In Finnish we call these kind of things ruskaretki; loosely translated “autumn colors trip”. If you’re from Southern Finland or abroad, you first take the long journey by car, train or airplane to Lapland. Eventually, from your chosen transport hub, you continue further to the wilderness, in example to Riisitunturi National Park.
When in destination, you experience the amazing colors and enjoy a little break. Apparently, only in the higher latitudes almost all of the vegetation changes colors at the same time and that’s why it’s so great in here. Some years, you may even experience the first snow. Moreover, you drink a lot “pannukahvi” ( coffee made outdoors above open fire), pick up some berries and mushrooms, and fish. And spent many hours in sauna. Yes, this time of the year there’s not so many crazy extreme activities available, except by bike maybe, and therefore it’s kind of a granny season. For slow travel and unplugging.
In Lapland however, we can skip the long journey and do a little ruskaretki almost every day in September, between and after work. You may not get the colors the whole month sine the intensity depends on the year and whatever reason. But you never know if you’ll experience your first snow of the season, or an indian summer during this month. Or both. And this is many times the best time for Northern Lights too – you’re not freezing to death when jumping out in your pyjamas to see them, like I did few nights ago.
This year, there’s been great autumn colors but oh so cloudy and grey skies, and foggy days. Like this. Though I kind of like the spooky atmosphere; and it makes great pics with the colors. Nevertheless, I would like to kindly request a few sunny and clear autumn days, and especially nights for the Northern Lights. Thanks, or I book last minute tickets to my southern home.
One of my favorite day hike destinations close to my hometown (1h drive) is Riisitunturi National Park; the hills aren’t high “down” here (I say down because everything below Arctic Circle is south) but what they lack in altitude they substitute in other wonders, thorough the year. This time we hiked (and tested a bit after the marathon feet) and brought our own coffee. Nevertheless, the place is awesome for a skitour in winter, trailrunning and almost any activity the national park rules allow. Unfortunately, it’s only reachable by car, but if and when you have one, I’d also recommend visiting nearby Korpihilla Café, which is basically the only food&beverages establishment in the region. And there’s Pentik art and everyday design centre in nearby Posio too, for local design & interior enthusiastics.
And there’s never nothing wrong for stopping by just for the nature. Like this.
It’s now two weeks since my biggest achievement so far – Jungfrau Marathon 2017, in time 5:15:06. And I thought it would be good time for my first ever marathon rep, so read on if you are interested why and how I did it.
Die Schönste Marathonstrecke Der Welt (The Most Beautiful Marathon Course In The World) didn’t give the best views this time, but it was an amazing experience still. Other runners might have different views but I didn’t really mind that the 42.195 km and 1’829 meters altitude difference went in rain and clouds (no sight of Jungfrau mountain itself) since I knew by then the hoods like my own pockets. With the help of fog I also got lost in the runners high and could focus more on the running itself. And so I did it and finished my first ever marathon (funnily enough the Virgin Marathon) in time: 5:15:06. Though the time didn’t really matter – all I wanted to do was to finish that bastard and do something I’ve never done before. And enjoy it.
week before I went surfing in Morocco
True to my adventurer self, I never really did any specific marathon training for this. A week before the marathon I went surfing in Morocco and even drank a beer the night before (better not to do any dramatical changes, I thought). Last year, I walked the uphill from Lauterbrunnen and Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg, and I’ve done a 11h hike this year. Basically, I knew what was ahead of me. And I’ve been running and training, one way or another, almost all my life. I don’t know if I’m average or not, most likely not, but I do know I have good physics, active lifestyle, and I’ve ran few half’s and Lidingöloppet 30k. Theoretically, running that far (and walking the uphill) shouldn’t be a problem for someone like me. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t suggest the same method to anyone else. Expect the mental part; that even when you’re afraid and feel the challenge is a bit too big (I was damn scared and doubting myself a lot pre-race), you should do it, or at least try.
