Tag Archives: hyttetur

Why I don’t love the summer cabin and what I am going to do about it


The sun sets over the little island – this picture was taken around 11:30pm in July.

(Warning: I am aware that I probably am going to come off so spoiled in this post, but I am trying to be honest!)

Every year this happens.

We come down to the summer house that my in-laws own for the first long weekend of the year, Kristi himmelfartsdag or Ascension, which usually is in May. And the weather is terrible.

Hubby´s family literally shakes with giddiness about the prospect of spending the weekend cleaning up from the winter, planting potatoes and herbs, eating extravagant dinners at 10pm, lighting fires in the fireplace, fishing, taking the boat out, rain or shine, being outside in rain suits and fisherman hats for the better part of the day, having to go outside to get from one room to another (including the bathrooms) and generally doing things that Norwegians like to do at their cabins or “hytta”. 

Many Norwegians have a hytte. Usually it is a kind of small shack at the mountain or by the sea. My Norwegian family has one of each. But they are not shacks; they are proper cabins with heating, dishwashers, toilets, and even a washing machine. So, I could have a lot more to come to terms with. 

And what do I have to come to terms with, exactly?

Tradition. Hubby and his family have a very traditional kind of Norwegian holiday at their cabin, which is not at all what I am used to.

When my family went on holiday as a kid, it was either to visit my dad´s family in Los Angeles or to a summer resort called Inn at the Seventh Mountain in Central Oregon. Or to the Oregon Coast. A handful of times we did other things, like rent a motorhome and drive until it broke down one state away, totally not making it to our final destination, visit my dad´s sick friend in New Mexico, and take other road trips within several hours drive, like to Victoria, BC, or Ashland. We also took a cruise to Alaska one year and went to Hawaii another year. When I was older, my vacations always involved water polo tournaments.

What do 99% of these have in common? Hotel rooms. Cars. Outside time confined to heated pools and pickle ball courts. Maybe horseback riding. Possibly Disneyland. Or in bad weather, a short walk on the rainy beach before coming inside and watching TV or curling up with a book afterwards until it was time to sleep. Warmth. Comfort. Whole days for reading.

So, it is hard for me to picture a weekend on an isolated coastal island as restful in the same way. I love making food, so that part is fun, but I don’t get to plan the menus. If I am lucky, I will plan a couple of meals throughout the weekend.

Otherwise, my idea of an ideal day on vacation would be something like this: wake up, make and eat a super healthy breakfast, possibly work out before Kiddo wakes up, read the paper, or go out to a place where we could buy and read the paper, do something that the Kiddo wants to do (beach, playground, loud crazy sweaty indoor gym, walking around picking up rocks, whatever works), eat a super healthy lunch, possibly a picnic, read a book while she naps, spend the afternoon either outside again, maybe going for a hike or doing something cozy inside like reading books, drawing, painting, playing with playdough or something messy, making and eating dinner, and curling up and watching a movie together. That sounds amazing.

Here, we have some of those elements but I have no freedom of movement as this is an island and I don’t drive a boat. I am not actually interested in boats, but I am planning on getting my boating license just so I can actually feel comfortable getting myself somewhere. I would be happy if I never had to use boats, or maybe this is more accurate: I would not notice it if I was never on a boat again. I just am totally apathetic towards them. So I resent the fact that the summer cabin life revolves around boats, boat cleaning, boat parking, knots and all that stuff.

It is very hard for me to get motivated to work out here, which is bad because exercise really helps me feel positive and happy and all those good things. I would have to drive the boat to somewhere to go jogging, and in bad weather I am 100% not going to do that. I have gotten much better over the years at finding workouts that I can do here. Plyometrics, workout videos, maybe now yoga are all good candidates. But I really only can do them in good weather because there is nowhere I can stand to do them while it is raining (there is limited space inside and I don’t really like people to watch me while I do them!). Hubby loves to get his exercise from finding some random job to do in the yard, like shovel something or move rocks or something. I just can’t get into that, but I guess I could try.

A lot of time here is spent on upkeep. Sweeping, vacuuming, taking the trash off the island, hosing down the stone wharf, cleaning up after fishing excursions and so forth. There is always lots of shopping to be done since we are 6 adults now (My in-laws, their two grown children and each child´s partner) and there is only so much room in the fridge. We have gotten in a large dramatic argument in the past about how clean we keep the bathroom we are using, since it is the one people would use if they were visiting. This makes it stressful to do things like cook and live in a space where I feel my cleanliness is constantly being appraised.

This brings me to the last problem of this place: we are constantly with my in-laws. I really like them – they are super lovely people. But they are not my parents, and they are from a different generation, which means that the way we are raising Kiddo is not only strange, but possibly actively threatening to them. Our lack of a schedule, lack of a bedtime, lack of punishment, and lack of rules on most things parents have rules about are constantly in their faces when we are here, and it is hard for them not to comment on them. Add to that that I am still breastfeeding Kiddo at 2 years and 4 months…all this adds up to a situation where I feel very vulnerable as I carry out my daily parenting moments one after the other. This would be the same at any location, but it is extra strong here, since we are all in a 100m2 on a tiny island, all the time. There is no place to get away. For us, or for them. It is a challenge for all of us.

So, those are the reasons it is hard for me. This is not my ideal vacation (and for Hubby, it really is. It is like all those vacations I had as a kid rolled into one). The mismatch is hard because Hubby “just wants me to be happy”, and I don’t want to disappoint him or myself by being a recalcitrant sulker who cant wait for the next time I can sneak away to read my book. Plus, Kiddo loves it here. She told me she dreamed last night about playing in the sand here (FIL has a couple of manmade beaches with rough sand on the island). It made my heart melt. She has such a great time here! 

My promise to myself is that I am going to make this tradition a part of my own life. I won´t just be a tag along to someone else´s traditions and someone else´s idea of a good vacation.

That means that on the one hand it is okay that what I want to do most when I am on vacation is read books and cook food, but on the other hand I would benefit from trying my best to get involved in the activities of the day here. That means I need to learn out to drive a boat and get involving in the gardening here. I am actually interested in gardening and we are about to have our own, but I find it really intimidating, and when I first have some free time here, I am not inclined to read about gardening or dig through the seeds we ordered, but instead pick up one of the 20 books I brought 😉

Also, I need to remember that Hubby and I are on the same team. Some times I will have bad days where I want to swear at everybody and take Kiddo and drive back to Oslo (I couldn’t anyway – we are renting out our apartment through airbnb this week). That was yesterday. But I can talk to Hubby about it and try my best to be kind to myself and my husband and be compassionate to my in-laws, who also have a large challenge of having to parent their grown children while watching them parent their own children very differently. Hopefully they can all be compassionate with me in a real way while I continue to learn the ways of the Norwegian cabin holiday, which is not at all what I grew up with.