Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I moved to Bergen three years ago with the goal of working as a teacher and journalist in Scandinavian film and television. I did do that for some time, but took up a side-job as a tour guide to learn a little bit more about the city and the country I’d just moved to.
Over time, I found myself falling more and more in love with Norway and working as a tour guide, and in 2019 decided to quit my teaching and journalism work and work in travel full-time!
While I still mostly work as a local tour guide, I also occasionally do Nordic tours for groups. Most of my tours involve taking the Hurtigruten along the coast of Norway, and I am also lucky enough to be able to visit Denmark, Finland and Sweden in addition to Norway. Still, the vast majority of my work involves Bergen and the fjords, so this blog will focus mostly on that.
My experience as both an ‘outsider looking in’ and as a local, combined with my comprehensive travel experience, means that I Love Bergen will provide a unique insight into travel and culture in the Nordics, and hopefully it will help enhance your own trip here.
The Background Story
I grew up in a rural town halfway between Melbourne and Sydney called Wagga Wagga, and never really thought too much about Scandinavia! After all, the cold weather seems a world away from 40+ degree days. As soon as I turned 18, I moved to Melbourne and pursued a degree in film and television with the goal of becoming a film director. However, as I learned more I realised I was much better at writing about movies than I was making them, so I turned my attention to film analysis. For my Honours degree, I wrote a thesis about German Expressionism (early horror films) as I was a big fan of the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. As I was researching German silent films, I kept coming across influential Scandinavians who had worked on this films, and I started to wonder what the Scandinavian film industry was all about. I started researching and it was around the time The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Killing were becoming huge successes, so I decided to do my Masters degree in Scandinavian film culture.
This was around the time I met my Norwegian (now) husband Sean, who was studying for a year in Melbourne. We met about five days before he was heading home, so the idea of a relationship was crazy and instead we became friends. What I assumed would be a short-lived long distance friendship actually turned into daily correspondence, and I started to fall in love with his hometown, Bergen.
The following year I made my first trip to Europe, starting in Bergen and meeting up with Sean. I landed in January and was greeted with Bryggen and Norwegians on ski’s down the main street. It already had this feeling of home, and I didn’t want to leave. But after four days I continued my travels around Europe (going to around twenty countries in total) and then left for Australia.
As part of my Masters degree, I travelled to Bergen in November that same year, and again fell in love with the region. By this time Sean and I had decided to pursue a long-distance relationship, so I knew I could always keep coming back. The following year I travelled to Bergen another three times, and then dropped out of my Masters degree as Sean and I made the move to Sydney to work full-time in the industry.
While working in Sydney, my Scandinavian film blog Cinema Scandinavia gained traction, and I knew I had to move to Scandinavia to keep it growing. Sydney life was too busy for us, and Sean was more than happy to move back home. We got married in Sydney in August, I got my residence permit, and in January we made the big move to Bergen.
Working for my film blog wasn’t exactly a money maker, so around a month after arriving in Bergen I signed up for a tour guide course with the goal of working one season, making some money, and learning a little about Norway (I still didn’t know very much). Looking back, I’m not sure why I decided to do such a job; after all, I hated speaking in front of other people, didn’t like crowded areas, and wasn’t the best at memorising historical facts. But I didn’t speak Norwegian and it was the only job opening that didn’t require it.
My first season was hectic – not only was I guiding every day but Sean and I also got married (again?) on the Hardangerfjord. But I loved guiding and just couldn’t give it up. I got to experience private concerts at Troldhaugen and Lysoen, countless trips to Flåm and Gudvangen, cider tasting on the Hardangerfjord, ski jumps at Lillehammer, the Bergen-Oslo rail, fjord cruises, hiking the seven mountains of Bergen, and meeting thousands of incredible people from all corners of the world. What was supposed to be a temporary job to make some extra cash turned into a true passion – I just wanted to go to work every day.
At the same time, my film work was picking up. I was offered a job teaching a six-week course in Scandinavian film at the University of Oslo, and it cut right into my second season of guiding, meaning I had to give some of it up. While I loved my teaching job, I longed to get out of a classroom and back into Bergen (that sounds very Norwegian, doesn’t it?). So when my third season came around, I had to really think about what I was doing. I was offered work as a tour leader for Gate1Travel, and had interest from Odysseys Unlimited and Grand Circle, not to mention constant requests as a local guide for BergenByExpert. I was eager to do the Hurtigruten, see Finland, and broaden my horizons so had to seriously consider my teaching work. After my second year teaching, I made the difficult decision to leave it behind and accepted all my job offers and founded I Love Bergen to document my travels. 2019 is my first year of working as a professional traveller!
So, that’s how I ended up in Bergen! I was lucky to meet an amazing guy who showed me this part of the world – there’s no way I would’ve found it on my own. But, above all, it was my job in travel that has inspired me to stay.
What I’ll be doing in 2019
This year will be the first year as a tour guide and tour leader – I will be giving local tours in Bergen as well as guiding groups through the fjords of Western Norway, the Hurtigruten along the coast, Finnish Lapland, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm
I will be posting weekly blogs about my life in Bergen or on the road as a tour leader, as well as continuous articles with my travel tips as I pick them up along the way.