‘You’ll have to train for the walk!’

you don’t say…

Walk walk walk, lift weights, shop, shop shop.

This basically sums up my months from January to August 2017.
training for my first ever distance trek, the FJÄLLRÄVEN CLASSIC in swedish lapland.


the only impossible journey is the one you don't begin

the only impossible journey is the one you don’t begin

So in January it became apparent that the excited ‘me toooooo’ moment at the Christmas Market a few weeks earlier had lead to being booked to go.

 

 

 

 

I think the right thing to have done would have been to read a little bit on how to prepare for a big walk.

Yes, that might have been a good idea.

Instead, I just got up and walked.

I had no daily or goals, really, just get the boots on and go outside.

1 – Staycation in winter wonderland

I did give myself a first good kickstart by booking myself into a staycation for a week in Luxembourg’s beautiful north. The initial idea for my time off work had been to fly out to see a man I thought I’d fallen for in the middle east, but that didn’t happen (and is a whole other story), so I was left with holidays in January and not a lot of drive to go far. Yes, a week in my dream home, a beautifully done up gate house in the quiet countryside available on airbnb, would see me just right.
I packed nothing but my walking gear, my study books for a training I was on, and my computer to write. Oh and wine and food, of course.

I left with the intention to slow down and be focussed by not bringing anything more that could distract me.

The universe must have approved of my decision as I was given fresh snow (it doesn’t snow that much in Luxembourg) and sunny days.

Perfect perfect weather to walk, and that is what I did. I did a walk a day, this was before my tracking days, so I don’t know how far I’d walk but I was out about 3 hours every day, and I loved it. I returned to my log fire, my home-cooked meals, and my books.

I got a visitor midweek, and my besties joined me for the weekend. A lot of being alone really calls for company, and so ‘more togetherness’ is an intention I took out of this week in the beautiful north, too.

This intention also proved to stay true during my big walk… there is so much to be said for growing into and beyond one’s own challenges, I will always encourage anyone to travel and be alone from time to time; I source from time with my good self, I have done that a lot in my days and always will.

Walk with me

Walk with me

My new challenge to grow into, which is my big wish, is to be with others now, travel with others, take decisions together, commit to being together, even for a weekend, a dinner, a walk… so my friends coming to see me, to join me, meant a lot to me. And this is when I decided to ask people to walk with me.  So when people wanted to know what to ‘give me’ for my 40th birthday, which still hasn’t had a party, I would tell them:

‘walk with me,
that would be the perfect gift’.

 

2 – Keep walking

And from there on I basically continued to… walk.

I dug out trail maps for my home country Luxembourg, the classic paths are called ‘autopédestres’ and are generally marked with a blue and white arrow and the number 1 (or 2, but I still haven’t figured out the difference).
I found out there are many more marked paths through the countryside, often along similar tracks with different signposts, often coming together in clusters when paths fork. It occurred to me that, instead of having a way too big collection of pamphlets and booklets, one could develop a trailmap app, one that brings them all together, gives you all the information per path to make it easier to choose which to walk and also tells you where you are while you’re walking… yes, one could also track oneself, save walks to look back on, make notes, add photos… if a reader here knows how to make my brilliant idea happen, let’s work on it. If you work on it without me and get really rich: look out for karma!

Discovering my Luxembourg again was a very big part of my Big Walk.
See, in other stories, I have always been on a search for where to settle. I live in Luxembourg, always have apart from when I studied in Paris and all my months travelling, which by now would sum up to a few years for sure. I’ve never quite felt like I fit in here, which is rather annoying because not feeling ‘home’ can rob one of that sourcing sense of tranquility.
That said, the mischievous little travel bug in me loves that the search is not over!
And yes, I have worked a lot on it and taken it to many coaching rounds, I have found some vey helpful truths for myself. I feel the depth in the claims that ‘home is where the heart is‘ and ‘home is not a place, it is a feeling‘ – which is why I feel at home in so many different places, including Luxembourg.
Just the feeling is never really complete.

Walking my countryside brought me closer to home.

There is something about being a visitor that has us meet a place with curiosity for the new instead of boredom of familiarity.

Luxembourg countryside truly is fresh and stunning!

As a firm believer in things always happen for a reason, often for more reasons than we can imagine or ever will know, and as I write this today, I feel calmer living here, calling Luxembourg my home base to travel from. Maybe, and again this is only right now in this moment, this is home for me.

Geographic home. My heart and me will keep travelling some more.

There is also something about the ritual of walking that has a grounding effect – ‘they’ve’ been saying it all along, ‘people’ and inspirational facebook posts… now I get it, too.

The getting up, putting on and tying the boots, the stepping outside and being outside.

Having the Big Walk on the horizon took away the questions of ‘should I really?‘ and ‘it’s too cold, too rainy, too dark‘ and ‘I’ll just stay on the couch, just this one time, I deserve to be lazy.‘… I also have to admit to agreeing with what they all say:

Having a goal is a driver!

And so I got up, and I walked. I walked before going to work when I was on late shifts, I walked after work when I was on earlies, I walked longer trails on off days, I took my boots on my holidays and I walked. I’d have my boots and rain jacket in the car, just incase, and incase was often! I walked to the point that I now miss fresh air and nature on days that keep me inside.

I’ll make a little disclaimer for fact lovers here: I usually walked between 5 and 10km about three times a week; this was not huge, but it was a big transformation in my daily life.

And this is good stuff.
This is precisely the outdoorsy kind of woman I thought I was and want to be, the one who gets up and goes.

 

3 – They walked with me

They did, they walked with me. Many of my friends took me up on my request for togetherness and showed up for walks!

4 – Lifting weight

I signed up for the gym right after my birthday in March. For 12 years I’d been driving past this gym, now I finally went in and it was a good thing I did. I enjoy being coached, I love having someone help me evaluate my own capabilities and guide me towards what to do.

This is what mental coaches do, we hold up mirrors for people to see how amazingly brilliant they really are, and how grand the opportunities are that they have. And then we turn the lights on to highlight more of their, maybe more hidden or forgotten, qualities and skills. And we champion our clients into stepping a bit closer to the mirror, to see for themselves what all they can do and most of all:
we cheerlead them to action!

I love doing this, I love it being done to me.

Physical coaching is just that, right?

