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Seas of Happiness – A Journey to Northern Norway

Searching for the route of happiness in the Arctic

By: Jamie Gallant + Save to a List

We arrived in Norway with far too little money and our decision to go in the middle of winter was beginning to seem…reckless. Our destination was the Lofoten Islands along the country’s northwest coast. Our mission – to explore how Norwegians, considered one of the happiest people on Earth - remain so happy through repeated winters in almost complete darkness. So far there was only one small hitch in the trip; our subject of the study suffered from seasonal depression and hopped on a cruise to the Caribbean at the last minute without telling us.

Sailing a traditional Nordlandsboat through the Fjords

Forging ahead we caught a flight to the city of Bodø before driving to the small 17th century trading post of Kjerringøy, about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. There in the blue light of the afternoon we met Ulf, a traditional boat-builder I had been speaking to who had invited us to spend a few days at his workshop and along with his wife Ingvild, would put us up in their small holiday cottage.

The small village of Kjerringøy in Nordland

What followed were some of the most memorable days of my life hand-lining cod, roasting reindeer, working with knives, axes, and chainsaws, sailing through snow covered fjords, sampling aquavit, gazing up at the Northern Lights and experiencing firsthand why Norwegians consistently rank near the top of the World Happiness Report despite (or maybe because of) the winter darkness that surrounds them. Here is what we documented and discovered: 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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