• Mathilde Fongen

Updated: Apr 7

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.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

Life is made up of decisions. Some are big, like choosing a career, and some are small, like whether to have tea or coffee this morning (I chose coffee today). The choices we make define us. They make up our personality, our lifestyle, our timeline. From what I've learned through the people in my life and my experiences, I'll be bold enough to say that making conscious decisions are the key to happiness.

I was taught from a young age to always be making conscious decisions. If you're always making conscious decisions, you can never be surprised by where you end up. Actually, you'll never just "end up" somewhere, because the choices you have made are what led you there. If you're in a good place, it's because of you and no one can take that away from you. If you're not in a good place, you can trace it back to the choices you've made, and you can now make different ones to get yourself out of that place. These things can take time, and life is often more complicated than this simplification, but what it boils down to, is mindfulness. Being aware of where you are in life, what you do and the decisions you make are key. It's about living consciously.

Making conscious decisions is not the same as making the right decisions. Sometimes we don't know what the right decision is until we've made the wrong one and sometimes it isn't that black and white. Sometimes there isn't a right path to choose. Choosing the wrong path can be the only way to discover that it is the wrong one and then, it's only by making the wrong decision that you've learned an important lesson. This is a big part of self discovery. We figure out how to deal with the mistakes we make, and we learn invaluable lessons from them. In this way, we can be grateful for our mistakes, rather than regretful.

From a walk up Scolty Hill in Banchory, Aberdeenshire. We chose the right path that day.

We can't be in control all the time, and sometimes we actively make the wrong decision, because it feels right. It can be daunting to think about everything we can't control, but I think that if we live consciously most of the time, in those instances where we can't be, or aren't capable of living that way, it feels okay to let go of control. For me, the decision to focus on "most days" rather than "every day", was a key turning point in keeping up with good habits and making my goals more manageable. This goes for things like yoga, meditation, editing, reading and getting up early. It doesn't matter if I choose to take it easy for a day or two, because there are other days to stay on top of the things I want to achieve.

Recently, I have become more and more aware of what makes me happy. I've become aware of the sort of day to day habits I need in order to live my life the best way I know how. Reflecting on periods of being unhappy, making poor lifestyle choices and being a version of myself I don't want to be has led me to knowing myself better than ever. So now, I focus on making decisions in my day to day life that contribute to the lifestyle I want. It's clearer what sort of choices I need to make in order to get to where I want to be, because I'm more aware of the things that don't work for me. What I've learned from the mistakes I've made has led to a much greater understanding of who I really am. I can honestly say that I've never been happier and my decisions, good and bad, right and wrong, are what brought me here.

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  • Mathilde Fongen

In the grand scheme of things, what I do is entirely unimportant. But what if that's a false statement? What if the small things I do have the power to create big change? What if what I do, say and share doesn't just drown in the massiveness of the world? Or what if it does, but before it does, it plays a role on the world's massive stage? Maybe it is only seen by a handful of people, but maybe it affects one of those people, and inspires them to play theirs?

It's easy to think that the actions of each individual are unimportant and even useless, but that is a disheartening, if not a straight up destructive way of thinking. The big things are a build up of little things. I've found myself doubting the effect of the small things I do, like using a bamboo toothbrush and a stainless steel razor, carrying a reusable water bottle and coffee cup. I cycle and take a train when possible. And I'm privileged to be able to do these things. Considering the bigger picture, these gestures can be seen as insignificant in the face of fossil fuel consumption, food production, fast fashion, deforestation and global politics and one could argue that there's no point, but I just don't believe that to be true. Every little thing each individual does to fight for the environment, brings us one step closer to winning that battle.

Maybe it's hard to believe that we will win it, but why not try? Why not do everything we can to reduce our impact? Why not make the simple, and often more economical, changes that make our lives that little bit more sustainable? I've considered leaving it. I've considered giving up, but at the end of the day I refuse to have to tell the next generation that I went down without a fight. I need to be able to tell them that I did what I could to make a difference when it mattered. Because it always matters.

Doing small things, does not get in the way of doing big things and the small things can add up to big things, if we give them a chance. Saying no to plastic straws or bringing your own bags to the supermarket, does not get in the way of activism, writing to businesses and politicians, or voting green. There's always more that can be done, so why not start small? We all matter, we're all important and we should never undermine the significance of our actions.

Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle. And have a look at my "This Month" page on sustainability. It's a work in progress, but it's a start.

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