I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t enjoy seeing the ocean. I know they exist, but I haven’t met them. I think that’s a good thing.

As one who grew up a quick walk from the Norwegian coastline, I have always loved the ocean. Especially the waves.

Seeing powerful, angry waves during fall storms is my favorite.

Uninterrupted ocean breeze

I never thought I would live far from the ocean.

Sort of a bit like those who say “New York or nowhere” or those who never see themselves leave a family farm, except for me it was near the ocean or nowhere.

I do live far from the ocean (never say never), so now, each time I am near it, it brings me a little bit of happiness.

The blue against the sand is one of the most beautiful things on earth.

It’s a bit different than the typical loud and buzzy Jersey shore beaches, the one in the photo you see above. It feels somewhat less commercialized and calmer than many others. It’s also the closest beach within driving distance from where we live, making it doable to do day trips.

Location: Belmar, New Jersey.

A community park trail

Living in the suburbs, I’ve come to appreciate every single inch of natural green space I get. In a classic suburb, it feels like everything is made with convenience in mind and things often feel too planned.

Does that make sense to anyone but me?

From the way trees are planted to how playgrounds and trails are created and neighborhoods are put together. It feels a bit odd, kind of like a cookie cutter, sometimes.

This is not that:

A park trail in Central Pennsylvania.
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

It takes me about ten minutes to walk to this spot from my house. My kids will sometimes bring their bikes. They will always bring a football.

I love my kids but I prefer to walk this trail alone.

This spot is peaceful and noisy, but not from the sounds of people or cars. The noise is from the squirrels running around in the woods, always on the hunt for food. There are usually birds, too. Depending on the seasons, there may be some bunnies. One time, we saw a dear. The poor dear ran for its life once it spotted my kids and me.

The community park trail feels wild and authentic and I love it.

Location: Somewhere in Central Pennsylvania.

Quaint small towns

Take your pick, there are many.

A street filled with cafes in Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

Although there are more than enough strip malls and Walmarts and all that, there are some hidden gems within the United States landscape.

Read more: Experiences from a country flea market

Those gems are the kind of towns where the shop owners have time to talk to you and they gladly take their time. Where people say hi, how are you, when passing you on the streets and actually mean it. Where you are allowed to sit and eat for hours in a restaurant or a charming cafe without feeling pushed to leave.

As a Scandinavian, these towns feel like the icing on the cake.

The one in the photo above is a small town in Pennsylvania, and we stopped by on a whim on our way to visit family. Haven’t been back since but it created wonderful memories that stuck with me. There was delicious pizza, too.

Location: Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Bustling city streets

We have a history, this city and I. It was the first place I lived abroad. In a tiny four-person dorm a stone’s throw from Union Square. Poor and without a worry in the world (except being terrified of rats), New York City was everything.

And then some more.

I met the love of my life, and after several years of living together in Norway, we realized we missed the city. The diversity, the food, the long walks on the bustling city streets.

A street in NYC,
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

This time, the kids were along for the ride and it was different, but just as wonderful. Being in this city always puts a smile on my face.

The wallet, not so much.

Location: Somewhere in New York City.

A hike with a view

I truly appreciate mountain hikes.

There aren’t a ton of mountains around where I live. Ok, who I am kidding — there are none.

So when we did a road trip one recent summer to Georgia, hiking slash driving up one of the mountains where you can see more than one state, was a breathtaking experience.

Photos don’t do it justice but here’s one:

A view of the Blue Ridge Mountains on a cloudy day.
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

It’s different from the Norwegian mountains where you often see the bare rocks. This was a green and lush wonderland. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Also, I loved hearing the southern accent everywhere we went.

Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Georgia.

From ocean waves to forest squirrels

What I am left with after writing this is that the United States is a lot.

In my bubble, I often think about cultural differences, pondering over things I appreciate and also things I wish were different. Debating whether Scandinavia is the better place to be and changing my mind immediately whenever I check the weather forecast.

Read more: Ways Norway has changed over the years

Although it’ll probably never rank as a happiness haven, there are things to smile about in the United States. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself smiling while traveling, and other times, simply being home will do that for you.

Usually, like most things in life, it’s about what you make of it.