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Changes changes changes

A while back I was writing about finding a new home on Lofoten. But nothing happens as we plan…

So I’m back in Poland in a beautiful historic town Bielsko-Biała. Close to the mountains of course. I’m starting my new business, developing my skills and discovering myself.

Lofoten will remain my dream home.

More to come as my site will evolve into something better.

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Lofoten – my new home at last?

Moving countries is not as easy as it might seem. I don’t mean traveling, staying in one place for a month or two and then moving on. I mean committing to one place for a longer period of time. Going through all the paperwork, bureaucracy and ticking off countless boxes of the ‘to-do’ list.

But today I just want to celebrate finding my new home.

Hot summer day on Veienestind, Lofoten.

Hot summer day on Veienestind, Lofoten.

Originally from Poland, I lived in Wales for 10 years, in Germany for a year and recently I moved to the Lofoten Islands in Norway. Each country has left some traces in me, making me into some kind of a hybrid: an outsider and local at the same time. A simple question: ‘Where are you from?’, can result in a maze of answers. I’m not really sure how to identify myself anymore. Am I still a girl from an industrial Polish city? Or living in a small Welsh town made me into a countryside lover?

Lofoten Islands have been luring me for a few years. The seed was planted during my first visit and the love and longing to become a part of this magical place has been growing in me unconsciously ever since. It was probably my partner’s dedication to this place that made me want to explore it. Would I have visited and fallen in love with Lofoten if it wasn’t for him? Who knows, it doesn’t really matter now when I’m here.

Celebrating my birthday on Volandstind.

Celebrating my birthday on Volandstind.

Living above the arctic circle, magic of midnight sun, weather changing constantly like my moods and mountain peaks often rising straight from the sea. Polar night lasting a month which I have not experienced yet and feel both nervous and excited about.

No, I don’t know all the mountain names yet and still might get confused where the north and south is (especially after exiting an undersea tunnel)… I am a slow and cautious hiker and might never be super adventurous. But it doesn’t mean that I love the Islands less. It doesn’t mean that I don’t belong here… When writing these words I can just turn my head and look out of the window towards the fjord and the afternoon sun dancing on the mountains. And I smile to myself. I’m home.

All photos by Cody Duncan.

 

Summer light on Hornet.

Summer light on Hornet.

 

Flakstadtind summit.

Flakstadtind summit.

 

Winter hiking.

Winter hiking.

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Lofoten Ebook second edition out now!

Last time you’ve heard from me I was getting ready to hike the Kungsleden trail in Sweden for a month. To cut long story short: I didn’t do the whole 440km trail, as my left leg chose to be non-compliant. My slight injury forced Cody and me to take a break in the middle of the trail, skipping one section and finishing in the south. I will write more about it and share some amazing photos soon, I’m proud of myself, still managed to hike almost 300 km!

 

Autumn mountain reflection in river, Alisvagge from near Alesjaure mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Autumn mountain reflection in river, Alisvagge from near Alesjaure mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Being away for 6 weeks means that we have a lot of catching up to do. So just one happy announcement: we have just updated our Seasons on Lofoten – Winter ebook photography and travel guide. Second edition introduces a new chapter about winter hiking, expands the northern lights section and the images portfolio. Check it out and spread the word! Cody has spend weeks, months and years on collecting the information and the photos. Most of the Lofoten stuff he provides on his 68north.com website is free, but to keep updating it we need some support.

 

Seasons On Lofoten - Winter: Lofoten Islands Photography Ebook

Seasons On Lofoten – Winter: Lofoten Islands Photography Ebook

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The best travel and photography guides to Lofoten

Midnight at Nonstind mountain peak, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Ghost Whisperer jacket kept me warm.

Midnight at Nonstind mountain peak, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

 

I’m often asked what’s my favourite place in the world that I’ve been to or would like to go. At first, it seems like a valid question, but somehow it’s almost impossible for me to answer. I am not the same every day, my moods and needs fluctuate, my memories of places are very subjective and dependent on personal experiences. I’m worried that if I name one place, it will automatically discredit all other amazing locations. I will say ‘A’ and then think “but I like ‘B’ as well”; and “what about ‘C’ where I had such a good time?” Not even mentioning that there’s so much ahead of me and so many places to visit.

 

How it all started

But I can definitely say that there’s one location holding a special place in my heart – Lofoten Islands in Norway. Named by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful archipelagos, I discovered the Islands only a few years ago thanks to my favourite photographer. Cody fell in love with Lofoten long time ago and his multiple visits inspired him to starting a website 68 North. It’s a wonderful resource greatly appreciated by visitors. Recently I have often felt on the Islands like traveling with a celebrity. Most people knew of Cody, wanted to shake his hand or take a photo with him. What I liked even more, some also invited us for a delicious pizza (Thanks Chris!).

 

Winter dawn on way to Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Mountain Hardwear jacket.

