Nope, I’d never heard this word either, but I have my niece, Elizabeth Lucier Sobczyk, to thank for introducing me to this term.
She, her husband, Kevin, and three kids recently moved to Denver and have taken on the city and its mountainous environs with a fury.
I first saw this word on her Facebook page, along with pictures of the family building snow people, hiking, skiing, snow tubing and picnicking — all in the frigid Colorado air.
What I learned is that friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) “is a Norwegian word that translates roughly to ‘open-air living,’ (a concept) deeply ingrained in the country’s heritage,” explains an online feature on National Geographic’s website. (Thanks for that, too, Elizabeth.)
The smiles on the Sobczyk faces tell me that these born-and-bred Midwesterners have decided to embrace friluftsliv and their new Colorado home.
My niece’s Facebook pages are filled with photos of outdoor adventures that seem to say, “Look what we’ve been missing all these years, and boy, are we loving it!”
I applaud them.
Despite the pandemic, this family is getting out there. They are donning the layers (remember: there is no bad weather; just the wrong clothes), exploring new territory and enjoying the great, wintery outdoors. It’s invigorating, and also greatly suited to social distancing.
Elizabeth’s postings also remind me of how lucky we are to live in our little slice of the country where it’s a rare day that we can’t go outside and hike, bike, camp, cook, play sports, skateboard, swim and surf.
We can practice friluftsliv with little risk or discomfort. Our coldest days might be in the high 50s, just cool enough to feel as if there is more than one season here on the coast.
But if we want to test our dedication to the friluftsliv creed, we have only to head north and east to find something resembling Norway’s landscape.
Think Idyllwild; Big Bear Lake; Lake Arrowhead; Mammoth; Yosemite National Park; Lake Tahoe; Carson Valley, Nevada; and in Arizona, Sedona, Prescott and the White Mountains.
All of these destinations are set up to accommodate current social distancing requirements.
I do believe, too, that during this pandemic, many have developed a greater appreciation for the outdoors.
We have learned that being on a trail, at the top of a mountain, under the sky and in the wind are good for the body, psyche and soul.
When the threat of COVID-19 recedes, I hope this appreciation remains and we continue to practice friluftsliv — Southern California-style.
The list of countries that Americans can visit during this worldwide pandemic is a bit of a moving target, but AFAR magazine’s website regularly updates this list.
The countries included change depending on what is happening with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and even those countries that allow U.S. travelers to enter may come with other caveats and advisories.