The Right to Nature – Norway’s Ancient Law

“There is nothing so American as our national parks…. The fundamental idea behind the parks…is that the country belongs to the people, that it is in process of making for the enrichment of the lives of all of us.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words are an important reminder, a reminder that we are ambassadors of nature – stewards of our natural world; and it’s our job to protect it.

The national park project has been called “America’s best idea”, but what if that idea was taken a step further? What if there was an entire country that was treated as a national park, a country that actually belongs to the people? There is, and it’s closer than you may think. A country once occupied by Vikings, forged by glaciers, filled with fjords; it’s called Norway and it’s wonderfully wild.

The Right to Roam

Picture this, a stranger shows up in your backyard and sets up a tent for the night. What is your first reaction? Call the police? Grab a gun? For the Norwegian’s it’s just another backpacking nomad stopping to rest before moving on to their next destination. Under the Outdoor Recreation Act there are no property restrictions and you definitely won’t come across a “no trespassing” sign. As long as you are 500 ft away from the nearest occupied house, nature’s your playground. If you want to stay an additional night you may need the homeowner’s permission, but you can bet they won’t have an issue. Oh, and you won’t need a permit, or need to pay an entrance fee, heck you don’t even need a fishing permit (when fishing in salt water).

Of course there are some rules:

Be considerate and thoughtful

Always be considerate of other hikers, offer assistance if necessary and maintain a friendly demeanor. Ensure you are aware of your surroundings, and stay focused. Many of the trails can be dangerous, make sure you are properly equipped for your adventure and always take safety precautions; this is paramount.

Don’t damage nature and other surroundings

The “leave no trace“ concept can be implemented here. Nature is precious and leaving it as you would want to find it is a code to live by. Don’t carve on trees or rocks, leave natural objects where you find them, and be mindful of your impact.

Show respect to nature

Stay on the trails, pick up your trash, and other trash you see in the wild. Abide by fire safety regulations and take notice of current fire hazard warnings, don’t damage local flora and distance yourself from wildlife.

These simple constructs create a sustainable culture of respect and appreciation, re-establishing a balanced relationship between humans and nature. Living with nature without restrictions encourages us to get out and explore. Norway is powered by nature, we should be too.

Our First Tiny Home Experience

Tiny homes have been trending for a few years now. There are loads of benefits to tiny living including a lower mortgage or no mortgage, a smaller environmental footprint, simpler living, and minimal bills. Dan and I have discussed different home types for ourselves and this category comes up quite often. Before this idea becomes a blueprint we thought it best to experience a tiny home for ourselves.

We booked an Airbnb in Las Vegas as a trial run to see just how practical tiny living can be. Our Airbnb hosts run a tiny home building company and the tiny home they were renting was built by them in their backyard with an excellent view of the Vegas strip.

Prior to arriving at the house we received a two paragraph message from the host informing us how to use the composting toilet. Like holy literal shit, I was already scared to poop; I was scared shitless – pun intended! When we arrived to the 250 square foot home we were immediately impressed with the design and exterior. The home was called “The Blue Baloo.” The home was covered in blue siding complemented by a light wood siding running down the middle.

When we walked through the dark blue door we were greeted with a small seating area and beautiful kitchenette inclusive of a sink and refrigerator. To the left of the fridge was a stackable washer and dryer. At the end of the “hallway” was the bathroom….and the composting toilet. Above the toilet were instructions on how to use the toilet. Open the hatch, do your business, close the hatch, spin the lever 3 times (took some effort), pick up the toilet and twirl it around our head, tap it gently on the side with harry potter’s wand and then spray some water. A little much, but the deed was done (yes we realize you can get a regular toilet in a tiny home).

We dined out for the evening so we didn’t attempt cooking in the tiny kitchen. Next, we tried the shower. The tub was very small, the shower head was low so we had to duck under to use it. A lot of the water splashed out onto the floor, even with the shower head turned inwards – a little inconvenient.

Both bedrooms were in the loft above. A ladder was used to access the loft. Once you reached the top you had to literally crawl to the bed and lay down, no sitting up in the bed due to the low ceilings. I was terrified I was going to wake up in the middle of the night and smash my head into the ceiling. Luckily we woke up without a concussion.

No we could not live in a tiny house, however, we do want to live in a smaller home, maybe between 800-1000 square feet. We just want to live in a house where we can poop in comfort.

The Nation’s Newest National Park – Indiana Dunes

It’s so funny how so many of us are in a hurry to leave our hometown, city, state, or country. In the rush to leave and experience new places we sometimes forget to explore our own backyards. Growing up in Indiana my entire life I never made the short 3 hours drive to Indiana Dunes. It took the Dunes becoming America’s 61st National Park to spark enough interest for Dan and I to make the trip.

