Life is full of surprises, if someone years ago would say to me that I will end up living in Finland and I will be studying again, probably I wouldn’t believe it, but I think that if something meant to be, it will be; and here I’m, living in Finland, happily married and graduated as a wilderness guide.
I remember when I found this International Wilderness Guiding program, I couldn’t believe what I was reading, it was everything that I like, the more I was reading, the more exciting I was getting, and I just wanted to join to it, but obviously, it wasn’t that easy, reading the application process, there were some things to do before to get into this course, so there were a lot of people from all over the world applying to be part of this adventure, and the college has to choose just 16, after applications letters and a couple of interviews, I was chosen to be part of that new generation, I remember like it was yesterday when I got the email saying that I got in, I can’t explain with words how happy I was, I just can tell that I was laughing and jumping like a little girl by myself.
International Wilderness Guide
My experience in IWG
For my experience as a guide, I was confident before to get to the school, I thought: “Well, I know already how is to be a guide, come on! I have been so many times hiking in the Andes mountains, guiding in the driest desert in the world, what could be more difficult than that!?” Those were my thoughts years ago, but I was so wrong! I have never ever expected that this training to be a wilderness guide could be so hard, but so beautiful at the same time, really weird combination, and a difficult one to explain. If I have to choose one word to describe this experience, it should be CHALLENGE, because there was always a challenge waiting for you, not easy in the beginning, but we all got something exciting and amazing in the end… about knowledge, as learning about 450 species between flora, fauna, and fungi; physically, as practicing different sports like hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, canoeing, kayaking, etc. and mentally, as how to prepare yourself to survive in different kind of situations in the forest, like stay by yourself in the middle of the forest for 10 days in cold weather conditions, about -30°.
" I mentioned the word challenge to describe this course and that includes accepting people’s personalities completely different than your own, and that is a big challenge sometimes. I remember the first day in the classroom, everyone introducing themselves and everything was looking perfect, but of course, when you are living with people nearly 24/7 in extreme conditions, it is not that easy."
The second week of the course we went for our first trip together “the forest week” it was nice, we started to know each other’s, getting along, and having our first forest experiences. When I got home I was telling to my husband all we were doing there, how nice the people were, and I will never forget that he told me: “Yes honey, just remember that this is the beginning, you are on a honeymoon now, but later when the winter will come, and you must stay in the forest in extreme conditions, not always is that nice, you have to prepare yourself for that” and I have to admit that he was so right.
Sometimes I think that must be so difficult for teachers choose the people will participate in the program because they must think not just if you can do things because I think at the end we all can do everything if we want, but being all the time with the same people been constantly challenge, it could be complicated, and I guess is not an easy job when they have to decide who will be part of the group each year. Who knows what is that they are looking for in the interviews, but what I know is that they did an excellent choice with our generation because our group was amazing.
I won’t lie, I wanted to kill some of them a few times, but then you understand that is just for the stressful situations that sometimes we were in, is never easy when you are frustrated of something that you are not getting right, or when is so cold, you are tired and hungry, just thinking about getting fire soon, eat and sleep, everyone is in their own thoughts and sometimes you don’t even want to talk to people, simple as that, you want to have some rest, and just be by yourself. Of course, there was some moment to have fun, and we did have good fun in our trips, especially when was the last day of each trip, we were all thinking that soon you’ll be home, you’ll get a shower, sauna and not healthy food to enjoy.
We are special people, all of us, for most of my friends we are crazy about all the things we were doing in this training, they asked me all the time: Why? Why you guys doing that? Are you guys crazy? And probably there is a little bit of craziness in each of us, the good one, that craziness that let you do things that not everyone is able to try and that is a good craziness for me. I must thanks to all of the guys and the teachers for the support they gave me sometimes when I needed, especially to my friends that they were with me in some difficulties I got in this process, and they were always there for me, I got excellent mates, half of this group I can call them friends, they are still part of my life and I’m sure I’ll keep their friendship forever, no matter where we are, we will always be friends and I’m completely thankful about it.
As a conclusion, I can say that the whole program is an excellent exercise to practice your tolerance, not just with your body, with your temper as well, you learn that sometimes you just must accept things in the way they are, and at the end is not too bad, is better, because makes you more open-minded and that’s a good thing to learn.
This adventure to become a wilderness guide it’s been far out the most exciting experience I have had in my life, is done now, and I’m not the same person, after all, I learned in IWG, I got all I needed and more than I expected, a journey that I will always remember.