It’s been a while since my last post on this site. Not because of a lack of want or anything to say. Some people have asked if there was too much disappointment after quitting Norge på Langs. There was at first, but now it’s really alright, that choice has long been accepted and personally approved. It was the only right course of action and the only mature and rational thing to do. Norway will be there for many winters still, and so will be our ambition to finish it.
After turning our backs on the mountains we slowly rolled into the swirl of normal life. It was the first time in many years that we tried to find a more steady existence rather than traversing the Scandinavian subcontinent commuting from one seasonal job to another. We finally gave in to the wants of society, but without wanting to let go of our own idea of life. In a discussion with Alec (who joined us through Narvikfjellet in March) last winter I stated that life must be more than going back and forth to work and paying mortgages. I stand by that vision today, too, trying to find a balance between some sensible mature long-term thinking and a restless nature seeking exploration, projects and adventure.
In Spring I started working in a mountain cabin, hoping to develop an outdoor program there as a counterbalance to the mass tourism going on further down by the fjord. PJ got a job at the harbor, keeping himself off the frontline while still being involved in the hotspot of Flåm. We rented ourselves a nice apartment in Aurland overlooking the valley meadows below the dark rock walls rising high above. Bull came with us too, changing somewhat the scope and nature of what we could do. Only one could go packrafting at a time since we still haven’t gotten him to sit in the boat. Maybe next summer will see more success on that front. But he is still good company on shorter and longer walks alike and there is something utterly enjoyable about being out with him. I really missed having an animal around during those years of nomadic existence.
Our intention was to stay in Aurland for a while, trying to work steady jobs and avoiding another pack-down of personal items that would be stored at some attic for a few months to come. Constantly moving becomes tiring business after six years. But things didn’t really work out as I thought they would. The mountain cabin did not become what I expected of it and I soon felt an itch again. Something was missing, a challenge of some kind. Maybe I needed a different line of work, away from the frontline and the daily repetition of questions from those who don’t do any homework before they travel. A couple of years in the tourism industry easily turns one into a deep cynic and I felt I had grown tired of people sheepishly following the masses. But hate-love as my relationship with the tourism industry might have been at that point I didn’t really know in which direction I should reorient myself. In some way I cherish the hectic nature of it all and the international, open-minded colleagues that come and go with the seasons.
Perhaps it just had to be part of the future, because all of that became a part of me. Charming as it sounds to work 8 to 4 every day, I wondered how fast I would grow bored of it, get restless and hatch another major idea. Two years would probably be my maximum lifespan in that routine which isn’t exactly a fantastically long time. Having Bull I realized I missed working with animals. So while feeling uncomfortable up at the cabin and watching the mountains from behind glass I did hatch a plan. I would get dogs. My own team of sled dogs! This has been in the back of my mind for a long time. But the time was ripe. The conditions were right. The motivation was burning and passionate, like it had for those trails we walked.
So I started thinking about all the steps I needed to take in order to get to that point. There were quite a few: acquire good sleds (which is a pretty hard thing to do, believe it or not), find a property where sled dogs could fit and be accepted, get a loan from the bank to buy that property, swap cars to something that enables dog transport like a pickup, look into starting up a company, tax, accounting, find and buy material to build a kennel and dog houses, get dog boxes and a trailer, look into the rules for ATV usage for autumn training, think about a name for the company… the list was long. And last but not least find somewhere to buy dogs and somehow pick up all the things I need spread all over Swedish and Norwegian territory.
I thought about it for a little. Then, as soon as I spoke the words the ball starting rolling and I had to chase it. PJ disagreed at the speed of development but the opportunities were so good that I had to take them. Most of the summer was spent getting it all together. I drove 30.000km picking up sleds, a training cart, kennel material, houses and dogs. I went to see several houses, until one day the perfect one popped up and we became determined to get it. Then there was going back and forth to the bank, talking to people and finding advice. A long story short PJ and I ended up buying a house in Hallingdal, in a village exactly halfway between Oslo and fjord country. The house is up in the mountains, somewhere on a tiny gravel road that passes through what we call the fairytale forest. We are one of four permanently inhabited houses up here. We found new jobs in the area, I bought a new car, and just a month ago I went up to northern Sweden to pick up 7 dogs.
It’s funny how life takes you places. How speaking a sentence put us in this beautiful place up the woods with eight dogs. How life is balanced out now between a hectic and exciting job down in the valley, looking all business and neat during office hours while being far away from it all in rough woolen sweaters and baggy working pants getting to know the pack in the evening. There is more to it than going back and forth to work and paying a mortgage. There is something to work for, something to look forward to everyday: quiet woods, happy wagging tails and the mountains nearby.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed so much inner peace or had such a clear strain of thought. That must mean that it’s the right way forward.
PS: thanks to all you fantastic people who helped during the marathon this past month to get everything in place before winter arrived. You know who you are, and you are all frikkin amazing!