In the extreme north of Sweden, 180kms inside the Arctic Circle hides the last remote wilderness in Lapland. Arriving here we will experience the unique home of the Sami people and Kungsleden, the “Kings Trail,” an expansive landscape of birch forests, stunning glaciers, powerful rivers and the highest mountains in Sweden.
Tomorrow I head out on an epic adventure into the Arctic Circle to hike unassisted in the wilderness. I will be joining a team of 11 others as we find out what it is like to tackle temperatures of between -7 and -20 in the day and most likely much colder in the evenings.
The night before an adventure or a big challenge is always a little bit weird for me. I think that my brain has this weird way of emptying out all of the worries in one go so that there's only room for positive thoughts on the trip. The night before staring out to climb Kilimanjaro I was overwhelmed with self-doubt which was pretty crippling (I've written about that here)
My thought process goes something like this: I really hope I can do it, I hope I'm not the worst in the group, I hope they like me, I hope that everyone gets on, I hope I haven't forgotten anything, I hope I'm good enough. This time there are a few extra worries thrown in about the below freezing temperatures. I feel the cold so easily and so one of the biggest reasons for choosing to hike in Sweden was because I knew it would be extra testing with the cold.
Why I would rather go on an expedition than spend a week by a pool.
The obvious question here is why go? Why put yourself through something that will be tough and at times perhaps even a little bit miserable?
I guess the obvious answer is because there is more to life than lying on a sun lounger at an all inclusive resort sipping cocktails by a pool. Now don't get me wrong, that is a great way to spend a week but given that on average people in the UK get 5 weeks annual leave a year, what are you going to do with the other 4 weeks?
Well the real answer and there is no way to write it without it sounding cheesey is that you learn so much about yourself. When I climbed Kilimanjaro I was pushing myself way out of my comfort zone and not so much physically, apart from summit night I didn't find the trip physically demanding but boy did it test me mentally. I say what I think. As I've got older I've become more tactful although I still find it hard to be patient with people especially when they moan. Going on a group expedition and listening to people moan - and believe me they do moan, is actually really character building. In my head I'm saying to myself, "do you know how lucky you are, you are in the most incredible place with the most insane scenic views" - outwardly I try not to say too much. I know I need to work on empathy and these kind of situations bring out the better side in me whilst I do what I do best, talking, and getting people to take their mind off the endurance aspects and talk about something else. Being in a group situation where you don't know anyone also throws you way out of your comfort zone but in a weird way it makes you realise who you are. When you're part of a group or in a couple you tend to rely on the people you know and share anecdotes when it's just you, you realise what you love and the things that you share are the things that are most important to you.
So although I'm nervous about freezing to death and I'm praying I have remembered all of my kit and that I can carry the huge rucksack which comes up higher than my head, I am also very excited. If you're reading this and thinking that you'd love to do something like this then do it. Book the trip. There are so many expeditions you can go on which only use a week of annual leave. You can walk away from a week by a pool relaxed and with a sun tan. You can walk away from an expedition with memories to last a life time after seeing things for yourself that you had only seen in films or imagined from reading books. You can push your body to what you had thought was it's limit and realise that you have so much more to give and you'll return home with a fire in your belly and a totally new perspective on life.
I am so excited to head out on this expedition. If you've been on any incredible adventures or challenges which you think I might love then let me know I would love to read about them.