The many joys of walking up a hill

So, this will be a deep dive into the metaphor of ascending a mountain. Ever since one beautiful winters day that I walked up a hill in the absolute smack bang geographical centre of Sweden in the beginning of March this year I have had these notes with me. Actually I had been thinking about the many joys of walking up a hill even longer than that. Because a few days before a friend had asked these particular questions on Facebook:

“Uphill. Do you have any uphills in your life?
Do you consider it taking height or does it mostly burn energy?”

Thank you Joel, your questions definitely got me thinking.

So needless to say. A couple of days later I found myself walking in an actual uphill but also mentally climbing some hills. It got me thinking through the many ways of metaphorically enjoying the uphills of life.

So I decided to make a list and post it here to share my thoughts about it with you and maybe even get some new perspectives on it. If you have anything to add to my list, feel free to comment below. Let’s start treading!

1. The challenge

To take on a hike like this one needs to be aware of the challenges on beforehand. To climb a mountain, however small it is, will always push you and take some energy from you. But it will also challenge you in good ways, like building strength or proving your own capability and capacity to yourself and the world. It will test your boundaries and perhaps even show you your limits of your capacity. Which also is valuable knowledge in life.

2. The preparation

I always love preparing for adventure, however small or big it may be. I enjoy thinking ahead and gathering all the necessities that I can think of. And then taking some of them away to not make the pack to heavy for me to carry all day. It’s partly knowing the risks and trying to prepare for them, and partly actually taking some extra risks in order grow. I always bring a lot of snacks and warm clothes, but usually unpack the second spares of dry socks and sometimes even my mobile phone (depending on the safety situation). I feel good knowing how prepared I am, and also that I will get to test my skills at handling things as they come along during the hike.

3. The longing expectations

While planning any excursion there is hopefully always some longing and excitement involved (if not you should consider if this hill really if yours to climb). There has actually been a bunch of research done saying that the anticipation of something good to come can be even greater than the actual experience. This is definitively one of the many joys of hiking adventuring for me. The planning.

4. The adventure

As you know life is itself an adventure, but hiking or doing everyday excursions into nature really ads something extra to the sense of living my life. As long as I can chose the scale of it and adapt the effort and risk taking involved to my capability it is a true joy to go out looking for new adventures in life.

5. Slow travel

To slowly walk uphill, or go by skis or bicycle, makes you notice things you might not see from the window of a car or even during the faster descend. It’s easier to keep the eyes lifted and take short breaks to really notice nature, how I feel, what’s above and what’s below. Scents, sounds and vistas are so much more easily accessible.

6. Being in nature

There are so many well documented health benefits of hanging out in nature soaking in some sun, breathing clean air and just hanging out with the trees. Besides what the research so clearly states, I just have to mention one of my favorite ecotherapy ideas which is Shinrin Yoku, a Japanese concept that translates to “forest bathing” and which is used as therapy or as alternative medicine for humans to feel good.

7. The best things in life are free

Have you heard it before? It doesn’t make it less true and wise.  To take a hike up a hill for one day not only improves your health but it’s near completely free of charge. At least my hike was free due to the fact that this mountain sits just outside the village where I live. So no paying for transport, no admission, no gym membership fee. Just fresh air, a good workout and a nice view.

8. The overview and perspective

Reaching the top is not so much a goal (you still have half the way to walk back down again) but still gives yet another treat on the journey. Peak hike if you will. To see the world from above gives so much clarity yet is still so humbling. The houses seem small and the cars are tiny. The people can’t even be seen from this far above. Maybe almost none of the personal issues you may have really matters in the big run?

 

9. The reward

Another perk of peak hike is that even though you’ve only reached the halfway mark this is the time to celebrate. Take a longer break, relax and enjoy the view, some food and the stillness. It’s almost silly how luxurious it can feel to have a big celebration half way. One of the many joys of walking up a hill, indeed…

10. The descent

But wait a minute! Because toward the end of the hike it actually gets even better. What was tough and straining in the beginning of the journey now gets easy and fun to do. Ah, downhill. The backpack is lighter with less food and water in it and all muscles can relax a bit and work in new ways with some help from gravity. The pace speeds up and you look at the scenery with a new perspective, from the other way around.