An expert will evaluate you and set up a training plan, and get you going. Their true value comes in when I feel I might be getting a bit tired and would stop if I were alone, but they know and will say so, that I can do a little more.
The best thing about trainers is also when they tell us to stop! There is some weird connection issue in humans that once we do get going and start tasting at our potential, or muscles, we can forget our limits and we’ll just keep going… and every good coach, mental and physical, knows the importance and gold in rest time to balance the action.
My trainer Anna made some tests with me on my first appointment, and gave me the encouraging news that the machines had told her that my body was in good balance, muscle to fat to water to size ratio (I’m sure it is more intricate than that), and also, apparently my body age was 31 years, as opposed to its actual age of now 40. I’d never really been all that keen on seeing myself a different age than mine, but this little snippet did do me good. Maybe I had been treating my body right in the past years?

We set up a training plan to build up my strength mainly in my back, arms and legs, she knew what I was going in for. And every few weeks we made adjustments.

The weight training was great, it gave me immediate satisfaction, and: my arms looked nicely toned this summer.

5 – Adding weight to the walks

As I said, I hadn’t really read or researched a lot, but someone somewhere had said ‘walk with your backpack’. So once I had my backpack, I put a 5 litre bottle of water and some other random stuff in it and took it along on my little walks.

A good backpack will be your buddy on your travels,
‘the backpack always has your back’, I like to say.

First date with my backpack

First date with my backpack

So me and my pack started building our relationship one warm summer evening in my home town – and I carried a little beer with me for a celebratory drink en-route.

After that, I took it out three times properly, on big long hikes with about 14 kg in it – 2 kg more than the recommended weight for women (which we now know I totally didn’t respect by hauling 18kg around 110km of Swedish Lapland).

Generally, walking with the pack went surprisingly well, I found. The man in the shop must have been right when he’s said ‘this is the right one for you’. This gave me confidence that I might make the actual trek; the fact that the pack carried well AND the fact that I had trained in rather steep hilly areas that apparently the Kungsleden weren’t going to be like (this proved true, the Kungsleden had its challenges, such as the omnipresent boulders and cold weather, but luckily there were very few steep climbs and descents).

6- sleep outdoors

‘Test camp’, they’d said… ‘They’ being the consolidated voices of knowledge that talked at me from people who had done this before, and people who had never done this before, and the few blogs I did manage to read…

The most tricky part in test camping was the part I find trickiest in life at all:

Finding someone to do it with.

My supportive network was all in, again and always, only, just like for the walk itself, there were so many reasons that got in our way: ‘I’d come, but I have plans’, ‘I’d come, if I’d known sooner’, or ‘I’d come, if it weren’t for the sleeping in a tent’, ‘I’d come, if it weren’t for pooping in nature’, ‘I know someone who might be up for it’, or, best ever, ‘I’d come, if it weren’t for all the walking’. I even got a proposal to ‘inaugurate my tent’ with a sexy suggestive eye-wink, but even that proposal wasn’t followed through. Just as well, I guess, it wasn’t my tent, so it would have been a tad inappropriate.

Enter: Christine! Ahhh, a friend in need is a friend indeed, my friend Christine whom I hadn’t seen in ages didn’t accept my invite, she suggested it!
And not only did she suggest camping out with a walk either side of tenting, she went out and found the ideal trail and camp site, bought herself a tent and brought along her cheerful niece and two dogs.

What I liked most about Christine’s appearance was that she didn’t see herself as a guest to my training, she saw our weekend as our shared adventure in its own rights. She brought an energy that I had been missing preparing things by myself until then: text messages with links to places and suggestions, phone calls to talk about what we’d do and how, choices and decisions made together and that fabulous excitement when it is shared, laughing about things before they happened, and, one of my favourite things to do on trips: giving the adventure a name…

“Three chicas and two dogs in the wild”

The test camp had no surprises except that I didn’t feel entirely broken at the end of the day, carrying 14kg up and down 19km of trails in Luxembourg’s beautiful north. Oh I did feel broken, and exhausted, but not to the point of shock and disgust or ‘never again’. Also, I did wonder how I would do the same effort the very next day… for five consecutive days. I found that out on my actual Big Walk, because the second day of the chicas adventure we treated ourselves to an light little 7km stroll on a rather flat and idyllic path.

Sunday strolls and fun in Luxembourg's North

Sunday strolls and fun in Luxembourg’s North

Much later, i.e. the day of departure to MyBigWalk, I was told that ‘they’ (the same general knowledgeable faceless ‘they’) recommend you walk 200km with the weight you intend on taking on your distance hike AS TRAINING. I am very happy I hadn’t heard this before it was too late to do anything about it, because I am not entirely sure I would have followed through with the FjällRävenClassic had I lugged my 14kg pack (or the 18kg that I actually carried through Swedish Lapland) for 200km before time.

The carrying of the weight was to me the most unattractive and cumbersome part of MyBigWalk, to the point that it may be the dealbreaker to ever do something like it again. And I am glad I didn’t know this ahead of time, because I am actually so very chuffed and proud that I DID IT!

7 – Shop Shop Shop

I can confidently say this trek was the most expensive holiday I’ve ever been on. A few weeks before the start someone posted this fitting statement in the Fjällräven Classic facebook group:

‘Hiking: spending a lot of money to live like a homeless’

It is all in the gear. It needs to be really lightweight, because you’ll be carrying it. And it needs to be really efficient, because you’ll be out in the elements and you must be able to rely on what you have with you.

fun in the outdoor shop

fun in the outdoor shop

So the tent needs to be sturdy and waterproof AND lightweight (the one Sander lent me weighed 1.8kg, the lightest these days are around 500gr) – the yellow North Face one I fell in love with (I liked that it was yellow and that two sides can open for a view) was 3.8kg, and it cost less than 200€ – but those are two kilos I would not have wanted to add for a pretty colour. Also, apparently, some experts have told me, North Face is more of a ‘fashion’ brand and they don’t do so great in extreme climates of the sorts that I was going into. My Vaude tent was brilliant, as we know, it stayed on the ground and whole in high winds, it didn’t tear, it kept me dry, and it was light.

I won’t go into the detail of my gear in this post, just pointing out that ‘the gear matters!’ and I spent a lot of time gathering it.

The better and lighter the gear, the higher the invest. It’s that simple.

I kept telling myself that it’ll all pay off as I will love this trek and once I have all the gear, I can set off to anywhere whenever I want – and from then on, all is peachy as camping (gear aside) is a cheap holiday!

And I kept telling myself this because I love the shopping for outdoor gear! I’m not your typical fashionista, I get bored of traipsing through shops which is why I have some very trusted fashion advisors who do love this and tell me what to buy when it comes to city clothes.

Outdoor gear however, I love! I could, and do, spend hours, and euros, in outdoor shops. It is something about combining ‘comfortable and efficient’.

