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T R I P S

I have been traveling all my life, and there is where I find that satisfaction that keeps me happy. Here I share my experience of some of the trips part of the IWG and the ones I have been doing after the program with tips that maybe can be useful for you to know.

Hiking in Russia - 10 days

This was the first trip part of the International Wilderness Guide program, I still remember how exciting I was about this one, Hiking is my thing, so I was counting the days to go there, but my luck wasn’t that good when we got there, the terrain was full of bogs and in the second day, I got stuck in one, trying to get my foot out of it, I made a wrong move and I twisted my knee; I didn’t take it seriously in the beginning and I continued walking, of course, it was hurting, but I thought that just it will be for a while, unfortunately, it wasn’t. We stopped for lunch,  I sat down and all was fine, but when I stood up, I couldn’t walk, the pain was terrible, I didn’t understand at that moment what was happening with my knee, because I never got injured that badly before that, so it was a confusing feeling, one of my friends there checked my knee, and it was completely swollen, it was so big that I got scared, I really thought that it could get better, but it was the opposite, I continued for few days because I didn’t want that we end all trip for me, but my knee was getting worse and worse, so the teachers couldn’t let me continue doing the hike, because it was dangerous. The first idea it was come back to Finland, because I needed to see the doctor and I couldn’t walk anymore, but  I didn’t want to do that, because I was thinking all the time that it was unfair for the whole group; even though they were really supportive, they were saying to me that they don’t care about going back, that the most important thing is my health and all the things that are supposed to help to make you feel better, but in my mind, it wasn’t possible to accept the idea of going back, however, we needed a plan because obviously continue hiking was impossible for me, so we try to find a solution in the middle, where we don’t need to end the trip and at the same time I could rest my knee.  We agreed that I will stay by myself in a spot in the forest nearby where they will get at the end of the trip, and that was a better solution for all of us. I remember how terrible I felt, mixed feelings all the time because the pain was so powerful that I can’t describe with words, but a part of me just wanted to continue and the other side of me just wanted to go home. I remember my teacher asked me so many times if I was sure that I can stay by myself there, without any communication, I said: yes, I can do it! and inside of me, I wasn’t sure at all, because that was the first experience for me to stay in the forest alone, the real forest, thousands of hectares of wilderness, where there are no people around, just nature, wild animals, and yourself.

I remember I was so angry with myself, I couldn’t understand what was happening, in my mind, it was all the time: Why? Why me? Why now? At that moment, nothing was making sense to me, I have long experience hiking, so that’s why I was so upset with myself, I was going back to that moment when I got stuck in that bog, thinking why I tried to get out my foot in the way I did, that maybe it should be in another way and nothing of this it would happen, but in reality, who cares! Everything was done in the way it was, and nothing else to do, but it took me a while to accept it.  I think I experienced all the feelings, I cried a lot in the beginning, but then it was getting better and better, I started to enjoy simple things, like in the morning when everything it was cover with ice, and then the sun comes and starts melting it, plus you get some sun that warms you up for a couple of hours and then you can have a beautiful sunset. It was a process, because obviously, in the beginning, I wasn’t that happy.

I stayed 4 days in that place, just by myself in the middle of nowhere in Russia and there is when you realize how much we use our cell phones or how much you miss the people you love because you miss everything… I have been camping whole my life in different places, and I love my time alone but is different when you plan it and you chose where to stay, in this case, was different, because I didn’t plan that this trip it would end up in this way, but everything happens for a reason, like always.

The first day was terrible, I cried a lot  (still angry at myself) then I didn’t know what to do, but I needed to start thinking clear, assuming that I will stay there, so first things first, putting myself together and start to build up my shelter, then organize my things and after I had all done I tried to make fire, but it didn’t work, making fire was one of the things that really took me time to learn, for some reason was really difficult for me, I tried so many times that day and nothing; I was hungry and getting cold, so I really needed fire, but nothing, I was upset and I just gave up, so I decided to go to my sleeping bag and that I will try the next day, trying to think positive. It was difficult to get some sleep the first night because it was cold, you hear animals, noises around, and you know that you are there alone, so you get scared if you have never experienced that before. After that night, everything got better, the next day I made the fire, and I can’t explain how happy I was, I wanted to have someone next to me to talk to and celebrate my big victory: make fire!  which was the best thing in the world for me at that time. So, since I realized I have 3 days more to stay there alone, I decided to write a diary, telling all I was feeling to my best friend in Chile, she is the only one that could understand how I was feeling, I missed her so much there, I always miss her, but there it was even more, and I must say that writing helped me a lot, I felt almost that she was with me all the time while I was writing to her.