I had and still have nasty wound (from Morocco) in my foot and it did hurt before the start. And I did doubt almost everything. However, I decided to show up and try. And look how far it got me! After the 30k mark I just kept thinking how I’ve never ran that far at once, and every step and meter after that was a little achievement. Finally, I went and finished that bastard and got that cool finisher shirt and free beer. And an important life lesson.
I’ve heard one should have a marathon soundtrack, but I chose to run without music, and just get lost in my thoughts and experience the runners high fully. And it was a good decision – I had nice 5h+ to reflect, on the experience itself and everything around me. In the beginning, I ran past my old home. And then past the houses and streets where I’ve been both incredibly happy and dramatically sad. I run past the beautiful villages of Lauterbrunnen and Wengen with cheering crowds, and up to Kleine Scheideggen, where I experienced the most fun and magical ski season last winter. Some parts of the track I’ve even skied down, or went sliding on our way to the office Christmas dinner (first and last for me). Simply, there were many memories, good and bad, along the way to keep me occupied besides the running itself, and all the time I had the feeling I was home. And enjoying it.
It was also fun to be back racing; pick up my number from the race centre and feel the familiar atmosphere of a big sporting event. A dose of excitement, a bit of fear and a lot of joy and admiration for the ones who do it faster or who do it despite whatever difficulties they have. I might never get back to regular racing, but I do enjoy going back to the old familiar things from time to time. It feels good to know what you are doing and be a bit nostalgic for the previous events and past experiences. Some do rock’n roll, I do sports. Or well, I do both…
sauna would have been nice
In the end of the race, the last 10k in the clouds and cold rain, my hands were freezing and it was difficult to hold the beer I was handed in the finish. On the other hand, the weather must have been good for me especially – I’m used to perform well enough in cold, though I have to admit I missed sauna a bit a lot at the finish.
Later thinking, I do regret I didn’t have extra hands nor any support taking a good after the race pic of me (and hold my beer); but that doesn’t really matter as long as I managed to do the marathon itself. All by myself. The greatest and very important achievement of my life so far. And you know, when you do something like this, you pretty much feel you can do almost anything and the new ideas skip few levels when getting crazier than the marathon. I’m not sure if the next big idea will be another marathon, ultra mountain marathon, or maybe climbing up the Jungfrau mountain. But whatever it will be, it will be amazing. And challenging.
In the end I also want to say that in addition to the experience itself, Jungfrau Marathon really was worth the money (second hand entry from my friend 100CHF); it was well organized and service and add ons were good quality. Swiss quality. Especially with the SBB partnership the entry really pays off, if the marathon itself doesn’t. It’s one of the toughest and most beautiful marathon courses in the world (with good weather it really provides with amazing views) and the organization is marvelous, though there were little hick-ups with the services after race (fyi, critique has been communicated directly to the organization and hopefully next year this part works well too). I can really recommend the race for anyone fit enough; it’s a nice event for spectators too, but I’d recommend you to consider first the running and only then the spectator / support act part. And two weeks after, I have to say that the best part of this kind of thing must be the superhuman feeling you get after finishing it without bigger problems. You sure you don’t want to experience that?
Even though I may sound vain, it doesn’t really harm that others are so amazed of my wonder woman skills and endurance after something like this. It was really fun to walk almost normally to the local bar in Interlaken after the race and meet my friends who didn’t run the race. Yes, I had done the craziest thing that day, though I have to give them the credit to be overall awesome people and excelling in other things. They you might not run marathons, but you do better in managing and organizing and climbing mountains and raising kids and just being overall badass people. Long distance running might be my thing, but there are many other cool things you can do too. And everyone has their own struggle(s). Remember that and just do what makes you happy. And enjoy your achievements; I sure do enjoy mine now.
Ps. If you have some amazing marathon/mountain running/nordic skiing marathon/whatever similar event to suggest, feel free to comment and help me maybe invent a new goal for next winter/year.
PPS. My running data can be found in Strava in here.
