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Hopping cultures, creating changes

Creative Edinburgh member Chris Milne shares his experiences of working abroad and the changes such a life event affects

Two years ago I was moving from Edinburgh to Copenhagen for an Erasmus exchange- now, I have returned to Scandinavia again, this time for a two month placement in Trondheim, Norway.

Occasionally, I wonder what it would be like to have settled in Edinburgh and stuck there for years without moving; it seems to be much easier to focus on what you’re missing out on instead of noticing what you do have. Even still, you can’t help but think of the birthdays, the lunchtime catch-ups and nights at the pub. My friends know I would love to be there and sometimes I wish I could have that stopwatch Hermione has in Harry Potter which allows you to be in two places at once.

Then as a creative, I have found my primary concern to be losing touch with the network in which you spend a lot of time and effort to cultivate. Many personal and professional connections start to distance themselves naturally- sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

Alternatively you can view it as an opportunity to expand, the new situation forces your hand and encourages you to wade deeper, meeting new types of people and allowing you to discover new methods and try crazy ideas. A fresh slate to work from, a time for experimentation and pushing yourself.

But my drive for going abroad is more than just about the work.

Upon arrival and that initial period of familiarisation, everything is new and somewhat mystical. No Lothian Buses, the unfamiliar words and money with holes (so very Viking)! Every corner you turn, you are essentially lost; you don’t know the best coffee shops or what bars are good. It can be one of the most magical periods as you pick up an understanding of your new surroundings.

Then life settles in and your travel starts to become your new home, your routes are direct and your usage of Google Maps slowly decreases. Supermarkets are still very curious with a machine to slice your bread with. The introduction to culture also brings some interesting surprises- brown cheese (brunost) and jam open sandwiches. I saved my first taste of it at the summit of Blånneba, a mountain just short of Ben Nevis near the town of Åndelsnes where we spent an incredible day hiking, clambering over the rocks between two fairly steep ridges. As a photographer, it was incredible; as a person, even more so. And like that, a few weeks later, embedded in a new city. A new place to compare other ‘homes’ with. Each new addition is greeted with an extra use of the word, culminating in ‘home home’, an affectionate phrase used for where you grew up.

That comparison: reflecting on your lifestyle- understanding of what is normal? I mean, what is normal, anyway? The irony is that much of Norway is quite similar to Scotland with the nature, sparsely populated countryside and yet I had rarely been hiking before moving here. So when the opportunity arrived to go on a weekend to the mountains and after a seven hour hike through changing but generally good conditions I realized that I am physically capable and the feeling combined with the views when you reach the summit. So much enjoyment came from walking up the side of a mountain in good company, spending a weekend in cabins that I wondered why I had never done it before. Well, unless you count Arthur’s Seat…

In a way it is quite ironic that it takes moving several hundred miles from my real home to engage in adventures that I could have done there also.

Needless to say, I already have plans for when I return to Scotland.

Follow Chris's progress on Twitter here.

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