• Mathilde Fongen

There's something about experiencing live music that feels so inherently human. It can be a busker on the street playing to your mood that day, it can be a band you've never heard of playing in a club you've never been to before. It can be seeing that artist who's music is a permanent part of you in a stadium with thousands of people who feel the same way. It can be playing as part of a band in a rehearsal space, knowing full well that what you're creating there is something special.

When you're part of a crowd, however big or small, it doesn't matter where you come from or really, who you are. Right then you're a part of a group, all there for the same purpose. Complete strangers sharing an experience that might be fun just for that night, or it might stay with you forever. Or you're out with friends and all the stresses of every day life disintegrate as you dance with people you care about and who care about you.

A poem from the #MayMyselfandI challenge

I have the immense privilege of being able to play music and there is no feeling like standing on a stage in front of people who are enjoying what you're making. To be allowed to create a moment for someone else. It gives me a feeling I don't think I'm capable of describing. For years I had this experience on my own as a singer/songwriter and there was something unique about being the sole source of sound in a room full of people. For them to genuinely listen to words I've written and melodies I've created, to grab a loved one's hand or to close their eyes and sway. That said, nothing beats the feeling of playing as part of a band. It makes the whole experience bigger than one person. It gives me a sense of belonging that I've never found anywhere else.

It's the sharing side of music, the universality of it, that makes it so human. It's a way of sharing experiences and emotions that makes us feel at home in each other, listeners and musicians alike. These live music experiences are when I feel the most alive. Sometimes fearlessly alive. I don't think any blog post could accurately depict the way I feel about this, so I'll leave you with a memory:

A favourite band of mine is Band of Horses, and one summer I experienced them at one of my favourite festivals in my favourite city, PiP Fest in Oslo. My friends wanted to stay on the grass further away, so I walked right up to the stage and soaked it in on my own. Then, they played the last song, and my best friend comes to join me, throwing her arms around me in one of the most genuine hugs I've ever been given. That was one of those moments where happiness overflowed and streamed down my face in the form of salty tears.

  • Mathilde Fongen

Or at least some of it. Mindfulness can be a vague word, but it's also so simple. It encompasses every aspect of life which makes it daunting and basic at the same time. I must admit this word used to annoy me. It seemed to be the solution to everything, the magic cure to the stresses of every day life, but I couldn't wrap my head around it. Now, it's a word I carry with me through everything I do. Or at least I try to. It seems to crawl into every piece of advice I give and all the everyday things I do that have resulted in me being the happiest I've ever been.

It's been almost seven years since my brother and I went on our three month trip to South America. It was on a walk near a village called El Chaltén in Argentina that I kept stubbing my toe on rocks, not quite used to walking in FiveFingers just yet. Now, my brother is a Buddhist. My brother is also a very knowledgable person, so I know that his advice has value, but when he, upon my pinky toe's fifth meeting with a large rock, told me to be "mindful" of where I step, I was pretty ready to punch him in the face. I didn't. I did the classic girl thing of silent anger with outbursts of snappy comments.

Walking the Inca Trail in 2013

Seven years on, I'm still a barefoot runner and I love both my FiveFingers and Vivo Barefoot walking shoes. I adore the concept of mindful walking, mindful running and feeling the texture of the ground beneath my feet. I also do yoga most mornings now, another thing influenced by my brother several years ago, and the combination of the two gives me an exercise and movement routine that suits me well.

Yoga and barefoot running were my introduction to understanding mindfulness, but I didn't quite grasp the concept until I started meditating a couple of years ago. A friend introduced me to an app called Headspace and I took the challenge to do a three minute guided meditation every day for a month. I didn't understand it. I didn't feel any different and I felt like I was wasting time with this whole meditation thing, but people, my brother included, kept talking about how good it was for me, so I kept at it. I kept doing these three, five and ten minute meditations almost every day and little by little, it grew on me.

It was only recently that I discovered that an understanding of mindfulness has crept up on me. I understand now what it means to live mindfully and how important awareness is in every aspect of life. It encompasses my relationship to myself, to other people and the planet, the choices I make and how I spend my time and money. Bringing mindfulness and awareness into the essence of everything I do has been life changing. I know how this sounds, and I'm rolling my eyes at myself as I write this, but it's also clear to me how true it is, how right my brother was, that if I just step mindfully, I won't stub my toe.

Living in awareness and being mindful in my choices and actions has led me to a place where I can honestly say I'm happier than I've ever been before. I can't say that I know exactly what I want in life or where I'm going, but awareness of what makes me happy day to day and of what might need to change is what has made the difference in my mind. Learning how to treat that uncertainty with mindfulness and respect has been key for me. I have bad days, of course I do, and I have weeks where I fall out of my routine. It's not like mindfulness has made me more than human, but meditating regularly has taken a lot of stress out of my life and I urge anyone reading this to give it a go. Three minutes every day for a month and it'll creep up on you too, in a good way, I promise.

  • Mathilde Fongen

The other day, a colleague sent me a photo with the definition of the word "Notriphobia"; the fear of not having a trip planned. She was so right in sending it to me. Of course, there's no actual phobia, but I do pretty much always find myself with some sort of travel coming up. When I don't, I feel uneasy, like something's missing and realising this got me thinking about my own sense of place, my traveling and my relationship to the concept of home.

I've never lived in the same place for more than five years. A lot of people move a lot more than I have done, and a lot of people move less than that, but the point is that I've always been on the move and it has defined my relationship to home and place. I don't have a neighbourhood that's mine, and I don't have one childhood house where my parents still live. When people ask me where I'm from, I say Oslo, and then they ask what part and I say all of it. We've lived all over the city and now that I live elsewhere, Oslo as a whole is home to me. Even the touristy parts. Especially the touristy parts.

Photo: Fredrik A. Fongen. The start of our three months in South America

Travel has always been a big part of my life, ever since I was two and our parents took us to South Africa to visit our cousins. We moved to England and Croatia and we went on driving holidays around Europe. Later on I travelled to South America, met my other half and recently, moved to Scotland to live with him. I don't feel rooted to one place or one house and I don't have a sense of belonging to any specific neighbourhood. Maybe I look for that now as I step further and further into adulthood, but I wouldn't have my childhood be any other way. Movement and travel is part of who I am and I love that part of me. It has led me to all the people in my life and to where I am today.

I've been and am incredibly privileged to have been able to travel and I'm grateful for this partially nomadic lifestyle that now defines me. I know that I can't go on like this forever, and I'm okay with that, but for the time being, I'm happy moving around this much. In a weird way it stresses me out and soothes me at the same time. In true me-like fashion, I'm writing this in transit, sat at Bergen airport waiting to board another flight. Last week was spent with my other half exploring Iceland and now I'm off to see family and friends in three different parts of Norway.

My boyfriend and I were long distance for over four years, which is when I started to travel on a monthly basis. I never really traveled alone. I traveled to visit him, or to visit friends who lived in other places. It was always to connect and maintain my relationships and that's still the case. That's what happened when I moved from Norway to Scotland. I wasn't in a long distance relationship anymore but only with my boyfriend. I'm now in a long distance relationship with my family and most of my friends.

I would like to settle down somewhere, buy a house and create a home and I'd like to think that I'll feel at ease when I do. I don't know where it will be and I'll still need to travel to visit family and friends, but I do hope to slow down a little. As much as I love this constant movement and as much as it is a part of who I am, it would be nice to let my roots settle a little. I guess I'm looking for a new definition of home, a word that is now rooted more in people than places. A word with an ever changing, ever moving definition. A word in transit.