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The Rashomon Effect: 84 Hours in Norway

11 content team members. Four days. One trip to Norway. Infinite different interpretations. These are our (differing) versions of how things went.

 

Rasho-what? The ‘Rashomon Effect’ is when the same incident is described in different – and often contradictory – ways by the people who witnessed or experienced it. In other words: nobody perceives the same event the same way. 

 

The phenomenon is sometimes employed as a cinematic plot device – think The Usual Suspects (1995), Gone Girl (2014) and, to some extent, Memento (2000) and Reservoir Dogs (1992). But the original example of it being used this way, and the source of the term itself, is the 1950 classic murder-mystery, Rashomon, by legendary director Akira Kurosawa. 

 

The film was so groundbreaking that it became the first Japanese motion picture to go global and win multiple international awards. Today, it’s considered one of the best films ever made. 

 

What’s it about? Well, that depends who you ask. Just kidding. The pioneering motion picture involves the four main characters providing their subjective (and incredibly contradictory) versions of the same incident as they try to portray themselves in the best possible light. It’s a story about the unreliable nature of subjectivity and the audience is never really sure that the truth has been revealed. 

 

Inspired by the film and, we admit, the ongoing buzz around our latest editorial endeavor ‘Off’ magazine – which is a deliberately analog exploration of the link between movement, nature, design, sustainability and the human psyche and well worth a read (sales pitch over) – we decided to incorporate the Rashomon effect* into our content team trip to Norway. 

 

Off Magazine
The new print magazine dedicated to stories exploring movement, nature, design, sustainability and the human psyche. Only available in English.
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Objectively speaking, we did a lot in a short space of time. Boat trips, sustainable dinners, mountain biking, running, two photo shoots, waterproof testing, coffee in a tavern on a cliff, a little bit of drinking (two team members had birthdays), kayaking, hiking, even horoscope reading. We believe movement fuels creativity, so the schedule was pretty busy – meaning here was plenty for our team to consider including as they recollect their version of events.

 

 *Full disclosure: team members chose which part of the trip they wanted to focus on, so this may or may not be a 100% accurate interpretation of the Rashomon effect. Still, we hope you enjoy it!

 

 

The Trip

 

For a campaign shoot and to test out some of our waterproof gear, part of the On content team headed to Norway – traveling as responsibly as we could. I can’t say the idea of spending three days in the wilderness of a foreign land was immediately (or even laterally) too appealing. But how often do you get the chance to go to Norway? So far in my life the answer here is a resounding never. So, of course, I wasn’t going to miss this chance. Off to the land of fjords, Vikings, whales, rain and Erling Haaland. 

 

Two flights, a lost wallet (don’t ask) and some surprisingly nice airport food (mozzarella and pesto sandwich) later, we arrived in Norway. A bus driver holding a sheet of paper with the words “On Content” scribbled in black marker welcomes us at the airport. 

 

As we arrive at our incredible hotel, any lingering doubts are immediately vanquished. Nestled into the side of a hill, overlooking a lake and surrounded by forest, it’s hard not to feel impressed by the setting. And the hotel itself. Wooden walls, stone floors, impeccable furniture and welcoming staff. As we head to reception, I can’t wait to see what my room – and the rest of the trip – looks like. 

 

 

The Weather

 

There are many different types of rain. Everything from drizzle so fine you mistake it for mist, to, at the other end of the spectrum, a storm-driven deluge. In between, you have the metronomic steady rain that “settles in,” wind-whipped horizontal spray, and the teeming intermittent waves that dance on the ground as they approach. Yeah, there are many different kinds of rain. And, as we learned, if you visit Norway in October, you can experience them all. In a single day. 

 

That it rained for most of our trip was no surprise. This part of the world, where fjords meet mountains, is one of the wettest on the planet. Mentally prepared for the conditions, and protected by our waterproof gear, the weather couldn’t dampen the experience – or our spirits. 

 

So when the rain relented one morning, and the clouds lifted to reveal new expanses and a view beyond Storfjord, I didn’t feel relieved, I felt lucky. And present. That moment is still resonating. It was a nice reminder: little things can mean a lot, if you can learn to dance in the rain. 

 

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Kayaking

 

We didn’t come all the way to the Storfjord Hotel just to take in the panoramic views from our balconies. So, after our first shoot, we embarked on an adventure that got us up close and personal with the mountains, the wind and the sea: a kayaking tour. 

 

As we were introduced to the basics of kayaking, the built-up excitement was nearly overflowing. So naturally, the moment our boats hit the crystal-clear water, it was go time. I remember seeing the others race off into the fjord, so what other option was there but to challenge them? 

