We have found the bottom. From now on it's time to build up, the way up. The next morning, Zoë takes a sheet of paper and writes ten questions on it. We need to make choices, know what we want and know what we are going for. Zoë gives us a few days to answer the questions. We each do that for ourselves and only then do we discuss each other's answers. The first question is immediately "Do I still want to live in Scandinavia and try at least until 2025?". Question three is "Until where do I want to expand my circle if we don't find a house around Lillehammer?". The sixth question is "What do I want when we come back from the book tour in the U.S.?". Each of these are important questions.
Two days later, we answered all the questions. To the first questions we both wrote down a resounding YES. We have only been on our quest for over six months and we are not going to give up now. The reasons for living in Norway haven't changed, only our confidence has taken a big hit in recent months. We are still going for it and believe that we can be truly happy here.
For question three, our answers diverge. Zoe has written down several alternatives in the area that we can explore. Olivier explains that he is not at all ready to deal with those options. He wants to regain the nice feeling he always had in Norway. In his response, he writes the need for security and stability. For him, that lies in this region because here we know people and have work. Olivier does not want to focus on the house search for a while, but he wants to enjoy the winter and the beautiful place where we may live. Zoe is disappointed that Olivier is actually turning down all her options. She needs new opportunities to explore, but she understands Olivier's feelings. We decide to use December to get the good feeling and energy back.
Lurking through our answers is a lot of uncertainty about plans we have for 2023. The work we will do, the winter adventure and leadership tour we want to organize, the basecamp we are looking for and the promotional tour of the English book. We know well that there is only one remedy to overcome doubt: just do it! Only by starting, trying things out and experiencing, will we know what it is really like. We have thought enough about our dreams and plans. It is time for action. Moreover, action gives goals and energy.
On Tuesday, Olivier cycles to his new job for the first time. This winter, he will be working at BUA, a kind of library for outdoor gear. They lend out skis, tents, skates, bikes, sleds, snowboards and sleeping bags for free. It's a great concept that exists all over Norway.
Olivier closes the door, throws a hand kiss back to Zoe who waves him out through the window and walks down the hill to the farmhouse where our bikes are parked. It is the first time he has cycled to Lillehammer in winter. It is snowing lightly and there is a small white layer on the road. Olivier puts on his helmet, puts on his safety vest and pushes on his lights. He only works in the afternoon so it is quiet on the road around noon. The first four kilometers there is no bike lane and he has to cycle on the main road. Closer to Lillehammer there is a bike path, but it is full of snow and has not been cleaned. With the studded tires it is doable. From 4 p.m. it is dark so the bike ride home at 6pm is completely in the dark. Especially that is a big test and it turns out very well. Around 7 p.m. Olivier puts his bike back in the big barn of the farm and walks upstairs. He smiles and feels energy. At the house, the outside lights are on and a white plume of smoke escapes from the chimney. Zoe sees Olivier arriving.
"How was it?" she asks impatiently.
"Very good," Olivier says cheerfully.
Zoe breathes a sigh of relief. "Doing it always works."
The next few days are always an exploration. The snow on the road feels different every time, as does the temperature. We are still searching for the right combination of clothes to cycle to Lillehammer. -5 degrees is a big difference from -15 degrees. Also inside the house we are figuring out the best way to get the house warm. Electricity prices are incredibly expensive right now. In Norway, all people pay a spotpris which is actually the real market price. The price varies hourly and varies throughout the day. In the house we have a varmepumpe, an air conditioner that serves as heating. In addition, we have the wood stove which of course is our favorite. We try out how fast we can heat the house, keep an eye on power consumption and try some combinations. We only heat the kitchen, living room and bathroom. The rest of the house is cold, but the temperature does drop very quickly when it gets -20 degrees outside. It's barely zero degrees upstairs in the bedroom and freezing to crawl into bed. We are learning every day.
Also a trip to the supermarket is special. On Friday we go cross-country skiing in Sjusjøen. We go there by car and do some shopping on the way home. In the back of the trunk of the car is our sled which we fill with food. We hope we can drive up to the farm today and are confident. It hasn't been warmer than -10 degrees for a few days and the snow is frozen hard. We drive up smoothly and park the car alongside the neighbor's large barn. With a sled full of food, we walk the kilometer uphill to our home. We smile at each other, we enjoy ourselves. This is what we love and makes us happy.
We are doing better every day. We are enjoying the place where we live, the work we do, the snow around the house, the cold on our faces, fetching wood from the forest, the kilometer walk home, sitting in the rocking chair next to the fireplace and crawling close together in bed at night. Our fine feeling in Norway returns and with it our energy. On the door, Zoë has hung an adventure list for the month of December. Cooking outside twice, sleeping outside, building an igloo, three ski trips, etc. It is routine laced with adventure, just as we imagine it in our adventurous lives. Actually, we are very happy how things are going. Maybe we have found the way up!