10. The memory and sense of accomplishment

Once the hike is finally over and you’re back home again after many hours walking, the things you would usually consider mundane and boring can all of a sudden become highly appreciated. Roof over the head, a nice comfortable bed to rest in, a meal of hot food, a nice shower and a safe and peaceful place to live in, are at an instant clearly things to feel great appreciation and gratitude for. Since the hike was major and took a day to do it will linger in the memory for a while.  The experience will keep giving insights, a sense of accomplishment and some muscle pain for at least a week to come. Or as in my case two months and counting…

 

So all and all my daylong excursion turned into a quite spiritual exploration of the concept of hill climbing. And funnily it has stuck with me ever since. What do you think, did you find the metaphor of “walking up a hill” helpful to understand challenges in your day-to-day life any better?

Here is some bonus food for thought:

“To see the mountain more clearly you have to put some distance between you and it. To experience the mountain fully you have to be willing climb it in your own pace.”

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The Unnecessary Future Project

Hi guys,

In a theoretical scenario, that I sometimes play out in my head, I have this really cool conversation with future young people. I will be an old lady by then and I am staying around to answer their seriously awesome questions that I’m sure they will have for me. The questions are actually for all of us that lived during the big shift in the world that was the era of transformation for the climate.

“Lady, what did YOU do, to make a change while it was still possible, and so very obvious what was about to happen to the planet?” , they will probably ask of me. For your knowledge, the conversation with the kids is happening AFTER the big collapse, in post apocalyptic times if you will, caused by the global climate weirding and followed by the great wars about what should be shared resources, like clean water. There will have been movements of entire populations of countries…

And this is the answer I am preparing for them. I truly hope it is an unnecessary project. I just keep making these short films from my life during the transition to a more sustainable future, in the hopes that more of us will join in a simpler lifestyle that eventually might render this whole theoretical conversation in my mind completely obsolete:

I PICKED my bilberries instead of working to BUY them

 

I slowed my life right down as an act of rebellion

 

I went looking for wildlife in the mountains, making sure it hadn’t gone extinct yet

 

We didn’t spend our ONLY lifetime on a day job, but in a cottage, making cheap breakfast for hours by the fire

 

We decided to go enjoy life and breath ocean air while it’s still unpolluted

 

We took time to hang out in the (still thriving, but biodiversily struggeling) forests

 

“I wanted to film and capture my everyday life the way I conciusly chose to live it in 2016-2018, while the world and civilisation carried on with its destructive habits. This was my contibution to the lifestyle changes necessary to slow down our consumption and exhaustion of global resources in the early 2010s.”

 

Sustainable art supplies

I have always loved painting and drawing. From the age of six my friends and I used to dream up and manifest whole little worlds together on shared pieces of paper.

Throughout school I always found that art class was my favorite. Even though I wasn’t always the best at it, it just felt so good to be able to create something with my hands in an instant.

As I grew older and changed schools a couple of times the drawing games from childhood stuck with me. Eventually I became better at it, and even gained my classmates admiration sometimes. But still I didn’t have the courage to explore my craft further when it came to choosing an occupation as an adult. I majored in communications science and became a sustainable packaging designer. Until two years ago.

These past years, as I have begun to shift toward a more sustainable lifestyle in many ways, the subject of creating a good work life situation for myself came on the agenda. And this time I had the courage to listen to my intuition. Was I really doing what is most meaningful to me, using my potential? And most importantly was my work situation suiting my life in a more cosmic sense? As my journey toward a more sustainable life began, so did my search for sustainable art supplies.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”
– Pablo Picasso

Paints and colors

The first thing I did when transitioning from amateur painter to sustainability explorer was to question my art supplies. In the acrylic colors I had been using there was sure to be some plastics and chemicals. I have no idea how they are produced, or where, or by who. And without much hope to find out easily I decided to make my own artist paints out of food scraps instead. What a win-win I thought, to both reduce food waste and produce my own supplies.

Food waste I have tried to use for paint:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Spinach
  • Strawberry juice
  • Blueberry juice
  • Black bean water
  • Black currant juice
  • Beetroot decoction

I am not counting on any of these food colours to last more then a few years as they will start to bio degrade. To me that’s the whole point and an important part of the project. To question how important it really is for me as a human to leave long term marks on this planet. However, if the great artists through out history would have thought like this in their work we would perhaps not have as many important pieces of art preserved from history. There is a balance to everything.

 

 

Paper and canvases

The next thing I was curious about was the sustainability of the paper or canvases I was using. For starters most paper comes from renewable resources, trees and such, but as with anything new you can count on a lot of energy going into the paper making process. And why chop down even more trees to create my art?