And this was the best shopping spree I’ve ever taken myself on, Happy Birthday Me! Having signed up for a crazy hike into the wild, I not only had an excuse for but I needed the good stuff! And so I found myself befriending the sales people at Freelander‘s Adventure store, following them around the shop, taking on their advice, filling my shopping basket and emptying my account… I went there about once a month, because like for everything, you can’t do it all at once. And you have to start somewhere, I started with the boots.

‘Get good boots and walk them in’ is the golden rule.

The sales guys had done the Fjällräven Classic before, I trusted they knew what they were talking about. I also asked for and got advice from whomever adventurers I met, mainly Luc and Sander. As I said, I am no expert and I have little patience in researching and evaluating gear.

Also I have come to realise that I have trust issues, in that I do. I trust.

So my strategy is to find the people who do what I want help in, whose basic values and outlooks align with mine and whom I trust, and then I take their advice.

The stuff story will be a separate blog, watch this space!

8 – Finally, some literature, D-14 days

Mid July, someone posted an information into the FjällRäven Classic facebook group that a new book on the Kungsleden had just been published and whoever made the post recommended the read. I ordered it, and devoured it as soon as it came. It has information on the entire trail, which is some 400km long, and it gave me comfort: what the authors said about the difficulty of the trail, the required fitness levels and the equipment to take told me that I might just be on good track with what I done and purchased so far. It is a good read if you’re thinking of taking this walk.

The FjällRäven Classic facebook group was also a relatively useful group to be part of. Well, for one, up until a few weeks before the walk all it gave was people cancelling out and looking to sell their tickets. For one it had me wonder if I was going to be hiking it on my own seeing all the cancellations. For two it told me that if ever I thought I’d do this again, I’d be sure to get tickets last minute even though the official sales sell out within weeks of going on sale. The last two weeks before the departure was all about people asking for advice and opinions on travel and gear mainly, and people posting their gear with a mention of how many KG they were going to total. It seemed to me that only people who were very good and efficient posted their gear, proudly ready with 10kg on their back. Endearingly, there were also people who were getting ready with their dogs, carrying 2kg on their back…

What the group gave me most was make the trek real for me; this was not just an illusion I was preparing for, others were prepping just like me, and there were people asking the very questions I had (do I need a flashlight? NO – because it hardly gets dark. And I took one anyway.), and there were people who had answers for all the questions. It was good to know that I would be seeing these strangers en-route.

My bottom line on the training side of MyBigWalk is that

A – I could have done, read, walked, trained way more than I did, and
B – I trained just fine

One can always do more, and I did more than my usual, I got a lot of lasting benefits and new practices from it – and I got myself through Swedish Lapland safely and within my self-set time. I even suspect that I may have been put off doing the BigWalk had I done much more ahead of time.

All just right.


 

My 4 favourite trails on the home turf:

Nat’our2

Traumschleife Saar-Hunsrück Mannebach111

Traumschleife Saar-Hunsrück Ahn, Moselle

Traumschleife Saar-Hunsrück Manternach Fiels 

Applause Day 5 – the hardest part

km92 – km 110


The last day! It was supposed to be a breezy straight-in approach, it turned out to be the hardest part of all… I Kept following the carrot of the bed and shower in the hostel in abisko, i was fuelled by getting back online and touching base with my people, and i was fuelled by that will-to-finish… only the body was now tired. This was the hardest part, and THE SONG I KEPT HUMMING WAS THE COLDPLAY ONE – the song refers to letting go, which, on some levels, I was, too… but that is another story. The video I now remembered when watching it, is about ‘just doing it’.


Good morning world!

Hello World, I'm coming home!

Hello World, today is the day I’m coming home!

 

I’d been wanting to take a photo like this from inside my tent ever since signing up for my Big Walk – it had been too cold and wet on the previous evenings and mornings for me to even have that romantic picture-taking thought, but not today, today was a good day! So I opened it all up wide and snuggled back down in my warm sleeping bag, took the photo… and took in the moment for a moment.
I started saying goodbye to my Big Walk. And hello to the lightness of knowing I’d be sleeping in a bed that night, that I wouldn’t have to pitch my tent… and ohh, I’d have a shower. Yes, I’d have a shower in the privacy of my own space. I keep repeating this, but one really does remember what it is one is grateful for when one takes oneself away from things for a while.

The Kieron festival-like campsite was a Fjällräven Classic only site, put up for the event alone – so no mountain station, just the checkpoint and loo-tents and so: there was no coffee to be bought. And that was ok, because for one I didn’t need to warm or dry up after taking down my tent, and for two, my excitement didn’t replace my coffee, but it made its urgency less urgent.

I was going home today! 

Well, I was going to Abisko, where I’d cross the Finish Line of this here crazy adventure I’d slipped into. Today I was going to arrive where I’d been walking to since Day 1.

In leadership training we would always be told on the last day of our bootcamp retreats to ‘focus on still being here‘; they brought to our attention that it is easy to fast-forward to leaving a few hours later, to packing the bags, to thinking about making flights and arranging dinners, to getting back into our daily ruts and whatnot all would happen after leaving and: that is was not yet over, the last day deserved being a full day in its own rights, with our full attention.

I remembered my leadership trainer Elaine’s loving and strong voice saying this loudly as I set off, with only one thing in mind: arriving!

And maybe because I was so eager to get it over with, my body decided to ‘keep me in the moment’.

I set off from Kieron at 9 am, and I’d barely walked one kilometre when I got a headache. I don’t get many headaches anymore, but I did now. It was a migraine-like headache, and I felt nauseous. And it made me stop and take my backpack off. I stopped and took my backpack off more during the first 5 kilometres on Day 5 than during the entire previous 92kms. This had the foreboding of a long day.

All I could think of now was ‘thank god this didn’t happen any other day’ – one really is weaker when the body leaves the team.
I’d eaten and I’d slept, I reckoned this was my body just saying ‘enough already‘.

See, this really was a big deal for me. We all have our own limits to stretch; for some doing this hike is an absolute no-no, for others it was a walk in the park. For me it was a definite, mainly physical, stretch. I’d trained, but probably not as much as I should have… and with the headache I realised just how lucky I had been, how very cooperative my body had been to get me this far. I’d been tired and exhausted, but not sick or injured.
Very very lucky indeed, I said a little prayer of gratitude to the gods of the universe.

still and quiet onwards to Abisko

still and quiet onwards to Abisko

So the weather was rather nice, the day started in the sun, and it was warm enough to go without the rain jacket and my thermal hat under my cap. The path was easy, downhill or level, and basically we walked past a lake all day – I even think I remember less boulders on the trail.

