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Silvia Lawrence
Silvia Lawrence.
Photo: Heart My Backpack

After visiting 70 countries, the american travel blogger moved to Norway

When she settled down in a tiny town in Norway, travel blogger Silvia Lawrence feared her audience would fade away. Instead, the interest exploded.

In 2015, US native Silvia Lawrence had seen a lot of the world.

She’d grown up in Worcester, Massachusetts, taught English for two years in Japan, and backpacked around places like the Middle East and the Balkans for years. Along the way she started a travel blog, after much prodding from her friend and travel buddy Danielle, who happened to be a journalist.

“I was kinda against the idea, it seemed strange to share so much of my life through the internet. But she convinced me, and I fell in love with blogging.”

They’d travelled around Central Asia together, and found a niche readership by blogging from places that were off the beaten path, like Kurdistan or Tadjikistan. When Danielle went home, Silvia travelled by herself to places like Iran and Caucasus.

She’d met her boyfriend Dan in Thailand, and after some more travelling, the two of them decided to find a more permanent home.

Silvia’s suggestion after visiting 70 countries around the world: Norway, the place where her mother was born and she’d spent so many holidays growing up.

They now live in her grandmother’s log cabin on the side of a mountain in the small town of Rauland, nearly a kilometre above sea level and on the edge of the mountain plateau Hardangervidda.

Snowed in ❄⛄❄

Et bilde publisert av Silvia Lawrence (@heartmybackpack)


“Hardangervidda is so empty and open. I can see for miles, it feels like being on the edge of the world.”

There are some challenges, especially during winter. Like having an outhouse instead of a bathroom and a meter-high layer of snow on the ground at all times. But, as Silvia says:

“It’s like a cartoon of Norway.”

Silvia and Dan originally moved to the city of Trondheim, but had been looking to move somewhere more quiet and closer to nature. They were contacted by Visit Rauland, who had read one of Silvia’s blog posts. Soon, they were both set up with jobs at the local supermarket.

“The customers and the people I worked with seemed wary of me at first, it took a while to get close to people. Now, we always refer to each other like family. I feel friendlier than normal, and this community is so tight knit.”

One of her regular customers only found the courage to ask her if she’s American a few weeks ago.

“We’ve been interacting since January”, she says with a small laugh.

“I think they know I’m American. But they were finally ready to talk to me. I like that people here are a bit more reserved, but then you get to know them and they’re warm. And the self depreciating dark humour is hilarious.”

In Norway, polite greetings like “how are you?” can turn out a little different than you expect. Here, rather than go “fine, how are you?” they may actually tell you how they are.

“It’s very sweet. It just feels so genuine, so you’ll accept a real answer. I’ve kind of embraced it, and I do it to a lot of other English speakers. If they ask me how I am, I give them a story of “oh, well…” My mom gets in trouble with it. She’ll ask my grandma how she is, and my grandma will always get annoyed like she’s checking up on her.”

Living here, Silvia has found that, growing up, a lot of the quirks she chalked up to her mother’s personality were actually weirdly specific Norwegian things.

“Like breathing in when saying yes. Hhyyyeah. And how much you rely on fish oil. Americans like to medicate for everything, but my mom says all you need is fish oil. And maybe som Tylenol.”

She’s dug into other Norwegian quirks as well, especially for television.

“Norwegians think really boring things are interesting, like watching a boat on slow tv. Even the national news is very mellow. Whereas American news covers really extreme and scary events, recently on the Norwegian national news there was a good three minute segment dedicated to what looked to me like a woman following a squirrel around a park.”

Silvia feared that the readership for her travel blog Heart My Backpack (she estimates 40 percent are Americans and 45 percent are from various European countries) might wane as she settled down and travelled less. Instead, the opposite happened.

“When I first moved here, my blog had maybe 20–30,000 page views a month. Now, it’s 100,000. Sometimes 150,000. You always hear of Norway like a perfect place, so people are curious to know what it’s actually like here. I get emails every day from people asking how to move here or asking for travel advice.”


Here are some of her go-to tips for international travellers coming to Norway:

1. Where to fly

“I usually tell my readers that if you want cities and mountains, that’s Oslo. If you want fjords but also a big Norwegian city, I say Bergen. For all those famous hikes you see on Instagram, like Trolltunga and Preikestolen, fly into Stavanger. And my top recommendation if they’re looking for Norwegian nature like the Geiranger fjord, I tell them to fly into Ålesund. The town there is so beautiful, and there’s so much amazing nature.”

1. What to say

On a crisp, wintry day there's no place I'd rather be than out for a ski 🎿 What are you up to this Sunday?

Et bilde publisert av Silvia Lawrence (@heartmybackpack)


“Norwegians can be shy and reserved, so don’t take it personally. My go-to when I want to have a conversation is to ask where they’re from, because I find that Norwegians love to talk about Norway. It’s easier to have a specific question than having small chitchat.”

1. Where to stay

“If you don’t have a lot of time when visiting, stay at an old høyfjellshotell, or mountain hotel, rather than a big hotel chain. A lot of them seem frozen in the 50’s or 70’s, and they’ve gone out of fashion a bit, but I think they’re amazing. That will give you a taste of Norwegian culture. I just stayed at the one in Rjukan, and everything from the Scandinavian breakfast to the art on the wall is very Norwegian.”

Mundal Hotel, Fjærland
Mundal Hotel, Fjærland.
Photo: CH /

4. What to eat

“Norwegian waffles are the best in the world. And I love skolebrød”, Silvia says, referring to a bun with sugar frosting, coconut sprinkles and a vanilla cream centre.

“That’s something I get all my visitors. And if someone visits me, I always make reindeer stew with boiled potatoes and foxberries, that’s very cosy Norwegian food. Oh, and the milk chocolate! I’ve gained a lot of weight since moving to Norway.”

Mathallen, Oslo
Mathallen, Oslo.
Photo: CH/

You can read Silvia’s blog at

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