Being who I am means I somehow didn’t even consider ordering something organic from overseas or anything like that. I wanted to learn how to make my own paper myself. Mainly to find out what ingredients my supplies need to contain and also to find out if there are ways to make use of “waste materials” just like with the painting colors.

 

The comments I received during this process were usually something like “Oh, you are making paper, just like they do in kindergarten?”. My reply being “Yes, just like kindergarten or like they do in the paper mills”.

My paper is still not very easy to paint or write on, but I’m learning the craft as I go. If you have any tips for making good quality sustainable paper at home please write me a comment down below!

I still haven’t tried making my own canvas yet, but am looking forward to trying it out with some old fabrics or cardboard sheets. Also, just painting onto old book pages would be really cool to try!

 

Brushes and sponges

My next endeavour will be to try and figure out how to make pencils, brushes, sponges and ink. These are the first trials, but I’m looking into making ink with blueberries and maybe make my own brush set with some sort of fur or hair. I don’t know, tip me off in the comments down below if you have any clever ideas lined up for me to try!

More techniques

I have also tested etching on wood, making collages with pictures from reused magazines, making my own glue with flour and water, making stamps of old wine corks and erasers, making bracelets of second hand beads, and a whole bunch of other stuff all with the aim of being completely climate neutral and sometimes even climate positive.

Fun facts about sustainability in art supplies:

  1. Glitter is micro plastics instantly ready to mess with the ecosystems. Please, make sure to use the bio degradable kinds of glitter for your crafts.
  2. Many traditional techniques and hand crafts are using locally sourced and natural materials such as leather, wool, plant dyeing and so on, which is very inspiring to me.
  3. Land art is an art form in which artists venture out in nature and using nature itself to create art on location. Such a beautiful idea.

 

As you probably could tell I am not fully educated in this area yet, and it is a definitively a work in progress for me to figure out more about sustainability as an artist. I am still adding new materials and ideas to my art supply set and can’t wait to see what cool things can be created when I have gathered all the practical tools and skills an artist needs.

Please let me know if you have any further tips or thoughts about sustainable art supplies. It would be great to to hear about it and maybe explore further together!

A walk through Sweden

Allright, so our brilliant friend Marisa wrote a post a while ago about exploring and vacationing closer to home. It really inspired me to tell you all about the wondrous hiking route I found last year that takes you all the way through Sweden and Norway, coast to coast. The first couple of signs on this thousand year old pilgrims route incredibly enough starts right outside my door in Sundsvall. It made me curious and I had to ask to my better half Thomas ‘why not try it out’?

stolav

The St Olav Pilgrimage is 564 kilometers walking route through Sweden and Norway. It starts in Selånger in Sundsvall (where my family lives) and ends in beautiful Trondheim and this magnificent church, The Nidaros Cathedral, which was build in memory of King Olav Haraldson in the 11th century. Supposedly all kinds of miracles happened during the kings’ journey though the countryside which is why people originally started walking in his footsteps. I would say this route is still pretty unknown which makes it even more exciting and adventurous in my eyes.

Adventurers

The adventurers.

So why would you ever get it in your head to try and walk 564 km on an unknown thousand year old trail? Maybe you can’t afford to fly abroad? Or maybe any other means of transport is simply too fast for you? Perhaps both were the reason in my case but mostly because the both of us had forgotten the lovely sound of gravel under our feet. It is an equally historic and scenic route to walk, and surely you can hear the whispers through time – but doesn’t it sound awfully a lot like cars swooshing by in 120 km/h on the E14 road to Östersund?

One of the first discoveries on our journey was that most villages in northern Sweden are exactly 20 km apart. That is just about one day of walking. And just enough blisters for me to happily stop for the evening in one of the bed and breakfasts along the way and huddle up in a sleeping bag after a nice meal at the nearby grill.

thomas_stolav

The St Olavs’ route through Sweden.

resting_stolav

Thomas taking a break to call home.

Fortunately we didn’t meet any bears on the tracks leading through the forest. And if we would’ve met one it would have been loads more scared of us. Most people are afraid to meet wild animals, but you are actually very lucky if you get to see one. In Sweden you can but almost never do see moose, badger, beaver, bear, wolf, lynx, fox or any of those kind of magnificent creatures. Most of the predators already are, or are about to go, extinct. Thomas would like to add: “Unfortunately we didn’t meet any beers on the tracks leading through the forest.”

There are not many poisonous animals in Sweden. Just remember to bring some mosquito repellant.