And as I said, I felt really bad. Walking was like in those dreams where you walk and walk and walk and get nowhere.

I kept stopping, and at first I kept being overtaken by the same group of three jovial British men, they reminded me of the seven dwarfs singing ‘hei ho hei ho it’s home from work we go…’ because I could always here them approach me from behind, or hear them leave ahead of me. They were trek angels for sure, every time they passed we had a little laugh. Obviously, if they kept passing me, I also kept passing them. I wasn’t the only slow one that morning.

I wanted to have lunch at a clearing, my headache checklist is ‘Have you eaten enough? Drunk enough? Had enough sleep?’ (if they don’t work I dig deeper into stress and emotional levels).
Only just after setting up my stove, it fell over and my water spilled… so… I packed everything up again and walked on in search of water. For four days it was easy to find water, it just trickled down the mountains, on day 5, when I walked past the lake, the water I could get to was too moorish and shallow, and as per the instructions ‘not drinking water’ – only drink from running streams. It was, again, like in one of those films and stories, water everywhere but not reachable.

Lunch by the lake - surrounded by incense sticks, like a little Buddha

Lunch by the lake – surrounded by incense sticks, like a little Buddha

I finally stopped lakeside, filled up, and cooked my last meal-in-a-bag. I also stuck incense sticks in the ground around me, I sat there like a Buddha – it must have been a sight, and smell… but I didn’t get bitten once, not even on that fly-heavy day 5, and I did not have to use the beekeeper-like headnet, which I think looks dafter than some incense sticks.

Day 5 had major ups, apart from arriving, it was also a bit like the round of applause part at the end of a play.

It brought out so many of the characters I’d met along my walk.
Emily-sunshine and Luca hopped by with a big energetic smile. I saw my campfire neighbours trio of men. I walked by Edith and Sue and David, and I confided in them how weakly I felt when Sue said ‘I don’t want to sound like your mother, but are you eating and drinking enough?‘ – I loved her for that.

My lowest low of the day was somewhere after lunch and before km100; I felt too weak to continue, so I just lay down flat on my back on the side of the path and took a few breaths. Savasana, dead man’s pose, is one of the hardest poses in yoga because we are so unable to be still – I was very very able to be still.
I don’t know how long I lay there, when I came out of it I remembered my buddy Antje’s gift to me before I left: a bar of (organic raw, she knows what I like) chocolate ‘to have at the right moment’, that would be now.
And, serendipity-magic oblige once again, it’s wrapping came with an insightful message.

Ich danke meinen Engeln und Begleitern - I am grateful for my angels and companions

Ich danke meinen Engeln und Begleitern – I am grateful for my angels and companions

“I thank my angels and companions” – oh yes!

Trek Angels

Trek Angels was a term brought to me by Claude while we had beers after arriving later that day. She was another Luxembourgish lady whom I happened to be sitting next to on our flight from Stockholm to Kiruna, serendipity or coïncidence, whatever one wants to believe, as they had taken another flight from Luxembourg that morning. She and her husband were doing the FjällrävenClassic for the second time, of course they knew Luc, we all met on the flight and then parted ways. They started a group ahead of us, and I met them again on Applause Day 5 a few kilometres before the arrival; they rushed past me (after giving me a bit of candied ginger to help me forward) to try to get a room at the hostel as they were finishing a days earlier than they’d planned because of the cold. Later, over beers at the Trekkers Inn after arriving, and we shared initial impressions, she told me about a book she’d read and how the author had called them ‘trek angels’.

My take is that trek angels are the momentary encounters who appear on our path at just the right time with a right message or sentiment. Often trek angels don’t know, and may never know, that they are trek angels to us.

Andras, whom I’ve since met, was a trek angel to me when he was a stranger to me, just by looking so happy and trustworthy taking a photo of his tent on that first night when I was feeling a bit lost and lonely and cold after having fallen into the river. The Danish men whose voices I heard from my tent that first night made me feel cozy and in company, I never saw their faces but they were my trek angels. The guide of the Taiwanese group who told me fiercely to eat at Sälka was a trek angel. As was the man whose lunch I got to hold on the pass. And the ladies in the loo line at Tjäkta who made me laugh out loud for the first time on the trail and confirmed that I wasn’t the only one wondering what the hell she was doing here.
So many trek angels, everywhere, all the time, the men who lit a fire next to my camp site on Day 4, the jovial Brits, Emily-sunshineeveryone who said ‘hej hej’ to me…

OH YES, there were trek angels everywhere on my Big Walk and they did me good. And yes, I am grateful to them for showing up on my path. As I am for all the seemingly inconspicuous, yet meaningful encounters (read one of my favourite posts I wrote on this thinking ‘Meandering about in Wonderland‘) I keep making in life.

And here’s to my injured travel buddy who couldn’t make the walk but showed up for me now, in a moment of physical weakness on my last day of what was to be our journey and her following her dream; she showed up as my trek angel in the little, sweet, perfect  chocolate she gave me.

And as I returned to the path, I met another very important character: a young man from Hungary whose name I never got. He was wearing sweatpants and a heavy metal t-shirt, I’d noticed him on Day 1, his gear stood out (remember US with the cool Fjällräven G1000 pants). He suddenly appeared and he walked the same speed as I did. He didn’t wait for me, he didn’t chase me, we just seemed to walk the same speed. And we chatted, not much, but some, and it turned out he actually walks a lot and has even done some crazier hikes than this one. Also, he’d come all the way here by car – after arriving, he was going to ‘drive to the end of Europe’. I liked that, I like people with a name and intention for their journey.

Our encounter was light, and organic, I felt neither pressured by nor bored of him, and suddenly I noticed my headache was getting lighter.

Also, at some point he looked at me and politely said ‘I think your backpack might not be strapped correctly‘… it took me about a kilometre to react to what he said and went ‘hold up, pardon me? What doesn’t look right?‘ – he tweaked the straps a bit and… OMG, weight lifted off my back and shoulders!
Now, I am holding on to the belief that I had not been walking 100km with a badly strapped backpack, I am holding on to the belief that weight and bulk had shifted and was different today as I was wearing less of my bad weather gear than the previous day. I need to hold on to that belief because: HOLY SHIT, if it was strapped wrong all the time what a difference I could have made by simply adjusting it!!! How rookie could one be?

And we kept walking, ever so slowly. My watch that vibrated every kilometre took ages to vibrate, but it did. Kilometre by kilometre.

My company made me stop at this vista point – me still eager to just arrive would have missed it, but this grand view was basically at the beginning of my final approach and it deserved a moment.

