By Linda Akeson McGurk
Reviewed by Sandi Schwartz
Linda Akeson McGurk’s new book, The Open-Air Life, takes the reader on a fascinating journey to explore how nature can enhance their lives. While some of the general concepts are familiar, she adds a unique perspective by introducing the terminology and customs rooted in strong tradition from her native country, Sweden, and the surrounding Nordic countries. Through poetic storytelling, helpful checklists, and informative illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, she educates and inspires readers to step outdoors into the fresh air and bring a number of nature-connection habits into their daily lives – no matter where they live, their age, or what language they use to describe these activities.
The main concept of her book is based on the Norwegian word friluftsliv (pronounced FREE-loofts-leeve), which means open-air life. Linda explains that the Norwegian government defines this term as “embracing nature and enjoying the outdoors as a way of life, a possibility of recreation, rejuvenation and restoring balance among living things.” The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency explains that it is about “spending time outside in natural and cultural landscapes for personal wellness and to experience nature without the pressure to achieve or compete.”
Linda describes this way of life: “In essence, traditional friluftsliv is less a set of activities and more of a culturally learned rhythm that revolves around being outside and experiencing oneness with both nature and the cultural landscape.” It is a sort of slow living, as she compares it to slow food and slow parenting. In many ways, it is about being mindful in nature to soak it all in and reap the many benefits.
This is an important concept to keep in mind while living in such a structured, competitive, tech-obsessed society these days. Free nature play is so valuable. This can look like taking a relaxing walk around the neighborhood, eating outdoors, sketching a nature scene, or simply finding a sit spot and enjoying nature through all the senses.
The author explores the 10 core principles of friluftsliv, including being one with nature, not minding the weather, learning useful skills, nurturing a sense of wonder, and more. There’s so much more to discover throughout the book as she dives deep into open-air activities within the categories of air, earth, water, and fire.
Linda Akeson McGurk is a Swedish American journalist and author who believes life is better outside. Her first book, the parenting memoir There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge), was published in 2017 to critical acclaim – receiving mentions in The Wall Street Journal as well as The New York Times. Since then, the book has become an Amazon bestseller and been translated into five languages. The Open-Air Life: Discover the Nordic Art of Friluftsliv and Embrace Nature Every Day is her second book. Learn more at www.rainorshinemamma.com and www.lindamcgurk.com.
Sandi Schwartz is the award-winning environmental author of Finding Ecohappiness, www.ecohappinessproject.com