillehammer


Sunday morning we ride out of Lillehammer together with Tor.
'Here to the left,' says Tor, who clearly enjoys showing us the cabin.
We drive up a steep road, past a large villa until the road stops. There lies a small, cute cabin. A log cabin, one of those with those thick beams, dark brown, surrounded by lots of trees. It feels immediatelly right.
Tor points to a stone lying next to the garage. Olivier picks up the stone and beneath it are two keys. One to the garage, the other to the house. We first look at the garage, which is fairly new and huge compared to the cabin. It contains an old tractor that Tor recently bought as a museum piece for a friend. The garage has enough room to finally move our stuff from Belgium to here. Then we are finally allowed to enter the house. The rusty key fits the lock of a massive front door. It is a typical, old Norwegian cabin. Small, cozy, full of stuff like old people always have. Mary statues and ugly paintings, old sepia photographs and antique furniture. Downstairs is a nice little living room with a big fireplace. There is a small kitchen and a storage shed. From the living room a staircase goes upstairs where there are two small bedrooms. The beds are so short that we barely fit in them. The cabin is a lot smaller than we thought, not much more than 50 square meters. Moreover, there is no bathroom and no toilet yet. There is an outside toilet, but that is a lot less comfortable at -20 in winter. Nevertheless, we are still very excited. There is electricity and water, two big expenses to build yourself. The hut has enormous potential, but it is quite a project. We immediately think of Pete, who is probably already getting itchy fingers at the sight of the hut. He built his own house and is in love with building, old houses and beautiful projects. With Pete's help, we think we can handle this.


Which of the three?

After visiting the hut, we go out with Tor. He would like to take a walk so we think of a nice little lake, but Tor suggests driving to Sjusjøen and going to the supermarket. Sjusjøen is the big cross-country skiing area half an hour from Lillehammer. His parents used to have a cabin there too, but these days it is full of cabins and it looks ugly, according to the old man. The trip to the supermarket is mostly practical. He has to do his own shopping and it is just easier when someone brings you by car. We have to laugh about it when we walk through the supermarket together with "grandpa" and fill up his shopping basket. Back at his house, we continue talking about the cabin. Then the penny drops. He would like to sell the cabin, but in exchange he wants us to cook for him at least until April. And he wants to have €250.000 for the cabin. Our enthusiasm gets a serious dent.

A few days later, Maxim arrives. Olivier's brother has just quit his job and begins part two of his world trip. The first stop is Norway. To joke, Zoë says, "You do come in the middle of a stressful period where we have to decide all sorts of things." Maxim gets sucked into house hunting and the uncertainty that comes with it. With him, we take another look at the cabin, we visit the old yellow house with the beautiful view, and we go to look at a third house, a little further away from Lillehammer. It is a decent house, completely in order with a nice piece of land and some private forest. Three totally different options, each with its advantages and disadvantages. It's a bit like "dream house wanted" where the candidates specify their wishes and an available budget. The program makers then go looking and come back with three potential houses. The participants are shown these one by one after which the question always follows which house it will be. Olivier makes a game of it and presents the three alternatives to Zoë and Maxim in a beautifully designed document. We give ourselves time until dinner to choose. What will we choose?

Maxim goes for the yellow house. He doesn't care much about being dependent on the car and the view with the sun is his main motivation. He also puts himself in our shoes and thinks that "grandpa's" cabin suits us best right now. It is close to Lillehammer where our focus is now.
Olivier has also made his choice. For him, the yellow house falls off first. It is a beautiful place that we can get cheap, but it feels too far away from what we are looking for now; work, young people, social contacts. There is so much work on the house and it doesn't feel like the dream place we want to fully shape. The other house does appeal to him, especially since it is completely finished and in a nice location. Still, his gut says we should go for Grandpa's cabin. It's small and cozy, has character, is close to Lillehammer and the way we found it totally suits us.
Zoe has not yet been able to make a choice. There are too many factors to tell clearly why, too many emotions, yet her gut feeling says Grandpa's cabin.


