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She traveled around the world working as a nurse

She traveled around the world working as a nurse

– CI never dreamed of having my own children or starting a family. But I have a strong desire to help others, of all ages, says Elise Solem Higraaf.

She grew up in a childhood home where they read National Geographic magazine and became interested in the wildlife of other continents early on. Elise read a lot and learned about foreign countries and cultures. She was already fascinated as a child.

– When I grow up, I want to see the worldsaid little Elise.

And so it became.

-I hope he was not alone when he received the message


Selected studies abroad

Previously, Elise's entire family lived on Svalbard; Grandparents, mom, dad and five brothers. Elise is the big sister of them all, and she had to learn how to be tough. Although her parents are separated, Elise has a close-knit extended family that means a lot to her.

-When I was 15, I moved to the mainland to go to high school in Tromsø. My mother and three of my siblings moved with me,” says Elise, who chose science.

– I took my second year in England. This was the first time I had to travel far from home alone. But it wasn't as scary as I thought, and I grew a lot that year, Elise says over the phone.

After high school, it was possible for her to study to some extent. I applied and entered the engineering course. But she admits that she made a half-hearted effort during her short period of study. Then Elise received a letter from her former Norwegian teacher, who knew how adventurous Elise was. The teacher informed Elise that the Sonans Private School, among others, had a school in the Dominican Republic.

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Svalbard: - At home in Longyearbyen for the christening of my first daughter, October 23, Photo: Private

Svalbard: – At home in Longyearbyen for the christening of my first daughter, October 23, Photo: Private
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“I felt a rush of adrenaline, and it was in the blink of an eye for me,” says Elise, who applied and got in.

– I took sociology, chemistry and gym subjects. Fortunately, I lived with three other girls from Norway. I was only 19, and sometimes I felt very young and far from home.

Elise learned that the Dominican Republic is not just kilometer-long sandy beaches, colorful culture, beautiful nature and lots of sunshine. She says it was difficult to throw poverty in the face.

-I learned a lot about myself during my stay, and it wasn't just about calling home and asking for help. Here I had to make independent decisions and stand on my own two feet, says Elise.

Cuba: Fingales, Cuba-23, a bike tour through the northern part of the island.  Image: private

Cuba: Fingales, Cuba-23, a bike tour through the northern part of the island. Photo: private
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Rich in experiences

Elise had learned Spanish in high school, but discovered how much she had forgotten when she came to the Dominican Republic. She was able to hone her language, and chose to work as a volunteer in the slums. There they provided activities outside of school, so that the children did not have to go home and work.

– The children I was with were between five and ten years old. We taught them English, among other things, and how to swim, something many had not been able to do before,” says Elise.

– When I returned home four months later, I knew I wanted to work with people.

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Elise also suffered from Zika fever, and then became very homesick. Three weeks later, she was on the road to recovery and was able to return to her home in Tromsø. She was not permanently harmed by the disease.

At home another shock was waiting; The younger brother, who was eight years old, developed cancer. Elise worked in Norway during the time her little brother was undergoing treatment, and when he was declared healthy ten months later, Elise once again allowed her sense of adventure to guide her.

Since then, she has traveled extensively, both alone and with others. She loves active travel, where she can use her body while experiencing new countries and cultures, and she can follow her dream of exploring the world.

Among other things, Elise took the Trans-Siberian Railway in January with a friend, and it was very cold. They boarded a train in Moscow and traveled across Russia a long way for three weeks. Every morning the girls jump off the train to experience a new city.

– Then we camped in the jungles of Mongolia for a week, before we went to China. In Beijing, we experienced Chinese New Year, before going for a month in the mountains of central China, Elise says, and they continued traveling through Asia.

-We were gone for about five months, used savings from previous jobs, and had the most magical moments.

Slovenia: Lake Bled, Slovenia - Summer 23, a trip through the Balkans.  Photo: private

Slovenia: Lake Bled, Slovenia – Summer 23, a trip through the Balkans. Photo: private
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Norway: Trauma Centre, St. Olav 2023 Photo: Exclusive

Norway: Trauma Centre, St. Olav 2023 Photo: Exclusive
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“I love you” were the last words Christine heard her husband say


Combining education and travel

– My parents kept insisting that I should get an education and do something “proper.” “For four years, I worked periodically in the health care system, and it was very natural for me to choose nursing,” says Elise.

