The right to roam has deep roots in Norway’s cultural heritage (Photo: Oslo Outdoor)

The right to roam has deep roots in Norway’s cultural heritage (Photo: Oslo Outdoor)

Traditional outdoor life and the right to roam

It is all about the basics, really. To attach to nature. To carry what you need. To rest when you want. To harvest what you eat. To camp where you like. Traditional outdoor life is deeply integrated in Norwegian culture. Children learn how to behave in the outdoors from kindergarten on.

The Norwegian word friluftsliv, which for all practical purposes translates to “outdoor life”, is often associated with simple living in the outdoors combined with hiking, skiing, hunting, fishing and harvesting in wild nature. Perhaps it is the topography of the country that made roaming the wilderness a normal activity. Back in the old days, if you wanted to go somewhere you had to hike or ride your horse, sometimes for days or weeks in a row. Crossing mountains, glaciers, fjords and deep forests. Sleeping on the ground around the campfire at night. Or in basic huts that had been set up along the way.

Nobility never developed to any extent in Norway. There where no feudal lords and few mighty landowners to impose prohibitions on the use of the land in the vast wilderness areas. So people used the wilderness as a common territory for common needs, to hunt, to fish and live the free life. Thus, free roaming became a habit based on norms pre-dating the Viking-era. Norms that was later written into law: The right to roam.

As one of the poorest countries in Europe in the 19th century, few Norwegians had the time or energy to spend time in the outdoors for leisure. They had to make ends meet by hard work at the farms, in the forests or in the factories that the industrial revolution brought along. Thus, it was not Norwegians but foreign visitors who introduced friluftsliv as a leisure activity. British, German and French upper class who could afford leisure time discovered the beauty of the Norwegian nature and went there to fish, hike, climb or simply to spend time in the outdoors.

At the same time the era of national romance was promoted by painters and artists, spurred by Norway’s independence from Denmark and later from Sweden. The grand and wild nature was showcased as the soul of the newly independent nation. Visit the National Gallery in Oslo and you will know what we mean. As the country developed common Norwegians also started to use the outdoors for leisure and the right to roam lived on. For many generations now the most common Sunday activity for families, friends and individuals alike has been to go for a tur, a hike in the outdoors.

Nowadays the concept of friluftsliv includes all kinds of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, mountain biking, canoeing, mountain climbing or randonee skiing. But the spirit of free roaming persists.

Ousland Oslo Outdoor value this spirit and these traditions. By joining one of our tours you will not only experience a great outdoor adventure but also continue the ancient tradition of free roaming. Let’s roam!

Tent camp during sea-kayak tour in the Oslofjord (Photo: Oslo Outdoor)

Tent camp during sea-kayak tour in the Oslofjord (Photo: Oslo Outdoor)