House report

At the end of August, we get an answer from Ingrid. Our "dream house" is rented, they are paying the high price. Her financial worries are solved for the time being so our offer is no longer relevant. We can and must forget this place. It is not easy, but there are more dream places and ours we will meet another time. We can now focus on the options we do still have. When we call Grandpa from the cabin back, he has good news. He has already found a tenant for the apartment and thus someone to cook for him. He has also ordered a home inspector to inspect and assess the cabin. This is mandatory for any house sold through a real estate agent in Norway, but not for private sales. We like this very much and secretly hope that this will bring the price down a bit more. If we have that result, all that remains is to make a real choice!

We anxiously await the report on the house. Such a report is drawn up by an inspector who looks at the house from all sides. He checks the walls, windows, roof, bathroom, electricity, chimney, moisture in the basement, you name it. In the end, the report says how much how technical value the house is and what measures are all needed to make the house in order. Those measures are also categorized from minor to severe. Especially useful when buying a house. A real estate agent then uses this technical report to stick a market value on the house. The technical report of Grandpa's cabin will determine how much Grandpa wants for the cabin. Meanwhile, we have already calculated ourselves what it will cost us to make the house fully habitable, with an addition, bathroom, drainage, insulation, and so on. That quickly exceeds 100,000 euros are so our maximum price for the cabin is actually at 150,000 euros. That's a big gap between grandpa's asking price.

To pay that amount, we need a loan from the bank. We already applied for a loan once in February, but that application was rejected. No permanent contract? Sorry, then you won't get a loan. A permanent contract doesn't really fit into the adventurous life we have in mind. In that, we prefer to work on a project basis so we can have a few months of work followed by a few months of adventure. We have to be realistic and know that we probably won't be able to start that way. Therefore, since July we have been looking for a permanent job with the main goal of getting a loan for a house.


Finding work in Norway

That search is not easy. Last summer we had already sent several letters of application, but the response was very low. We were never invited to interview. Fortunately, we did find other work for the winter months, although it was relatively easy work. It was ideal for learning Norwegian and getting work experience, but now we are ready for some more challenging work. Now that we speak Norwegian well enough, we rate our chances much higher. Since the beginning of July, Olivier has already sent out many letters of application. Some are within his education, but also outside of it. A dream job for him would be within nature conservartion, but that will be difficult in Norway. The Norwegians place great importance on the right education and are very conservative in this regard. Every time we send out an application, we call the contact person a few days later. After all, our names don't sound very Norwegian so we start each application with a small backlog. By calling, we can show that we speak good Norwegian and are really interested. Unfortunately, to no avail. It is almost the end of August and we are still not invited, not even for a first interview. In many cases, we don't even get to hear anything at all, not even a polite message of rejection. It is not very conducive to our confidence, but we often think back to our "application" for a sailboat. Then, too, we had to search for a boat for a month and a half, with more than a hundred rejections. Persistence wins and we know it.

In late August, a lot of puzzle pieces suddenly did seem to fit together. During our book tour earlier this year, we gave presentations at various locations of the CLEVR company. Olivier was already inspired by the company culture then and contacted them at the end of July. He has since had an introductory interview, a test and an HR interview. Making lunch over the campfire with Maxim, Olivier received a call with a contract proposal. A day later, Zoë actually gets a call from a Norwegian nature management organization where she applied. She can come for an interview next week. Super nice, but she is also a little afraid, now it suddenly becomes very official. A permanent job is so fixed, away from the freedom we value so much.

We remind ourselves that it serves to get a loan to buy our basecamp. We need that to further shape our adventurous life. Otherwise we will remain endlessly trapped in the circle where we cannot get a loan and thus cannot buy a house. The road to a dream usually does not take the straight path. Sometimes it takes detours and sacrifices to get closer to our goal. For us right now, that means sacrificing a little freedom. We are excited about what the next few months will look like and are well aware of the gold chain we are putting on for a while. Fortunately, we have learned to take it off again.
In the eyes of our Norwegian friends, we are working on the A-4 life. That's a term Norwegians use for the tradition life. A good job, a nice car, a comfortable house, married, two children, a dog and a cabin in the mountains. It is anything but our goal to check off the entire A-4, but our friends like to tease us. Even our parents are happy that we will probably have a house and a steady job soon. That automatically makes the other expectations grow. Dreaming is always allowed.

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