 

When you are alone in the middle of the forest, far from home, far from your loved ones, you realized so many things, you can connect with yourself, and you appreciate the things you have in your life, which sometimes we completely forget in the daily routine. The simple fact of sleep together with my husband in our bed, was in my thoughts every night, thinking that he didn’t imagine in the situation I was in, but I was remembering that he always says to me: you are tough girl honey!  And that thought in my mind was giving me good energy all the time.

I think everything happens for a reason and that bad situation wasn’t the exception, like a mentioned before making fire was difficult for me in the beginning, but during my stay there I had a lot of time to practice since I couldn’t walk that much around, because I was injured, so chopping wood and making fire, was my job every day and then it was so easy! and after that trip, I could make fire anytime, anywhere.

Ski trip Finnish Lapland - 7 days

Forest skis, that was the challenge on this trip, I never tried those ones before and I can tell that they are not easy to manage in the beginning, so big and long skis, besides you need to wear special rubber boots with those skis. There I was again feeling that I couldn’t make it, but I did it, and after a lot of falls, I got it!

This trip was a preparation for the solo ski trip because it was about practicing skiing, long and challenging routes, but we were all together, so still, if something happens, there was always someone to help.

I think this one was the most complicated for me, I wasn’t that good emotionally at that moment, because I had some personal issues that got my mind completely in another place that wasn’t exactly where I was. Everything was more difficult because I didn’t feel like been there, in a moment I thought to quiet, just left everything and go home, but in reality wasn’t possible, because I was really far away and without any phone reception, so again “everything happens for a reason” because thanks to that trip I faced all my fears and I learned to ski in a proper way.

I remember it felt so weird been in those skis in the beginning and I was afraid of falling all the time, in practices at the school I fell so many times trying to go uphill, that I didn’t want to do it again, but I had to, because in that trip was all about to show that you can manage skiing and orienteer the whole group, so we had different routes every day, where you have your day to be a guide and take the whole group skiing to the assigned route. In my day guiding, I fell a couple of times uphill, I didn’t want to continue, because I was tired, and I didn’t want to fall again, but I had to do it because it wasn’t another way to get to the point where I needed to take the group; there it was a special moment when Mikko (one of my teachers) was behind me, telling me: Do it, Cathy! You can do it! Say to yourself that you will do it this time; Put all your anger there and go up! And he was right, I needed to believe in myself, and I did it, then step by step I was getting better and I started to have a lot of fun.

After you are skiing whole day, your feet are completely wet inside of those boots, the only thing you are wishing for, is to have them free, rid of those boots, take your socks off, put your feet next to the fire, and feel that they are DRY, what an amazing sensation! At the same time, if you have something to eat that you like, it could be a really enjoyable moment, even when the temperature is -28. I must say that thanks to some Aussie friends I got “Tim tams”, and they were my reward every evening.

 

The downhill was a scary thing, you know the techniques, and you have it on your mind, but another thing is encouraging yourself when you are on top of the hill and say: Ok, now I go! I never will forget the last day, because was the day when I was feeling complete confidence, carrying my sled, skiing in the right way, good pace, going uphill was good, but I didn’t realize at that moment that if I was going up, in some point I have to go down, and there I was, in a really high hill all dark, just with my headlamp trying to look how high it was, but it was impossible to see, so it was just like take the risk and do it; I say to myself: Let’s do this!!!!!  Oh my god…! What a feeling!!!   I was going so fast, getting so much speed and the adrenaline is huge! While I was skiing I was just repeating: oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! And I really enjoyed it, I didn’t fall, I got downhill in good way and I was so happy, that everything was worth it for that moment of satisfaction. 