She moved to Trondheim, and admitted she had a slight ulterior motive for studying there. There were few compulsory lectures, and most were prepared for self-study.

– Every time I had the opportunity, I would pack my bag and go explore a new city.

Elise didn't think it was scary to travel alone. She stayed in hostels in Barcelona and Tallinn, among other places, and quickly made new friends. She also lived in a tent in Africa with her family, and recalls a number of memorable moments.

Elise had boyfriends, but she found that men wanted an A4 life with kids and townhouses. These are the same dreams that childhood friends had as well. Miles away from Elise's dreams, she thinks it's good to be free to do what she wants. Elise expects everyone to follow a pattern. But she wants to design and shape her own path. This includes kayaking in the distant sky.

– I'm not saying that I would never live in Norway with a partner, but that's not in my plans, says Elise and laughs.

– If it happens, it happens. I'm living in the moment and enjoying everything I have the opportunity to experience now. I'm already halfway to my goal of visiting 100 countries.

Svalbard: Barentsburg, Svalbard, 2022 Photo: Private

Svalbard: Barentsburg, Svalbard, 2022 Photo: Private
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He gave A-4's life a chance

Elise graduated as a nurse while the coronavirus was sweeping through. The border with Svalbard is closed, just like all others. Elise felt trapped. There were busy days at the hospital, and I got a job in the emergency department at St. Olaf Hospital. It was tough for beginners, and she says the learning curve was steep.

– For the first time I thought about settling down. “I had a steady job, I had saved enough to buy an apartment, and I was all set for a quieter life,” Elise says.

– But what happened when society and the country reopened after the pandemic? The first thing I did was backpack Italy with a colleague. I felt like backpacking was what I wanted in my life. The seed of abandoning A4's life was planted, and it sprouted more and more.

Elise has biked in Cuba, traveled in the Balkans, and says she has lost heart in Central America.

“I had a permanent manager at the hospital, and he allowed me to work intensively for periods, so that I had long enough free periods to be able to continue traveling,” says Elise.

– But I realized that this would not last, and I left my job. It was strange to leave a safe, interesting and rewarding job with good colleagues in the emergency department without knowing where I would be working for the next few years. But I had an inner drive that made it necessary.

Skopje, North Macedonia - Summer 23, trip through the Balkans.  Photo: private

Skopje, North Macedonia – Summer 23, trip through the Balkans. Photo: private
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Freelance work as a nurse

Elise now lives and works on Tryna Island, which she says reminds me a bit of her childhood on Svalbard. She decided to work as a freelance nurse for two years, to save money to travel more in South and Central America.

– When my temporary work here ends, in November, I plan to live in Tanzania for one month. Once I get there, I'm thinking about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Elise says with excitement in her voice.

-I also want to study tropical medicine in Africa, and I want to complete my studies as an international nurse in England.

Elise explains that an international nurse is not a pastoral title, but it can be achieved by taking the NCLEX along with an English proficiency test. She has already finished her English exam and does not ignore the fact that there will be freelance work abroad when she gets a permit to work as a nurse in other countries. She doesn't hide the adrenaline rush that traveling and being active gives her.

“I love patients and I love to travel, and I believe I can create a meaningful life by doing both,” says Elise, who does not miss the guarantee of permanent employment and housing.

Africa: Kenya 2019. Photo: Private

Africa: Kenya 2019. Photo: Private
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She wants to surf, because she loves everything related to the sea. She wants to live in the jungle and wants to walk among volcanoes. She wants to experience everything that is possible in other countries. Elise thinks it would be nice to find a friend who wants to live this way, and she's not looking for him. If he shows up, that's nice, but Elise doesn't need a partner to live the life she wants.

My parents were used to my sense of adventure. Not all places have equally good internet connections, so I said if they don't hear anything, it's OK, says Elise.

-And I can promise them that I will always come home for Christmas. Celebrating Christmas with family is a tradition that means a lot to me, and I don't want to miss it.

Elise's family approved the article.