Thomas making a bear spear.

Thomas making a bear spear.. Just in case. Sigh …

The first couple of days were the most challenging ones for my feet. It was weird. I could only walk an hour at a time and we would have to rest for a long while. Two days in we discovered that my new boots I had been walking in for some time before the hike didn’t have any insoles! They are sold separetly. Which leads us right into the next subject. Oasis. A supermarket can appear as just that after a long day hiking through the Swedish forest. It really highlights the perks of civilization. Going to the grocery store can be quite a boring chore in everyday life but when you’re on the edge of civilization (or in between, 20 km to be precise) it becomes a highlight of the day, a depot of survival goods! Nuts and dried fruit in all its glory but a nice pair of soft new soles for the shoes is like balm for sore feet.

boots_stolav

Upgrading our shoes.

food_stolav

We stayed in a cabin at Camp Viking in Gällö one night.

The route follows the main road, the railway and the rivers across Sweden. But mainly you follow in Olav Haraldsons’ footsteps. These days his trail is cleverly marked by signage and red mailboxes with stamps in them so you can mark your pilgrimage passport along the road. You can find the passport at the tourist information at the start of the Pilgrims’ route in Sundsvall. Well you could if you’d go there. We didn’t, so we made our own passport!

tove_stamp_stolav

Tove showing our home made pilgrims’ passport.

In the end of this post I have added our light weight packing list and some awesome movie tips about surviving in nature.

kungsstugan

Super happy to finally arrive at Kungsstugan (the Kings Cottage) after a long day of walking.

snack at the boarder

Entering the next county in Sweden.

gimån_stolav

Some ninja moves while crossing the river Gimån.

resting_borgsjo

What a feeling to take of the hiking boots and rest after walking 20 kilometers.

giman_stolav

We make a good team.

brunflo_stolav

View from the trail in Jämtland.

wildstrawberries

Amazingly yummy wild strawberries.

break_stolav

Taking a break by a lake.

dusk_stolav

Watching the sunset in Pilgrimstad (yes, the name of the small village really is ‘pilgrims town’)

By now we have made our way through half of Sweden, walking a perfect few days at a time. Most pilgrims walk the whole route in one go but we are in no hurry. They say it takes about 30 days in total and we have been out in about 11 days so far. We made it all the way between our two home towns Sundsvall and Östersund this year which feels awesome. And the aim is of course to walk all the way to Trondheim, but in the end of the day the Norwegian town is not the main goal for us. The old cliché really is true, the journey is what counts – all the way!

Here is our light weight packing list:

– Small size backpacks
– Light sleeping bags or bed linnen
– One change of clothes (wash when possible)
– Powdered foods: soup, mashed potatoes, coffee
– Light shoes to change to in the evening
– Torches
– Small size water bottles
– Tooth paste, tooth brushes, toilet paper and a bar of olive soap
– Mugs, sporks and of course a Swiss army knife

Great movies to watch for inspiration:

Wild (2014)
Into the Wild (2007)
The Way (2010)

Bridging the generations

Since you’re here right now you probably already agree with us (and most other reasonable people), that sustainability is the way forward in dealing with wasteful lifestyles, climate change and other important questions of our time. A lot of us suggest that “a gentler living” is a clever way of moving forward into the future. However there are still some people left to convince.

I had a feeling the elder generation would be part of that second group, and this is what happened when I talked with my grandmother about what future dreams of sustainability are to me.

Tove, 27 years: You know what my dream is, grandma? I would love to live on a farm, maybe just renting it from someone. We could have some chickens, be almost self sufficient and perhaps more than one family could share the farm. I would love to run a design agency and a music productions studio from there. People would have to come out to the country side to see me. I would not own a car. What do you think of my future plans?

Grandmother, 74 years, almost gasping for air: Oh dear, I can not BELIEVE you want to live an a FARM. Is this REALLY what four years of university has taught you?! Going BACK to how we lived when I was young? WHAT does your parents say about this?! 

Tove again: But grandma, I’m actually super proud of my way of thinking. This is what the university, all my teachers, and being an entrepreneur working in design has taught me. I feel really certain this is the smartest way ahead – and my parents usually support my decisions.

… And as a matter of fact, a few minutes after this conversation my grandmother willingly agreed that if more people would think and act about the way we consume things and produce waste, maybe the world would become a better place in the end. In other words, this blog project does not only bridge country borders, we also bridge generation gaps and beliefs.

There is hope for the future.

All the best from Sweden