 

Yes, one might say we behaved like little kids. But I don’t see the issue with just letting go and frolicking in nature every once in a while. And in-between kayak vs. kayak races and balancing acts to get a good photo, our guide gave us a first hand taste test of the local seaweed species. It really doesn’t get any fresher than that. 

 

And once we made the way back to the welcoming warmth of our rooms, the view over the fjord and the mountains was even more breathtaking than before. No, not just because we walked all the way up the mountain to the hotel, but also because I now had some great memories connected to the magnificent landscape in front of me. 

 

 

The Massage

 

After leaving the frosty fjords, we went back to our warm hotel rooms and got to enjoy the beautiful sights. Some of the team decided to go on a mountain biking adventure, but I chose to make a warm bath and take a trip to the spa. 

 

I can still remember the bubble bath clearly. It was both luxurious and soothing. My muscles needed the downtime, and I could feel them thank me as I stepped into the warm water. When I got out, reality quietly seeped back in, and I had to quickly prepare for my massage.

 

I ran under the cold rain to the spa, and then entered a cozy building with calming music. I knocked on the door, and the masseuse, Karolina, came out to greet me. She told me to get ready for the massage and release anything that was burdening me.

 

Then, I laid down on the massage table and Karolina got to work. She used her strong, Cross-fit arms to get out all the kinks out of my back. And, trust me, there were a lot. She kept going, and I slowly felt my body release the stress and enter the most peaceful state. 

 

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The Rigid Inflatable Boat

 

“Signal me like this if you feel we’re going too fast” the captain tells us, raising his arm above his head and waving. I step onto the slick RIB boat and take a front seat. 

 

We edge out of the calm harbor passing boat houses and red cabins perched on the embankment. The engine revs loudly and we accelerate forward, leaving the stillness behind. I grip the handles before me tightly and grin excitedly – I’m sitting at the front of a rollercoaster carriage, creeping to the peak of an impending vertical drop.

 

We charge out into the stormy and isolated sea before us, ripping across the surf in a choir of thrilled screams. If I lose my grip, I’m sure I’ll be lost to the fjords. We slam into a fierce wave that throws the boat into the air, the engine silent just for a moment as we sail above the ocean, before we plunge back to the surface again. We’re in a fist fight with the elements. Punching and dodging the swells, rain battering us left and right. My forearms start to cramp.

 

A sharp turn brings us to a welcome stop at a jetty sheltered by the fjord’s cliffs. Still rigid and grasping the bar in front of me, I can’t release my hands for a few seconds. They’ve lost all trust in my judgment for safety. I eventually peel myself away, shaken but buzzing with adrenaline.

 

The captain looks at us, amused. “Just give me the signal next time”.

 

 

Waves and Wine

 

The memory that stands out the most for me was the boating. I’d never done anything like this. Honestly, at the beginning I was scared. We were really jumping so high. But the longer we did it, I started to get more comfortable. I was even able to sit at the front. And I was glad that I did. Even though the rain felt more like hail, it was worth it for the adrenaline rush.  

 

But for pretty much the opposite reason, the first dinner was really great too. I’d only met a few members of the team going into it and we didn’t have that much time to get to know each other before. We talked about work and about our lives and it was all very relaxing and easy. Plus, the food was amazing and we did the wine menu — which was super nice. 

 

Work dinners can go either way and this was unexpected for me because I had so much fun – a very nice to start the trip. Plus, we really had so much wine to try. 

 

 

Mountain Biking

 

It’s (still) pouring rain and we’ve just spent over an hour bouncing around in a speed boat on very choppy waters. The itinerary says downtime but there’s an energy to the group that suggests rest can wait. 

 

“Anybody fancy for a bike ride?” 

 

Immediately, shouts in the affirmative answer. Bums on seats. Feet on pedals. And a group of us head off down a stony trail. Well, for a while, at least. The path soon heads up. Sharply up. We make a doomed attempt to pedal along the steep, rocky slope but soon we have no choice but to accept defeat and push our bikes. 

 

Norwegian trail one, us zero. But nobody feels like we’re losing. 

 

It’s cold and wet but spirits are high. Undeterred we push on (literally) and as we reach the top of this first ascent, the trail flattens and the forest starts to thicken. We can’t help but feel immersed in the scenery. This is what we wanted. The coziness of the hotel a distant memory. 

 

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We hop back on our bikes. Racing, splashing through puddles, unnecessary skidding – all the cliches and loving every second. As we reach a clearing, we pause quickly to admire the view but nobody wants to stop for long – even with the majestic panorama. The further we go, the more the thrill of feeling miles away from civilization grows. 

 

Sadly – and we are all genuinely disappointed – the trail ends halfway up the mountain. Feeling a little too proud of ourselves for making it this far we exchange high fives and fist bumps. But this is just half the journey. We turn back, eagerly awaiting the chance to get our revenge on the slope that bested us at the start.  

 

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