Solo ski trip - 10 days

The highlight of the year, the trip I was waiting since I got into the course since I got that experience in Russia of been by myself for some days, I knew I could handle that part of the trip, this time will be more days, but I always felt good about it. As I mentioned before, feeling good emotionally, I think is the key to this sort of trip, physical conditions are important too, but I think the emotional part is everything. I was feeling awesome with myself at that moment, so anything that could happen to me could solve it, that was how my mind was working.

​I remember we were all together skiing until we got to the spot that it should be the point where we meet again after 10 days, last breakfast together, and then ready to go, one by one.

This trip was completely different to any of the others we had before, especially because this time you could plan your own route, you have a specific area where you have to be, but you create your route as you wish, the only thing that we really needed to do, was going to the checkpoints in the days we agreed previously.

If I have to mention a concern in this trip, it should be the orienteering; I was worried if I could be able to read the landscape over there, everything went really good with that, but I got another issue that I never considered it could happen, I got sick, I got flu the second day of the trip, so everything was a little more complicated when you are having flu, staying outdoors and skiing whole day is not that easy, but I knew I could manage, although I must admit that when I got fever I just wanted to call my husband to say: Pleaseeee! Take me home!!! But of course, I didn’t do it…

In those 10 days, you must be moving every day and build up your shelter every evening in the spots you had a plan in your route, and I can tell that building a shelter in the snow it takes about 2 hours to have a nice place because is not just about building a shelter, is about doing it with your skis on, is more than one meter of snow, so is no other way to do it, and do everything with your skis on is not the easiest thing in the world, but at the end is good fun and you get so tired that after that you sleep like a baby.

The weather conditions, in the beginning, wasn’t the best, for that reason was difficult to follow my original route, I had to make some changes to it, but all worked out. I was skiing and a few hours later the rain started, so I had to find a place to camp, before it gets worse, at the end of that day all was good, I got a nice spot to camp, and I stayed there, the problem was the day after, I was feeling sick already, but I could manage, not too bad; so all things packed, beautiful sunny day, ready to go and I found out how soft the snow was, it was a nightmare to ski that day, so difficult, getting stuck every 300 meters, after few hours I realized that I have to change my route again and just stay there because I wasn't getting anywhere with that pace, and taking out the sled from deep snow, not that easy!

That day I was feeling really tired in the evening, just wanted to eat something and sleep, that was my big plan, but I got something that I didn’t expect, about 1:30 am amazing northern lights came, although I have seen them many times the feeling I got that day it was completely different, I was just by myself, in the middle of nowhere, resting from a tough day, thinking about my plan for the next day, and then I started to see how the auroras were coming, that was the first time to watch them from my open shelter in my sleeping bag, it felt like they were dancing just for me, what an amazing feeling! It was a perfect moment...what else could I ask for?

 

After that night, the weather changed, and we got cold nights, so the snow conditions were good since then until the end of the trip, I was tired of having the flu, but at the same, I was enjoying a lot been there in the middle of nowhere by myself. This trip meant a lot for me, because was the proof to myself that I can survive in really extreme conditions, I realized how much I had learned here, thinking about who I was when I started this course and who I am now, and I felt that the process was done for me, although it was one more trip to do, I got the feeling of mission accomplished after the solo ski trip.

 Canoe and kayak trip - 5 days

This trip was completely enjoyable; the weather was perfect, and we didn’t rush as much as we always did on the other trips. Also, we got Henkka with us (our teacher) that was a really nice experience since this is the only trip that he is doing with us, and personally, I always enjoy any chat with him, as I mentioned before, he is the best teacher ever.

 

When you are canoeing, you need a good partner, no doubt that communication is the key, and I got the best partner ever, we never paddled together before, but we understood each other so well that everything went smoothie and nice. I remember I was so scared when we were checking the rapids we will go in and I was telling to him that I was scared, and he was so calm that made me relax as well, we planned beforehand how we will do it, keywords that will help us to know exactly what to do while we will be on the rapids and everything went perfect, my adrenaline was on 100% and my heart beating so fast, that when we passed the rapids I couldn’t believe that we did it, was so niceeeeee!.