So good to feel good - and so nice to have someone take my photo (not-a-selfie)

So good to feel good – and so nice to have someone take my photo (not-a-selfie)

The people I walked alongside on the final kilometres were my Hungarian buddy and an English man who was carrying two backpacks (later that evening the organisers gave him an extra shout and a gift at the Trekkers Inn party tent): he was carrying the pack of a girl who’d injured her knee the previous day. She and a friend were also among my final approach crew – just saying, the girl who was limping in pain was pretty much walking the same speed as I was: hats off to her!

I walked up a little hill at the top of which I saw the hostel, the blue Fjällräven Checkpoint tent and also a big Fjällräven signpost over the path. On the left of the hill there was bunting displaying many country flags. There was some background noise of voices, maybe music…

I did see some people, but not really. It all seemed so quiet, almost closed-down. It didn’t seem right – everybody on the trail had said

‘The finish line will be amazing, the energy will blow your mind!’

I must have missed it, OMG maybe I’m still not there!

The last time I knew we were all together, me and my companions from my last kilometres, was at the gate to the Kungsleden, Sweden’s Royal Trail, and meters away from the finish line. I have no idea where they went or what made them hold back, but I walked to and through the finish line alone – and I am very grateful for having been given that privilege.

I did this trek with many people back home and in my world holding my space and having my back,
I did this in the momentary company of fellow hikers,
and I also did this on my own.
It was good to finish on my own.

I walked towards the empty and eerily quiet Finish Line of the Fjällräven Classic in Abisko at 15.30 on 16 August 2017.

Then I heard one person clap. One person clapped for me.

And this is when I knew I’d done it. And I cried.

She was one of the checkpoint volunteers, she handed me a glass with a pink drink, I hugged her.

Stamping my Wanderpass one final time and receiving the badges and the medal all happened in a blur.

Stamping my Wanderpass one final time and receiving the badges and the medal all happened in a blur.

Everything was such a blur, the pink drink, the stamping of my Wanderpass, the receiving of my two badges and my medal…

I can’t remember receiving a medal since ski school when I was a child… I felt similarly proud.

Only I felt prouder. And so very relieved. And really really exhausted.

DONE 111.1km in 37 hours... and five days.

DONE 111.1km in 37 hours… and five days.

I stopped and saved the activity tracker on my trek bestie, I didn’t really dare stop it, afraid I might press the wrong button and loose all the information. This watch can do way more than I know how to… So I took one last photo of the screen. ONLY NOW, looking at the photo in my blog, am I noticing the round number 111.1 kms and also the 37 hours… 37 is a somewhat meaningful number to me, how hadn’t I noticed these numbers yet?

And like out of nowhere my people from just minutes before reappeared.

I got to clap loudly for my Hungarian headache-reliever and strap-adjuster. And he also accepted to take my finish line photo, I took his. And off into our own lives we disappeared again.

Finished! Fjällräven Classic 2017 finisher, oh the pride!

Finished! Fjällräven Classic 2017 finisher, oh the pride!

Before checking in to my room, I weighed my backpack:

very Cheryl Strayed - 15kg on arrival

very Cheryl Strayed – 15kg on arrival

15kg on arrival – it was very Cheryl Strayed, liver and author of the book WILD that my friend Sandra had given me years before it ever occurred to me to do anything remotely like this. I’d thought of Cheryl Strayed a lot, and, OK, I wasn’t hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and Fjällräven Classic is a very well organised event that made sure I was never entirely alone. Still, I was a woman doing a big hike in the wild alone for the first time – and I was carrying a backpack that was way heavier than they recommend (max 20% of your bodyweight), like she did. She’d called her pack ‘the monster’ and everyone she met on her trail knew her for it. Mine didn’t have a name…

500gr of trash

500gr of trash

They also had us weigh our trash bag (‘leave nothing but footprints’), the heaviest each day would receive a prize – I wasn’t sure how to understand the reward for heavy trash, and mine weighed a measly 500grams, but that evening a 10-year-old girl won the prize for the heaviest trash bag; as of day 1 she picked up all the trash she’d found on the way, making the world a better place. Now, THAT I get! Well done girl! Also, she put things into perspective, here I am at 40 all proud of myself, doing something a 10 year-old did. Actually, doing something a three-year-old did, like I found out later that evening…

As I say, ‘there will always be some doing less and some doing more than us, the only thing that ever counts is how much we are doing on our own scale of things.’

I stumbled past the many many people in the lobby of the hostel, everyone was taking shelter from the cold and the rain, it had started to rain just before I arrived, and everybody was back to staring down at their devices.
I didn’t blame them, I was getting ready myself to send the message I’d been writing in my head for the past five days.

And finally, reconnecting with the home team

A whole other set of words came out than the ones I’d been concocting over the day, and oh the replies where plentiful, instant and overwhelming.

I just sat on my bed, shoes off, gear on, staring at my phone, at the messages that had been sent while I was offline for five days, friends sending messages for me to ‘have when you get back in’, friends telling me that they are thinking of me, every day… oh I am a lucky girl.

The data of MyBigWalk

The data of MyBigWalk

Then my phone rang. There is something about an actual phone call I really appreciated. It was my friend Nick, the man I have named the godfather of my watch for his recommending which one to buy (the best, of course) and for patiently helping me set it up… he plain phoned, like in the good old days. And he joined me on my buzz, let me offload my in-the-moment high and excitement out loud, asked all the right questions, let me talk and talk and talk, and tell whichever random stories that came out – it was such a nice present to give me just then. He also told me which buttons to press to make my phone connect with my watch and show us My Big Walk on the map.

The map of MyBigWalk

The map of MyBigWalk

My starting buddies Luc and Kristof did it in 3 days! something crazy :-)

My starting buddies Luc and Kristof did it in 3 days! something crazy 🙂

 

My phone rang again, and this time it was a facetime call from: MY STARTING BUDDIES! Luc and Kristof, calling in from Stockholm. They’d done the walk in… THREE DAYS! There was me thinking they ‘may just be a couple of kilometres ahead of you’ and ‘I wonder if I’ll bump into them in the sauna’, and ‘NO WAY they’ll finish this in four days!!!’. Well, they did, in three days… they finished among the first 40. WOW! And they were happy to ‘see’ me, they expressed a pride  for me that I still feel when I think back. We never walked together, yet they are linked to my experience, they were there at the start, here they were at the finish – and they’d walked the exact same path at the same time as me – give or take a day. And I was so very happy to tell them all about how I’d done!

aaaand relax… have that beer!

