In the evening, Jan Tore takes us to their cabin in Sjusjøen, some 15 kilometers up in the mountains. Three years ago Olivier saw a video on YouTube and he was immediately enchanted by the beauty of the area. "That's where I want to live," he said at the time. A bit of research taught us that the area is called Sjusjøen and is perhaps the best cross-country skiing area in the world. By now we also know that it is where wealthy Norwegians have their cabins, which makes the area super expensive. We arrive in the dark and pass wooden cabins with grass roofs. These are the houses that make our hearts beat faster, that make us dream. We find the normal Norwegian houses much too big, but the vacation homes, hytte, make us dream. We can stay in the vacation home for a few days and experience whether Sjusjøen is also a dream place in reality.
The following day we get a tour from Jan Tore. We drive past the cabins of Norwegian celebrities and stop at the old farm. The road leading up to it is full of snow so we can only see from afar. Jan Tore tells us that there is no water, shower, toilet, kitchen, electricity and internet. "We don't have that in the tent either," Zoë laughs, but in reality we realize that the farm is not ready to move into. Winter lasts about six months here and then running water, a toilet and a kitchen are practical.
"I'll give you the key later so you can look inside tomorrow," says Jan Tore.
He explains that the farm is owned by Brøttum Almenning, a farmers' association that owns large land in Sjusjøen. They bought the farm a few years ago and would like people to live in it to help make Sjusjøen more attractive. This way they can sell more land for new cabins which is a golden income for the farmers. Jan Tore sees us as ideal candidates and we ourselves can already see ourselves living here.
With the key in hand, we ski to the farmhouse. The old farmhouse is fantastic. We start to dream! It is red and built in 1770. It was originally a summer farm where the farmers lived when the cattle grazed on the mountain pastures in the summer. The view is beautiful, perfectly south-facing and a huge ski area lies at our feet. We put the key in the lock and open the door. Inside, it looks like a museum. There is old furniture, wood stoves and all sorts of tools that we don't know what they are meant for. We immediately get dozens of ideas of what we could do with this place. Are we dreaming too much? Is this the fairy tale, is this what we really want?
After we look at the farm we go on a long ski trip with a sheet of paper in the bag. We make a SWOT analysis. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When we do, we realize that our enthusiasm ignores the downsides. It's a huge construction project. Are we ready for that? Winter lasts six months. We love snow, but we love spring and flowers just as much. Don't we think six months is too long? Only 14 people live here permanently, the rest are 4,000 vacation homes. Lillehammer may be less than 20 kilometers away, but it's 800 altitude meters if we want to go to the city. There is, however, a much bigger "but". The farm is owned by the farmers' association and they are unlikely to sell it. They have plans for the place, but what does that mean for us? Our gut is working overtime. We realize it could be more beautiful than reality. Of course it's all about feelings and intuition, but this red flag sends us an important message. We are looking for a basecamp that is our place, a place we own and where we decide what we want. If Brøttum Almenning owns it, we may be able to live very cheaply, but there is also an expectation and dependence in return. Are we willing to sacrifice that freedom?
Fortunately, we realize that we do not have to make the decision today. We have very little information yet and know nothing of the concrete plans of the farmer's association. Jan Tore suggests that we have a meeting with the entire board in May to present our ideas and hear their expectations. It gives us time to give our feelings a place and let our gut feelings speak. After four days we leave Sjusjøen again. We have felt that it really is a dream place that fulfils many of our wishes. First we cycle a little further north, to Ringebu, the northernmost point of our search area and a place that is also very high on our list. The summer farm goes with us in our thoughts.