Northern Europe is an astonishing place to travel around. More and more people are becoming aware of the natural beauty they can discover close to home. We don’t need to fly halfway around the world to find a mind-blowing view. Up in Scandinavia, forests are vast, national parks are desolate and people are few. Travel off the beaten track and you are able to you disappear for weeks at once. You can go and discover your own trails or paddle to settlements that have no roads connecting them to the outside world. It is a world apart from what lies further south.
The north of Scandinavia sets itself apart even more. Northern Norway is a piece of paradise on earth: a place where sharp white capped mountains border the sea, where desolate valleys see few people if any at all. Northern Sweden is another thing: the frozen forests of Swedish Lapland make for a magical place in winter. The mighty rivers are frozen, the trees are covered in a blanket of fluff and the lakes appear to be endless white plains. PJ and I worked with sled dogs in this silent world for three years.
After finishing my studies I realised that office jobs are not my piece of cake. Locked inside an office all day, staring at a computer while daydreaming about escaping to the nice weather outside was just not the kind of life I wanted to set myself up for. Unfortunately I have studied political science, so I had turn things around a bit. PJ had been working at a convenient store and thought the same. By coincidence, or by faith, we ended up at the same place soon after.
In the winter season of 2013 – 2014 we both got the opportunity to work as guides. Most of the guiding was on half or full day tours, with a few overnight opportunities. It was a nice experience working with snow mobiles, cross country skis, snowshoe and ice fishing activities. But it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Besides of the guiding we spent a lot of time helping out at the company’s kennel, taking care of the 130 huskies that lived with us. And that’s were it rang. That’s what we were going to do.
So after finishing our adventure in New Zealand we returned to Lapland to become dog sled guides. For two consecutive winters we lived in cabins in the woods without electricity and without running water, with an outhouse for a toilet. Temperatures fell down to -45ºC in the night, and we sat huddled in our sleeping bags by the little stove inside. But every day we went out to take care of our dogs, 150 during the first and 35 during the second season. Working closely with a pack of sleddogs has been an unforgettable experience. It was a hard, a physical, and an exhausting job, but every day as we stood on a sled and explored the trails and the hills of the Kiruna area while seeing the mountains stand tall over the frozen river we concluded it was all worth it.
Lapland has been a path with many ups and downs. I think it’s fair to say that during our time there, we experienced both the best and the darkest days of our lives. But it’s deliberating not to spent time locked in an office. It’s inspiring to be out with people who have never done anything like this before. We’ve seen many people crossing their personal comfort border by coming on one of these trips. As for us, for years to come we’ll be grateful for a warm toilet that we can reach without even putting our socks on. Just like that, life will be good.
Curious how we manage the cold? Have a look at our Arctic Mushing gear list.