The shower was bliss, and I went to the Trekker’s Inn Teepee outside for a falafel and a beer, and just let myself arrive. I met Claude and her husband Marc again, they bought me another beer. It was nice to see them again and compare notes (like ‘where did you sleep?’), talk about trek angels and how people had been saying this was the coldest the Fjällräven Classic has been in at least four years. They told me a lot of things they knew from their previous experience and how one must buy the Classic ‘hoodie’ that they sell outside.
Also, Marc said, and I think I saw some bemusement in his face when he did, that he had not thought that I’d make it, apparently he would have bet on me being airlifted out… it stung a little bit, but oh my, this comment also made me feel that much more badass! 
It reminds me of one of those inspirational quotes I once read that says

‘Those who say it can’t be done

are usually overtaken by those doing it.’


Riding the pride wave, and with a huge smile that I could not and would not wipe off my face, I retreated to my room, for the best sleep.

I remembered Michèle’s card, which almost didn’t feel as vital now that I was ‘back’ – but it was.

‘Say yes to a new day. The world is yours to explore’

Say yes to a new day. The world is yours to explore.

Say yes to a new day. The world is yours to explore.

She’d added ‘you’re nearly there, keep your head up else you’ll miss the stars. Keep moving, not long now.’

I kept moving, and here I was.

Thank you x

Good Day 4 – alive and coming out to play

km74 – km92


yes! here it is, the hills are now alive, lalllallallalllllllll and enter: the holiday part of this trip – sunshine, company, laughter, lightness. my THE Inverted HANGOVER concept was already proving right, I was feeling proud and, yeah, badass… I love being badass in the chica kinda way. ‘WTF?’ was swinging over to ‘ohhh I think I like it’!. But first: get through the night!


Yes, I was alive. I don’t want to sound morbid, or overdramatic. It’s just that I keep learning that these journeys, all journeys, have ways of presenting us with ‘surprising happenings that make for stories after’, but that can be a little bit worrying, even potentially dangerous, in the moment.

Such as two 20-year old girls from Luxembourg walking back to their youth hostel in Las Vegas to save money late one night, way beyond the strip, cars slowing as they passed, men rolling down their windows and making straightforward offers…
Or that ride on a night bus from Potosi to La Paz in Bolivia
, with my cousin Marianne and lots of indigenous locals, that stopped in the middle of the desert for no apparent reason, with the driver not responding to our requests to explain or to open the door.
I have many stories like that…

The situations are a tad scary in the moment, because ‘these stories could go, and have gone for others that one reads about in newspapers, anywhere’ – they are the ones that one comments on with ‘well that was a silly thing to do in the first place anyway, they could’ve known better‘.

They become stories to tell once safe and looking back on them,
and they make for another chip on the shoulder of experience.

(note: the bus in Bolivia had stopped because we were on a dirt road, there had been floods and the driver of our bus, like the drivers of all the other busses we saw at daybreak, could not see where to cross through the river in the dark. So everyone waited for daylight to continue – of course.)

And here came in a new one of those for me:

I woke up in the middle of the zero-degrees outside night in a tent in the back of beyond in Swedish Lapland with no feeling in either arms or fingers. Total numbness, it was so very disconcerting. And in my sleepiness, my initial troubleshooting didn’t get me any further than ‘OMG this is it‘, this is where this story will end.
Then: ‘maybe it is because you are sleeping on a slant with your head facing down‘ – no blood in the upper body; in the middle of the night, that seemed plausible to me…
I decided to turn around. Only I couldn’t open the zip of my sleeping bag due to my condition of numbness in both hands, so I turned around in my mummy-state, not unlike a breakdance move, twisting on my bum only and not able to lean on my arms for support… The thing is, the tent was tiny, it was rather full with my stuff on either side of me, and to top it off, this was the night I’d had a lightbulb idea to use the silver rescue blanked I’d brought along (oh yes, it was still very cold), so it was creaking and rattling loudly in the process. Yes, picture it. Funny in hindsight, as I say.

I was fine by morning, so the drama in the night stays only a little part of the story, and the numbness only stayed in one finger – which was enough for me to keep walking. I did however enquire with the guys at the checkpoint if they had doctors or nurses around, and they confirmed that they did. This was a relief to me, worst case: I’d see the ones at the next checkpoint in Kieron. The man was actually very kind and kept asking questions even after I’d said I was fine. Maybe he was a nurse or doctor in disguise?

Then came the second best coffee ever – the first having been in Sälka the previous morning, a lifetime ago…

second best coffee ever - and a gear chat with experts. How can an entire camp kitchen weigh as much as my mug alone?

second best coffee ever – and a gear chat with experts. How can an entire camp kitchen weigh as much as my mug alone?

I went about my ritual of having my muesli, packing up, visiting the facilities and treating myself to a coffee at the mountain station before leaving. This time I used my own cup, which I’d bought in celebration for all the good coffees I’d be having on my big walk (I was carrying 4 bags of proper good filter coffee for camping, 20gr each, just add water – none of them were used on the trail). And I got me a cinnamon roll – it’s the law in Scandinavia, and if they have them out here in the back of beyond, who am I to not buy one?

I sat down at a table with two Swedish men and we got chatting. We talked about gear. And pack weight. These kind gentlemen turned out to be übergeeks in my own vocabulary. This was not their first rodeo, or trek, so to say, and over time they had been acquiring more efficient and lightweight gear and they were now down to 10kg each, before food and water. One of them lifted my mug and said ‘this weighs as much as my entire kitchen‘ (that would be the stove and the pot and the mug, I reckon) – HOW does one do this??? I think, one spends a lot of time researching, and one spends a lot of money. I took a few tips from them, such as: wear less clothes while hiking, and put on the warm stuff at breaks… I’d put on ALL my stuff for hiking and didn’t take off or put on anything in breaks… it made sense to me.

Another DUH moment for the rookie hiker!

We set off from Alesjaure pretty much together at 9.45am, and as I heaved my big backpack on my back I couldn’t help but let the thought cross my mind that these fit strong men could be gentlemen and swap their 10kg mini-packs with me… then again, as my mother always says

‘Never take more luggage than you can handle by yourself’ – I knew this also applies to hiking.

 

Onwards to Kieron: only 18km, no uphill

Lightness and feeling alive, the nutshell of Good Day 4.