Hello from the Arctic Circle. I’m back up and as you may have guessed, there’s been something keeping me away from blogging. Unfortunately, I’m not a professional traveler like surprisingly many have thought. Even though Instagram tells I’ve been traveling a lot and it’s taken lots of my time sure, I’ve had lots of other things taking my time too. Like the day job which funds this lifestyle. But finally, I’ve had few nights to draft and plan, and there are many interesting things, posts and new things coming up. And since the natural light is already pretty scarce up North, let’s start with my trip to sunnier latitudes, to Morocco. This was Girls Surf and Yoga Week in Taghazout.
LET’S GO SURFING
As long as I remember I’ve been fascinated by the surf culture. Almost the total opposite of my native inland – above Arctic Circle – outdoors culture. I’ve been dreaming and admired from distance the freedom and the toned, trained, damn well good looking bodies with the perfect surf hair. And I’ve been drawn to the overall coolness which has nothing to do with the real cool we have enough in North.
Unfortunately, I’ve also understood there’s a bit negative masculine culture related to surf and especially the industry around it. There’s still sexism going on and honestly, it hasn’t been the most tempting sport for an active woman like me, who likes the surfing itself more than the role of the pretty girlfriend (though I have the perfect surf hair naturally, especially with the hint of sea salt). However, like rest of the extreme sports and adventure travel scene, surfing too seems to be turning into a more inclusive sport and leisure activity. There’s a long way to go still, but there are amazing opportunities for aspiring and even the more advanced surfer girls. There’s camps like this Surf Maroc’s Girls Week, there’s movies and role models and there’s communities and there’s discussions. And there’s me, finally learning to surf, with awesome likeminded girls! How fun is that?
I’m not going into detail here why I’ve found these all women camps so amazing (greetings to M – I have my arguments ready and honestly, it also took me a while to understand why it’s good to separate the sexes in some cases) but I do hope you get at least part of the idea why these kind of camps are awesome. And even though the experience itself is available to men too, (and I do like surfer men – you know who you are) I do hope it’s more women who read this. And especially women and girls who are looking for something similar and want a honest story of what this kind of thing might be. So take a coffee or green juice or whatever and read on. Commenting is free too.
SURF LIKE A GIRL
Few weeks back I found myself for the first time in Africa, in Taghazout, Morocco. Falling asleep to the sound of the Atlantic ocean and learning how to stand up (on surf board and generally in life). It was an awesome week, full of learning and reflecting and just relaxing. For me, it was the first time and it was good to have the full package from Surf Maroc and Boundless Betty (won this time, but I’d pay the full price anytime), which felt a bit strange (nevertheless oh so good) since all the normal hassle was gone and I could just concentrate on enjoying my time and learning new things.*
After I made my way to Agadir which some hick-ups (Air France…) I had everything covered; airport transfers, accommodation in the amazing seaside Taghazout Villa, full board (pancakes for breakfast!), surf lessons, WiFi and yoga. I traveled solo, as usual, and again got reminded how good of an idea a camp and communal table for dinner is. Even more, learning something new and challenging and pushing my limits for a whole week was awesome. I tried and learned surfing and on the side realized how much more a thing like this can teach (just wait when I tell you about my marathon experience too). And I learned a lot about the surf culture itself and this fascinating country and especially the Berber culture, local to the Agadir region.
LET ME GO SURFING
Basically, my days in Taghazout comprised of sleeping, napping, eating, surfing, swimming and yoga. On side of which I learned the lessons. Early wake ups and delicious breakfast before morning surf lessons, led by our amazing coach Margret. Then packed lunch on the beach and afternoon surfing, or napping, or working. In the evenings, there were the yoga, dinner and early sleep. There would have been early yoga too at 7AM, but somehow I preferred snoozing a bit longer every day…
We were a small group on the girls’ camp itself, only four. But, as the Villa accommodates more people in a communal setting, I had lots of company, both men and women, to hang out with. Thanks for the wine frenchies! When traveling solo, it’s so good to have people to eat dinner with and just to share the experience. And like one of the guys said, having people from all around the world in the same table, different but still so similar, humans, is one of the best ingredients of great travel experience. This is why we travel. Or at least I do.