Becoming a National Park is not a simple process, it requires certain criteria:

  1. It must possess a unique natural, cultural, or recreational resource.
  2. It must be in need of protection, and no organization other than the National Park Service would be able to secure adequate protection.
  3. It must be able to be protected. (It is suitable and feasible to protect the area.)

Indiana Dunes hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan and spans about 15 miles with over 15,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, dunes, and marshes. These diverse landscapes are sprawling with flora and fauna unique to the area.

Camping:

Unfortunately trail camping is not an option yet for this park. There are campsites available at Dunewood Campground which require a reservation (or you can choose your campsite upon arrival). There is also a charge per night of 25.00. We decided to book the site upon arrival and chose a walk-out campsite. The campsites were very basic with a grill and fire pit. We were near other campers – which we hate, but luckily it was raining so most people stayed in their tents and didn’t get on our nerves.

Trails:

Cowles Bog Trail System

We evaluated some of the trails prior to arrival using the All Trails app. One of the highest rated trails was Cowles Bog which is a 4.7 loop trail, showcasing the parks diversity with views of prairies, wetlands, and marshes.

When we arrived at the parking lot a slight shit show transpired. I apparently forgot our equipment bag at the house, including our drone and GoPro. Dan was not impressed and a slight argument ensued but only for a couple minutes. You see, I have a terrible memory so honestly if Dan is a good partner he should be aware of this and double check. Just kidding!

Dan actually ended up whittling a selfie stick from a nearby tree, which ended up producing some pretty stellar shots! Nice work babe!

This trail lived up to the expectation and took us through some beautiful landscapes. We loved exploring the marshlands and the view of Lake Michigan from the top of the dunes. When we arrived to the shoreline the wind kicked up and a torrential downpour sent us back into the woods for a hike in the rain.

3 Dune Challenge

The 3 Dune Challenge is located in Indiana Dunes State Park, however, both parks are adjacent to one another so don’t miss this opportunity. The cost to enter the park is $7 for in-state visitors and $9 for out of state visitors. To complete The 3 Dune Challenge, you must hike a special 1.5 mile course at Indiana Dunes State Park, climbing Mount Jackson (elevation 176 feet), Mount Holden (184 feet), and Mount Tom (192 feet).

The hike for us was not very difficult, this could have been because most of the sand/trail was matted down from the rainfall. The top of the dunes offer some great views of Lake Michigan and the hike is a great workout!

The rain definitely cut our hiking plans short, however overall the experience was a good one. We would recommend visiting the dunes as a day trip; two days at the max if you are planning on swimming or enjoying some beach time at Lake Michigan’s shores. The surrounding area of Gary, Indiana is pretty run down and doesn’t have much to offer, but the park’s beauty is enough to keep you captivated.

HAAAY!

How to Build a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From

We are constantly looking forward to our days off, our next trip, or the weekend.  In fact, in today’s world of social media filled with picture perfect filters and constant travel content; the feeling of escape is well, hard to escape.

What if there wasn’t a need for escape, is it possible to form a life we don’t need a break from?

While I’m absolutely a proponent of vacation and travel, I believe it’s possible to live your best life from home.  Here are 5 ways I’ve begun building a life I don’t need to run from.

1. Eliminate Unnecessary Possessions

This one is big.  How many times have you walked into a cluttered hotel room, or vacation home littered with cluttered counter space or cabinets filled with mismatched coffee cups and dishware?  You haven’t (unless you’ve recently stayed in a 2 star Airbnb).  Removing clutter from your personal life renews a since of freedom.  Contrary to what we are conditioned to believe – more is not better.  More equals more work, more cleaning, more maintenance.  Focusing on less will give you more time to focus on yourself. 

2. Love Yourself

It’s hard to build relationships and love others if we don’t first love ourselves.  Guard your time and your energy.  Don’t let others keep you from yourself.  You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way.  Enjoy a book, exercise, eat healthy, and rest.  It’s important to realize this is not a selfish act, but preservation of self. 

3. Do What You Love

Routines are easy to fall into, we all have one.  Ensure you incorporate what you love daily into your life.  This could be a hobby or an activity that sparks joy.  Don’t let your passions be pushed to the side, instead build them into your everyday life.

4. Make Your Job Matter

There is a need in today’s workforce to make a difference, an impact.  I’m here to tell you that any job that requires human interaction has the potential for positive impact.  Leverage your influence, engage and listen to others; your co-workers, clients, and leaders.  Build relationships, offer guidance, and serve others.  Some believe they need to change the world overnight, instead, focus on changing the world you can impact today.

5. Appreciate the Journey

Embrace the pace of your own journey.   Struggle and heartache are unfortunately a part of life.  However, from these experiences one thing is clear.  Pain is a catalyst for growth.  Our biggest life lessons and learning moments usually come from our hardest season.  It may be hard to see the silver lining in the midst of a storm, just remember that all storms pass; and we are left stronger.