Finding Your Roots in Norway

Tricia Cantlon

Introducing Tricia Cantlon, Ethical Norway Journey Specialist

How does someone born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, end up making her home in Oslo, Norway? Tricia Cantlon isn’t quite sure how it came about herself — it wasn’t a plan exactly, more the culmination of many wanderings. Now settled in the capital for several years, there’s nothing she enjoys more than showcasing her adopted country; especially to fellow Americans seeking their Norwegian roots.

In this interview, Tricia takes us through how Ethical Norway (a brand of Ethical Travel Portal) creates custom-designed trips for visitors from the USA who want to trace their heritage and explore genealogy in the Land of the Midnight Sun. 

Q: When it comes to tailoring a trip, with so much to consider… where do you start?

A: In travel, there’s no such thing as one size fits all, which is why it makes me so happy when I get visitor feedback like, ‘The vacation that Tricia planned was tailor-made for us and was truly the trip of a lifetime… the adventures and experiences we had were things we couldn’t have done without her help.’ As a journey specialist, this is what gets me out of bed in the morning!

We mould these dream trips by gathering as much information about you as possible and determining your ultimate goals when choosing Norway as a destination. For example, let’s say you’re a Norwegian American who wants to discover your ancestry, and you’re particularly interested in tracing your lineage here.

Your journey is built from the ground up to suit your particular wants and needs — like helping you to find the tiny fishing village your grandfather emigrated from, the home place in the mountains where your great-grandmother was born, or simply filling in some of the missing branches of your family tree.

For my part, all the listening and research goes into making sure that everything feels like a personal experience, and that the guides and folks you meet will be nothing short of amazing… all while also incorporating thoughtful, sustainable and ethical travel that benefits local people and the environment. 

Q: So this isn’t a pre-packaged holiday by any means. What makes the bespoke approach key for Ethical Norway?

A: For us, this is all about Norway’s stories, and our passion and pride in telling them. Our local team is very small and tight-knit; we put our heart into every single trip, establishing a relationship with the traveller and hand-crafting each request from scratch. And when a situation arises, the whole team pulls together, as we did recently when a mudslide meant that our travellers had to take a ferry rather than get picked up.

We are all passionate individuals who want to fulfil travellers’ expectations while also putting extra effort into giving back to the communities they visit. So our company doesn’t fit travel into a box; we love to get creative, explore new boundaries, and help visitors discover a true connection to the soul of our country, as well as find out more about their own family history. 

I crave activities that allow us all to thrive off of natural beauty and discover a deep connection with local culture! So to complement the genealogy aspect, I specialise in fjord tours, arctic adventures, mountainous escapes, and coastal exploration on land and at sea throughout all of Norway.

I’ve made tailored trips for groups; couples on a honeymoon or celebrating their 40th anniversary; and even organised everything to the last detail for a family of 12 across three generations! Every person is different, and therefore every journey is unique. 

Q: Running with the idea that each trip is as individual as the client’s DNA, tell us more about helping them find their roots in Norway…

A: Our itineraries are completely personalised; the design begins with the request. Our team’s journey specialists are spread across the country, covering the map when it comes to local knowledge — plus we each have varied expertise and all come from different backgrounds.

At the outset, we always ask American travellers on the hunt for Norwegian ancestry if they know where their family came from (or often they can provide us with some background, an emigration story or an idea of a county/ region of origin). From there, the specialist most passionate or educated in that area will take on the itinerary.

The specialist researches and uses prior knowledge to delve into the region, discover the history, and make calls to contacts in the area — like historical museums and local guides. Locals become vessels to share their culture, cuisine and heritage with Americans interested in learning more about their roots in Norway.

We help with genealogy contacts and look for guides (or hire our own) who can teach Americans about their region and uncover the shared history which ties together the two countries, highlighting the iconic symbols of the American dream for the thousands of hopeful Norwegians who travelled to the land of opportunity.

An interesting resource I’m looking at right now is the Norwegian Emigrant Museum. As they explain on their website, around 80% of emigrants moved to the USA, with more Norwegians living abroad than in the country currently. So it’s no wonder that so many Americans get in touch, keen to look deeper into their ethnicity by coming here!

As it happens, the first documented Norwegian migration to North America began on July 4, 1825… making that particular Independence Day a significant date in more ways than one for both our countries.

Q: Just how much… or how little… detail goes into the planning?

A: Some travellers want every moment planned out, with organised tours, transfers, and meals. Some are on the opposite end and just hope to be guided into a safe, warm hotel with a good starting point to meet some locals. Others are somewhere in between. Once everything is decided, we sort a detailed itinerary, give recommendations for free time/ where to learn more about Norway (and/ or the region their ancestors were from) and present it all in an organised packet so everything is at their fingertips while they’re on the road.

Then they can just enjoy the country, without worrying about the details along the way. If they need a hand, we recommend locals who can help at every turn — and we are always available 24/7 to offer further assistance while they’re travelling in-country. The goal is to make people feel comfortable and supported while venturing outside their comfort zone.

Q: Finally, what do you love most about Norway? What makes it an amazing place to live, and a wonderful destination to show off to visitors?

A: Norway’s magic lies deep; the culture is quiet and grounded.

One thing that still strikes me, is how quiet it is in general. I remember dropping something on one of the busiest streets in Oslo, and the sound echoed. I’m still quite shocked at how hushed the public transportation is. I need to consciously lower my voice, I feel at my most American in these moments!

Maybe it is its raw, vast nature that keeps people constantly humbled. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful, and its beauty is not only confined to popular attractions like Geiranger or Flam; all over the country, nature is boundless and vastly unique wherever you go. Filled in with fjords, mountains, plains, plateaus, tundra, freshwater, saltwater, sandy beaches, rocky coastlines, and islands… but the weather changes constantly due to this variation in topography and landscape; it is fickle and fierce and constantly challenging.

So it takes patience to connect with both the culture and nature. The longer you stay, the more you are likely to uncover this magic. And that’s what makes Norway special — the moment it all clicks, just like me, you’ll never want to leave. 

Take the next step — your Norway Roots adventure begins here