The camp didn’t come at the perfect time or with the perfect form for me. I did miss a lot my surfer friends with whom it would have been awesome to share this experience with. Nor could I share the overall experience with the people I know would have loved it at least as much as I do. However, the trip gave many good life lessons and was in the end an amazing experience.
First of all, I learned how to surf and the sea made sure I remembered to stay humble by beating me up time after time. I also caught and stood up some green waves, which apparently is a very cool thing to do as a beginner. But more importantly, I had time to think and reflect and just be. Which resulted in important lessons about myself and my lifestyle. And for the interested, here’s a little summary of some of the things I learned:
LESSONS ON SURFING:
Winter gives better waves (and more surfer guys)
Surfing is incredibly difficult
No wave is the same as the other
There’s many ways to stand up; just make sure you learn to stand up, one way or another
The waves are scary, the sea is scary, but you can and should just feel the fear and do it anyway
Accomplishment is an amazing feeling
Give space and wait your turn
Enjoy, have fun and drink enough non-salty water
There’s never too much sunscreen and argan oil for your surf skin and hair
LESSONS ON LIFE:
I can and I should simplify my life
I don’t really need much to feel happy and comfortable
The cure for everything is salt water
Again, achievement is a good feeling
Always have time for kittens and goats
Let the wild things be free and respect them
Rest is best
Wait: morning coffee by the sea is the best
BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP
In addition to surf, there was yoga too. I still struggle with the spiritual part of yoga – for me, I still prefer the other kind of meditation or no meditation at all. However, I do like the “sport” itself for the way it forces me to slow down and take care of my body. It also allows me to gain strength in a different way I’m used to. And fear not, I’m not all serious yoga and vegan food kind of girl now. I still do my best to not take things too seriously. I don’t have a regime from which I could cheat, nor do I feel bad if and when I eat the burger and drink the beer when I haven’t run a marathon first. But I do have noticed I enjoy these things more after accomplishments. Simply, I enjoy the balance the most. And I have to give extra points to the men and women in our Villa who tried yoga for the first time during this week. Many said it most likely aren’t for them, not even the little it is for me, but like always it’s good to try first and only then give the opinion, of which I give them many points.
Strangely enough, I also enjoy being back at my “normal” everyday now. After a week of almost paradise conditions for self-care, it’s good to be a bit more occupied with the back-office work and hustle (and it was awesome to run the marathon too, again more of which you can read soon). I haven’t forgotten all the lessons from the trip, almost the opposite, and I try to continue the process whenever I am. But I also enjoy to get more structure on my daily life and concentrate more on doing and creating, for a while at least.
I’m also more than motivated (and damn well organized when it comes to plans and to-do lists) to come back here with more stories and pics. And I’m very motivated to get back to Morocco too. This time I concentrated on the ocean and activities, but some day soon I have to go back to fill my bags with the rugs and foutas and hammam rituals. And do the roadtrip to the Atlas mountains and see the night sky in the desert… I can pretty much transfer the hammam rituals to Finnish sauna, but for the Marrakech riads and the souk and the inspiration, I just have to get back. To Morocco and surfing. They’re so fascinating and so much different things than I’m used to. Good for the balance.
Have you ever experienced something similar? Or do you have some other new thing to try to suggest me? Comment is free and more than welcome. Take care and talk to you soon again.
*Note that because of the transfers and the fact I stayed in the camp setting most of the times I didn’t need to worry about the security aspects too much, although I do advice anyone planning a trip to Morocco to take the precautions seriously and plan their trip accordingly. Nevertheless, do not be too afraid to travel there; it’s an amazing place and I’m sure even women (solo) travelers can have great time there, as long as you do your research well beforehand.