About 3km after setting off I dared take off my rain jacket, which was really cool because it was a heavy duty rain jacket my friend Sander lent me (THANK GOD) a day before leaving – it served me very well, however it didn’t colour-coordinate with my cool Fjällräven pink pants!

upside down views - playful in my cool pink pants, finally to be properly enjoyed on Day 4 when I could walk without the rain trousers over them, or the red rain jacket that didn't colour-coordinate.

upside down views – playful in my cool pink pants, finally to be properly enjoyed on Day 4 when I could walk without the rain trousers over them.

Fjällräven really has a cool brand marketing going, awesome into-the-wild photos, subtly inspiring a desire-to-go (note: I write this from my own accord, I have not been paid to say this ;)) Many people were wearing the G1000 pants (these, as I learned in preparation, again from Luc, who I have since named the godfather of my Fjällräven Classic adventure, are to be treated with wax for waterproofing – which I’d duly done), and it did have a tribal feel to me…
‘us with the same heavy duty badass adventure pants’.

The first part of the trail lead past a big lake, it was stunning scenery, oh the stuff dreams are made of.

People were opening up, looking up. Once the cold and rain lifted, I started seeing faces. We still had to look down to check where to put the next step, but one was more inclined to look up during breaks. Also, when we passed and hej hej‘ed each other, I could now see faces as they were no longer packed in buffs, hats, caps, hoods and the likes.

picture postcards - things I would like to do with you...

picture postcards – things I would like to do with you…

hey and hej hej… the words I used and heard most in my five days on My Big Walk, with every person I passed or was passed by. Especially on the cold and harsh days, a ‘hey’ and a ‘hej hej’ meant more than just ‘hello’. It meant so many things, such as ‘you are not alone’, and ‘you’re doing great’, and ‘keep going’ and ‘I see you’ and ‘lookin’ good’ and whatever I really wanted to hear in that moment was right there in the ‘hej hej’. Only one time a person didn’t say ‘hej hej’; he was one of the, relatively, few people who were walking in the opposite direction… I wondered and let a tiny bit of sadness and anger in until it occurred to me that maybe, MAYBE, he was saying ‘hej hej’ way more often than I was, seeing as he was meeting every single one of the 2000 Fjällräven Classic walkers going the other way… I decided it was ok for the people walking against the flow to drop one or the other ‘hej’.

I bumped into my friends from the loo line at Tjäktja late that morning, Edith, Sue and David from Nottinghamshire. Fun to meet friends, and we walked together for a little while.

There is this unwritten code of conduct on the trail, at least in my eyes, by which you walk together for a minute or an hour or a day, for as long as speed and energies align, then you push on or fall back, and that is ok.

I ran my theory of the inverted hangover by Edith, and she said that

‘yeah, it’s a bit like childbirth – you forget the pain’.

Aw buddy…

They invited me to lunch, ‘but it’s BYO’ – bring your own, I accepted gladly, my first meal in company. David and Sue found a gorgeous spot on a hillside by the lake, sheltered from the wind. Company, chats, and food in the great beautiful outdoors. YES!

lunch break YES PLEASE

lunch break YES PLEASE

And onwards.

With good weather comes good mood, and yes, my cheeky and selfie-taking self came out to play!

At one point I found myself doing a wheel pose on a rock, the one I’d been dying to do since day one to stretch that poor spine of mine that has been carrying this crazy load. It had been too cold outside (too many clothes to even be inspired to bend backwards that far), and too confined in the tent, until now. BUT OH WHAT BLISS! A man and his dad walked by and said ‘it looked like you were on your head’ and I was like ‘gimme a minute’… Such fun!

Walking was fun, the backpack was still heavy – heavier still, as the cold weather clothes were now in it again.

But this was the day I started writing my book.

So far, I’d not seen the interest in sharing any of my thinkings, so eager to make it through the experience. And I hadn’t seen how the dots would connect into a story. I’m a firm follower of Steve Jobs’ ‘Trust that the dots will connect in hindsight’ – everything happens for a reason, at least in my experience. And things were now falling into place here, too.

I was still not sure what was falling into which place and why, but I was starting to feel the tickle to write about all this.

And this feeling of my creativity coming back to life gave my steps an extra spring!

A few kilometres before the Kieron checkpoint we entered the tree line again, and the path went steeply downhill. Then it appeared like an oasis; first I heard people chatting, then I saw people bathing feet and selves in a river, then I saw tents…

Crossing the bridge was like crossing a border, from there to here, from Swedish Lapland to home, from the adventure to luxury, from day 4 to the last day.

Crossing the bridge to Kieron - arriving and connecting dots

Crossing the bridge to Kieron – arriving and connecting dots

Crossing this bridge, like all the bridges on the track, hanging bouncily over rivers, also reminded me of how far I’d come in my own growth.

My close friends know how big this is for me, I have a very incapacitating fear of heights… cousin Martine knows best, she is my early days travel buddy and a civil engineer with a love for bridges and heights, and over the years we have been avoiding and facing my fears together.
My stomach still crisps up when I think of my first BIG win and walked myself over the Golden Gate bridge (I just walked, I felt like rolling over the sides, and I would not move to the left or to the right, not even to let couples by – they had to let go of each others’ hands or step aside, but I did it!)… the next big step was a chapter (or book) of its own, and it happened in my leadership training-cum-bootcamp in Spain, with my fellow tribe mates as witnesses and co-leaders of my climb. A year after that, my dear friend Romain handed me a glass of champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower (I’d lived near the Eiffel Tower for 3 years without going up it, until, one day, 13 years after leaving, it was just ‘that next step to take’)…
So my crossing these bouncy bridges on my own and, actually, without even giving it a thought, on the Kungsleden is a huge success for me in my overcoming my fear of heights, and once again, it is ‘dots connecting’ – all the little ‘face your fear’ steps needed to happen for me to not freeze at the first one here and stop my adventure at kilometre 10; and I had all my ‘height’ coaches with me in my heart every single time.

Kieron Checkpoint was like a festival camp!

It was a short day for many of us, so there were lots of tents up already when I arrived at 17.30. Also, the Abisko National Park gates were just a few kilometres ahead, this was the only place on the trek that wild camping was not allowed… so either camp here, or continue 18km to the finish.

Pancakes and coffee at Kieron Checkpoint! Thank you!

Pancakes and coffee at Kieron Checkpoint! Thank you!

It was warm and sunny and the Fjällräven people were handing out free pancakes and coffee. They have to bring all these things in by helicopter, one must remember. There was a festive mood here, and it was nice to be around people.

See, there are many nice things about being offline

Kieron checkpoint festival - people, sunshine, pancakes, coffee, chats, laughter... togetherness.

Kieron checkpoint festival – people, sunshine, pancakes, coffee, chats, laughter… togetherness.

