Real Life

REAL LIFE: Meet the woman who swapped the NT for the Northern lights of Norway ... all in the name of love!

''I’d never felt like this about anyone before and didn’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering ‘what if’.''

By Mitchell Jordan

Arlene Foster-Nielsen from Groote Eylandt, NT, shares her story with Take 5's Mitchell Jordan:

I clinked my glass of beer with friends and smiled.
"Cheers!" we cried.
We'd come out on a pub crawl in Brisbane, and later, my mates introduced me to their friend, Atle, a Norwegian exchange student who was in Australia to study journalism.
His long hair made me think of Jim Morrison, but as we got talking, I found out we had lots in common.
I'd travelled to Norway before and loved it there.
Atle and I got along so well that we went on a proper date the next week.
"The people here are so friendly," he told me. "And the weather's great. I'm just not sure I can stay here forever."
Arlene's view from Norway. (Image: Supplied)
When he finished uni months later, it was hard for him to find a job, so he decided to go back to Norway.
By then, we were deeply in love.
"Come with me?" Atle asked.
I'd never felt like this about anyone before and didn't want to spend the rest of my life wondering 'what if'.
I figured that if our relationship didn't work out, I could easily return to Australia.
Atle had found a job in Stockmarknes, a small town on Norway's north coast which was just a 30-minute ferry ride from the famous Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle.
"But it's a long way from the city," he warned.
Arlene experienced a real sea change. (Image: Supplied)
That didn't bother me: I was from Groote Eylandt, an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria that's part of the Northern Territory, so I was used to living remotely.
Once we arrived, I discovered Norwegians were actually similar to Territorians: they had a real say-it-how-it-is humour.
Although I missed my family and friends, I busied myself learning Norwegian and exploring the endless nature, often going hiking or camping with Atle.
Of all the Lofoten Islands' attractions, Ramberg Beach, with its white sand and turquoise waters, became my favourite.
Even in summer, it was too cold to swim, but I loved the serenity there.
Two years after moving, Atle and I married, celebrating three times: twice in Norway and once in the Philippines, where I had family.
A young Arlene in Groote Eylandt. (Image: Supplied)
For a while, we moved just outside of Oslo, the capital, but city life wasn't for us so we returned to the remote north.
Whenever people from Australia came to visit us, they were struck by the sweeping scenery.
Seeing their delight inspired me to start my own travel agency, Pinpoint Travel, to show tourists the beauty of this country.
Norway is often voted as one of the happiest places in the world, and I can see why.
There's much to love about Norway. (Image: Supplied)
Its clear air, nature and friendly people make it so easy to live here.
So does Atle, my soulmate.
I never would've thought that a girl from the Northern Territory would have ended up all the way on the other side of the world, but I guess that's the power of love.

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