In 1982 one of Magnetic North’s founders Stephen Burnside spent a year at one of Norway’s folk high schools – a year that was to change everything.



In 1980 I decided to leave school and started working in a bank. One of my close friends had returned from Norway after a year at a Folk High School.  He showed me his photos and told stories of adventure, fun and excitement. My friend’s experiences had made a huge impression on him so   I decided to apply for a year at a Folk High School in a mountain town called Voss. It was a decision that changed everything and undoubtedly gave me the best year of my life.

My time in Norway gave me the chance to discover more about myself through an incredible curriculum without the pressure of exams. It was daunting at first, but I quickly found my place in the school. I learnt about the Norwegian philosophy of friluftsliv which gave us many days and weeks outdoors in the wilderness. I learnt to ski - not just downhill but exploring mountain terrain. I sailed ancient Norse boats and fished for my supper. We hiked, we sang and grew deep friendships that continue to this day. I found wonderment in the world and freedom to be creative and to be myself. I experienced the simple but powerful feeling of taking care of each other whilst outdoors in nature often around a campfire.

We were guided through these moments, rather than taught. This was a revelation to me! It opened me to being tolerant, seeing things from other perspectives and gave me an energy to do and act for myself and others. This approach has stayed with me since. It strengthened my family relationships and gave me the ability to explore different views of the world.

After my year in Voss, I was ready and motivated for university. I chose Scandinavian Studies and spent more time in Norway. My approach to employment the second time round was entirely different.  I since developed a successful career in business services and finance going on to run businesses across Europe and in North America.

I later invested in Magnetic North Travel to create holidays and experiences based on my time at Folk High School. My personal development during my Nordic experiences has helped me hugely in my working life; my resilience, creativity, tolerance and curiosity were developed during this time and remain with me today.

More recently two of my children also spent a year at Folk High Schools in Norway. I’ve seen them both change and develop as young adults.
I’ve noticed that they’ve begun to value life experiences over material possessions. Their time in Norway has become part of them just as mine did back in 1982.


We’d like to give young people the chance to experience a short insight into Nordic outdoor learning and the friluftsliv approach through our Elements programme. As a leading tour operator for Scandinavia, and with our minds as well as our hearts focussed on outdoor learning experiences, we’re looking forward to sharing our passion for Norway with you.



Stephen is a seasoned business executive, his career includes roles as President of Experian’s Decision Analytics business in North America and Executive Head of the Scandinavian bank Ikano in the UK, Germany and Poland. Stephen was educated in both the UK and Norway, he met his wife whilst running a ‘friluftsliv’ expedition 30 years ago and is one of the founders of Magnetic North Travel. He supports the management team developing outdoor learning programs, he speaks Norwegian and maintains strong relationships with our local resources.

Norway is calling
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The team at Elements are on hand to deliver your program in Norway. We’re with you every step of the journey to design and execute the perfect itinerary for your group.

Call: 0845 5195 242

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