We are back in Sjusjøen. It is the end of May, the snow is gone, but there is still ice on the north side of the lake. Down in the valley, in Lillehammer and Hamar, the grass is already green and there are leaves on the trees. Here, everything is still brown and a bit drab. It's windy, raining and the temperature doesn't rise above ten degrees. Is this what makes us happy?
Since Hamar we have had the company of Niels and Stefanie who have changed their route to visit us. We celebrated the Norwegian national day together on May 17 and then cycled the four of us to Sjusjøen. This morning they will continue their world trip and we will stay in Sjusjøen. An enormous emptiness overwhelms us. We have just spent three weeks in Holland and Belgium with beautiful springtime weather. The same beautiful spring weather hangs in the valley, but here it feels like a gloomy autumn day. Sjusjøen is almost deserted and the cabin where we are allowed to stay is chilly and void of atmosphere. Our feeling gives a very clear signal: we do not feel at home here.
At eight in the evening Olivier says, "Shall we hike to a mountain top and camp for the night? Then we can take a moment to organize our thoughts and make a decision." We pack our things and hike a few miles to the top of a mountain. At half past eleven it is still light and it doesn't really get dark. Once in the tent, Olivier reads a quote:
"When you sleep in a bed, your thoughts are as high as the ceiling. When you sleep under the stars, they are as high as the stars."
We try to explain our feeling and understand what it is telling us. Actually, the signal is very clear. Sjusjøen does not give us what we are looking for to live. It is a wonderful place to ski, hike in the mountains and run, but not a place to live permanently. There are no people here who can become our friends, no social life that we need. Secretly, it is very nice that our gut gives off such a strong feeling. It tells us what we don't want, but also what we are looking for. It tells us what we actually knew for a long time. We want to live close to Lillehammer, within cycling distance.
A month ago we made our plans for the summer. We were going to spend a month hiking in Norway and then do internships with different organizations, both adventure travel and leadership travel.
"How are we going to find our place in Lillehammer if we're not there?" asks Olivier.
Zoë has the exact same feeling. With our current ideas, we are fully scheduled until the end of September. When we get back to Lillehammer, we are no closer to finding basecamp-X, this year's main goal.
We decide to completely change our plan and dedicate the summer to discovering Lillehammer. We think that there is a good chance that we can look after houses and the animals because many people go on vacation. Our confused feelings immediately calm down, new energy bubbles up. This feels right, this is the right move. Would we have come to the same conclusion if we slept in a bed this night?
The next morning we hike back to the cabin. Zoë writes a post and posts it in a few local Facebook groups. That same day we already get five responses from dog and cat owners looking for a house sitter. A few more offers come in the following days. What a luxury! Our plan was to housesit in July, but a few people also ask if we have time in August. Suddenly we are covered until early September. In July we will be housesitting for the whole month in a house three kilometers from Lillehammer center. In August we move to the village of Brøttum about 13 kilometers from Lillehammer. The summer looks very different than planned, but it is exactly what we need. Time to get to know Lillehammer, meet people, learn Norwegian, look for houses and feel at home. We are looking forward to it enormously, although we first have a busy month of June on our schedule. Tomorrow we will leave for Sweden by bike to guide a canoe trip. From there we will cycle to Denmark to work as trainers in a leadership program. A work trip of 1,000 kilometers by bike.
Before we leave Sjusjøen, we cycle back past the old summer farm. We still think it's a beautiful place that makes our hearts beat faster. Although our feelings have told us something different in recent days and weeks. If this farm were closer to Lillehammer and we could own it ourselves, this would be the perfect place. The reality is different and we can't change it. Another dream spot comes our way where the conditions do meet. We wave goodbye to the farm and descend to Lillehammer over the ski trail that now serves as a bicycle path. On to Sweden!