That there was no phone network on the trail, so for me for my five days, was a big deal, and probably one of the best things about this whole journey for me.
For one, somehow time stands stiller… apart from not knowing ‘what is going on in the world elsewhere than the exact place I am in right now’, I really got used to the freedom from that reflex to constantly look at the phone.
Also, I found that my personal processing got a greater chance to do its thing. I’m not saying to keep everything locked up forever, I’ve been working way too hard at taking down the big wall around my heart to make such a claim, yet I do see the benefit of self-processing before sharing. Here, I would have reached out in the Blizzard night, and I would have worried the people who care the most about me and… I would have missed out on just being in the moment, for better and for worse, and the pride that followed.
And then there is something to be said about the anticipation for what might be waiting for me in the message world once I do come back online – like ‘Schrödinger’s cat’, anything is possible until then. He may have written, lots of people may have written, nobody may have written… all possible.
But the most surprising effect of having the phones off was the collectivity of it. People weren’t staring down at their device the way someone always does these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the global easiness of instant communications today; I live entire relationships via them that I may prefer to live out loud and in person, but that for whichever twist of fate, choice or geography isn’t happening.

But it was really really nice to see mankind again, looking up, looking out, into the big wide open, into faces… chatting, or not, the way we were…
…before we all got so connected.

I didn’t realise how much I missed that, I missed you, mankind, I miss us like that.

I set up my tent at the far side of the festival camp.

My tent site at warm and sunny Kieron

My tent site at warm and sunny Kieron

This was the last time I’d have to pitch it and as a reward it was sunny, there was barely any wind and: I could take my jacket off, and didn’t get frostbite in my fingers. Oh this is what camping should be like!

My dear feet - you did it! Best moment ever!

My dear feet – you did it! Best moment ever!

I took off my boots and walked down for one of the best moments on the whole entire journey: MY FIRST FOOT BATH in the icy cold river!

I bumped into Emily-sunshine, from the loo line, and her brother, on my way down there – they’d done just the same thing, bathing feet and cooling blisters.

The evening boot shot was a croc shot on Day 4 as the boots came off way before I got into my tent! A sign of good weather.

The evening boot shot was a croc shot on Day 4 as the boots came off way before I got into my tent! A sign of good weather.

When I returned to my nest, I lit an incense stick and stuck it into the ground outside my tent while I boiled some water for dinner – another of my ingenious bringings and wisdom  from India: mosquitoes don’t like incense sticks and they are really light weight in luggage!

Here is where I shall admit to not having told the entire truth in my arrival messages the next day, I’d said that I only had one blister to report, that was a lie. I came out of the Fjällräven Classic with two blisters: one on my right heel from day 1, one on my right middle finger from day 4 – from when I pressed a lit incense stick into the ground, top down. Silly me 🙂

And finally, the log fire!

Oh yes, we were below the tree line, there was dead wood lying around, and men were making fires. And I was invited to my neighbours’! YAY! Two meals in company in one day, this one was with Jörg, Thill and Kai from Germany, a fun group of men – it was so nice to chat and share stories. This is where I first worded my ‘story’ as being a result of my general excitability. They’d accidentally hiked up to the glacier on the first day, I fell into the river on the first day… it just did good to talk again, and laugh. And tea, they made me a cup of tea, with fresh sage leaves brought from home. Everyone has their little ingenious bringings.
See, with the cold of the previous nights there was no evening togetherness at the camps, except in the loo lines and that one sauna. People weren’t sitting outside their tents or meeting around a fire… people took refuge inside their tents as soon as possible.

This evening here was brilliant and it was how I’d visualised them all to be when we’d say before I left ‘you’ll meet loads of people!‘.

I thank all the circumstances for giving us this one night, perfectly placed on the last!


Oh this was a good day; I felt good and I smiled as I settled into ‘bed’, journaled, wrote to Antje… and opened my card from Michèle.

Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure!

Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure

Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure

 

‘… and remember why you even started.

GO GIRL!!!’

Pure mischief and excitability, and yes, spontaneity it was.

Yeah girl, you’re totally doing this! Badass chica in the wild x

welcome aboard

welcome aboard!

Fly high!

So, in January 2012, I went on a journey.

Some context: I had changed jobs a year before, I’d gone from an office job I loved for 10 years to being a flight attendant – which I still fall in love with afresh every day.

The job ‘bit’ is a whole other journey. What is relevant to this story is that I got a few months off in winter. Truth be told, my travel bug and I had been feeling withdrawal for years (two weeks max at a time is holiday, but not travel), so I decided to embrace the sheer amount of TIME I was now given.

WHICH IS NOT AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS!

We’re always all cheeky about ‘if I had the time and possibility, I would go here and there, and… totally slackline from one hot air balloon to another!’

– well, this was showdown for me, NOW WHAT?

I made a list (multiple lists, fluttering post-its everywhere tbh) of things I’d always wanted to do, and started checking things off it, such as taking a photography course, and spending more time in the UK. And then there was deep sea diving, volunteering and tapping into my creativity.

I googled loads, and eventually I came across Nomadic Hands. A one-woman social enterprise set up and run by Simone Francis, a traveller with a sharp sense of justice and love, who ‘lends a hand’ wherever she settles. And she was in Negros, the Philippines, at the time and accepted me as her ‘multi-media intern’. I immediately saw myself as somewhat of an upcoming National Geographic reporter.

The internship was nothing of what I expected, and everything I yearned for without knowing it at the time. You know how we say ‘the universe always provides…’?; it did, on steroids.

In hindsight

In hindight, my month there was a starting point for a journey I am still on.

Since then, I have changed my diet, been on an awareness bootcamp leadership programme, and trained to be a certified coach. I have been diving into the spiritual realms of yoga, energy work and magic, and I met some of my closest friends and allies. I hardly think I am a different person, though, I still mostly don’t know what I want or who I am, and I scare myself all the time, but I do know myself better which helps me make choices, and I am learning every day. I guess there will always be ghosts, setbacks, and tweaks to be made, and there will always be dreams, but I am a pretty lucky girl right here, right now.

So back then, I wrote a blog, and the blog turned into my creating memories page.

And this is where I share my thoughts and wonderings, on travel, on life. To me, it’s the tiny encounters with generosity, creativity and kindness that spice my life and make it GOOD.

To quote one of my favourite poems, The Power of Littles, by Unknown:


Great events, we often find,
On little things depend,
And very small beginnings
Have oft a mighty end…
Our life is made entirely of moments multiplied

Welcome aboard my trips.

Also subscribe to my other page www.godeepflyhigh.com.

Laura Schummer