Winter dawn on way to Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

 

Winter on Lofoten

Due to my photographer’s interests I’ve been to Lofoten mostly in winter and autumn. Magnificent views and magical atmosphere make you come back every year. What’s really important for a person like me, not always coping well with low temperatures, is that the ocean has a positive influence on the climate, so it’s not too cold over there (well, most of the time). When I still lived in the UK I was always given strange looks when saying what my holiday plans were. Look at this video below to understand why I could enjoy Lofoten in winter even more than a tropical destination.

 

 

Summer/Autumn on the Islands

Summer and autumn months are a bit better for exploring the Islands off the beaten track. This year I was able to experience the midnight sun phenomenon in June and I absolutely loved it. Hiking in the middle of the night with the sun shining above my head has become my new hobby. Never mind that we’ve had snow storms as well as sunshine on the mountain tops. Unforgettable experience.

 

 

Travel and photography guides to Lofoten

But as stunning as the Islands are, you must be prepared for changeable weather and various conditions on the ground. Nowadays, there’s a trend to sugarcoat descriptions and images of tourist destinations, everything needs to have a “wow” effect. As a result, people arrive at an advertised place and are surprised that it’s actually raining or the mountain is less steep than on a photo.

This is why Cody (with my humble help) created two best photography and travel guides to the Lofoten Islands. I’m not afraid to call them the best, I’m really proud of our work. Together with Cody’s beautiful photos, you will find all the information necessary before embarking on a trip to the Islands. You will know when to expect northern lights but also that unfortunately they are not a guarantee as some people say. You will be advised when to go depending on your expectations, what gear to bring and which locations to choose.

 

Seasons On Lofoten: Winter

Seasons on Lofoten: Winter

 

Seasons On Lofoten: Summer

Seasons on Lofoten: Summer

 

These guides are also special to me, as I took my first steps into designing ebooks’ layout. Watch out for more to come…

 

Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. My favourite Norrona fleece.

Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

 

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How to pack light for long-distance hikes and avoid being a donkey

Enjoying the sun on Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden.

Enjoying the sun on Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden.

 

One of the best things about my recent move to Germany and a change of lifestyle, is that I can travel the way I like. Being able to spend days, even weeks in one area makes me appreciate places more and allows me to learn a little bit more about them. Well, of course I also need to work but I’m trying to raise to a challenge and combine the two aspects together.

 

Kungsleden Autumn 2015 Dream Team

The Kungsleden is one of these longer-term projects which have been on my mind for quite a few years. I hiked a northern part of the Royal Trail in 2012, and I attempted to ski tour it in 2014, with no luck. And finally, in less than a month I’m going to walk the entire trail together with Cody – my favourite photographer, Theo – the filmmaker and his partner Bee – the writer. What a team!

 

Kickstarter campaign

This time we have an ambitious project in mind, to photograph and film the entire trail experience. We will start in the north in Abisko and finish (weather and other conditions allowing) in a month in Hemavan. Rare access to electricity means extra weight (all this camera gear and batteries we need to carry without being able to charge them as often as needed). Theo and Bee created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds towards pre and post production costs. It has been doing really well.

 

 

Packing

Talking about weight, when hiking, especially long-distance, proper packing is a paramount. It is not easy to find a happy medium – to balance what you need with what you can actually carry on your back. In general I am a pretty slow hiker and adding extra weight slows me down even more, which is not good when planning 440km hike. Below is the list of things I’m going to take.

 

Packing list:

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links. If you click on the link and buy an item, I earn a small commission with no extra cost for you.

 

Clothing and footwear:

– Grassbow Sport Mid GTX Merrell boots – very light and 100% vegan boots. (Although I’m not vegan, I know that some people are looking for this type of footwear – wait for my review after the hike). I typically prefer trail runners, but nobody knows what the weather brings and I want something mid height, lightweight and waterproof. I’m planning to do some hiking in the boots beforehand as it is not very good to start a hike with the new footwear (#blisters).
Merrell Grassbow Mid Sport Gore-Tex®, Women’s Trekking and Hiking Boots, J48334, Black, 8 UK

– Norrona Svalbard Flex1 soft shell trousers – (previous version). Very comfortable and flexible, enough pockets to keep necessary stuff easily accessible. And they fit me really well which is not easy to achieve with my “short and square” figure.
Norrona Women’s Svalbard Flex 1 Pant –

 

Enjoying Lofoten in Norrona trousers, Mountain Hardwearr jacket and Osprey backpack.

Enjoying Lofoten in Norrona trousers, Mountain Hardwearr jacket and Osprey backpack.

 

– Marmot minimalist shell trousers – very lightweight and waterproof, already tested on Kungsleden in 2012. When it’s raining and the temperature is low, I often wear long underwear as well to keep my legs separated from the cool feeling of a hard shell.
Marmot Women’s Minimalist Waterproof Shell Pants – Black, Medium

 

Wooden planks in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden. Marmot minimalist pants kept me dry.

Wooden planks in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden. Marmot minimalist pants kept me dry.

 

– Norrona Narvik fleece with hood – warm but lightweight (and love the red colour).
Norrona Women’s Narvik Warm2 Stretch Zip Hood –

 

Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. My favourite Norrona fleece.

Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. My favourite Norrona fleece.

 

– Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket – extremely lightweight jacket (about 180g) which gives just enough insulation for cooler days.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Ski Jacket Steam Womens Sz L

 

Midnight at Nonstind mountain peak, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Ghost Whisperer jacket kept me warm.

Midnight at Nonstind mountain peak, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Ghost Whisperer jacket kept me warm.

 

Mountain Hardwear Seraction shell jacket – lightweight waterproof jacket which should also give me wind protection.

Winter dawn on way to Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Mountain Hardwear jacket.

Winter dawn on way to Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Mountain Hardwear jacket.

– 3 x synthetic T-shirts – breathable and lightweight
– 2 x long underwear bottom and top – 1 set combination of merino wool and synthetic for cold days/nights. 1 set lighter synthetic for cooler temperatures and often used to sleep in when camping.
– 5 x underwear
– 5 x hiking socks
– beanie
– gloves
– knee and ankle brace – just in case

 

Gear:
– REI sleeping bag sub kilo -7°C – weighs around 1 kg and hopefully will give me enough warmth.

– Thermarest Neo Air sleeping pad – light and small when packed.
Thermarest NeoAir XLite Mattress – Regular

– MSR Hubba Hubba tent
MSR Hubba Hubba NX –

– MSR Wind Boiler Stove – boils water with the lightning speed.
MSR WindBurner Camping Stove System

– Osprey Talon 44 backpack – my favourite backpack ever. Doesn’t hurt my shoulders even with more heavy loads.
OSPREY Talon 44 Backpack, Black, M/L

 

Hiking over rocky terrain in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden. Nothing beats my Osprey backpack!

Hiking over rocky terrain in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden. Nothing beats my Osprey backpack!

 

– Black Diamond Ultra Distance hiking poles – love them, very lightweight and fold so easily.

– Toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, shampoo, hairbrush, camp soap, face cream sunblock. All if possible in mini/sample sizes.

– Lifeventure camp towel
Lifeventure Soft Fibre Medium Trek Towel – Blue

– Spork (knife, spoon and fork in one)
Light My Fire Spork, various colors (Colour: black) cutlery

Plus weekly amount of food for no-hut sections. Mostly:
– nuts, chocolate, BF bars, salami, instant asian noodles, cous cous, instant mash, instant soups.

 

Still thinking about:
– Rab Neutrino Endurance down jacket – for this extra insulation as winter is coming… But it also adds 590kg of extra weight (as I wouldn’t hike in it, it would be just for sitting at campsites, waiting through storms, etc.)
Rab Women’s Neutrino Endurance Jacket

 

Hiking north on Kungsleden trail with snow covered Keron + Giron (1543m) mountain peak in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Hiking north on Kungsleden trail with snow covered Keron + Giron (1543m) mountain peak in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Helpful info:
Cody Duncan Photography
STF – Info about the huts on the Kungsleden http://www.svenskaturistforeningen.se/en/
Save Kungsleden

 

All photos © Cody Duncan

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Enchanted by the King’s Trail – Kungsleden in Sweden

Hiking north on Kungsleden trail with snow covered Keron + Giron (1543m) mountain peak in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Hiking north on Kungsleden trail with snow covered Keron + Giron (1543m) mountain peak in distance, Lappland, Sweden

 

My first experience with Swedish Lapland was on the Kungsleden (King’s or Royal Trail) in 2012. Cody talked me into hiking the northern part of the trail, which is the most popular section consisting of 100+ kilometres of wilderness between Abisko and Nikkaluokta.

 

When to go

Although accessible from mid June to mid September, we chose to hike the Kungsleden in September, mostly to experience colourful autumn. And to avoid midges swarming around any living beings in the summer. Still, the trail has the most visitors in July and first half of August, as the weather is usually better (although you can never predict what’s going to happen in the Arctic) and obviously because it’s a holiday time.

 

Small river flows south into Tjäktjavagge, near Sälka mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Small river flows south into Tjäktjavagge, near Sälka mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

 

Preparations

I decided to combine the hike with raising money for the charity I worked for, to give myself this extra motivation boost. Although for the most part the hike is suitable for different fitness levels, some kind of training beforehand is highly recommended. Unless you have plenty of time to spare and take breaks, you must be prepared for 7-10 daily walks of about 10-20km each. Saying that, we met a couple of Swedish guys who skipped every other hut and hiked for 4 days covering between 30 to 40km each day.

My training for the Kungsleden started really well, in July I climbed a few fourteeners in Colorado (14k feet – 4k+ meter mountains). In August I was regularly spotted in Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains hiking my socks off with a heavy backpack. Everything was going well and then, boom, came the Bank Holiday Monday, August 27…

 

Walking along wooden planks in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Walking along wooden planks in Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Sprained ankle

I was on the top of Hay Bluff, which is more of a hill than a mountain, striding ahead and suddenly I stepped on a grass mount causing my foot to bend awkwardly. Needless to say, I sprained my ankle. I still remember the pain which almost made me faint, and my hobbling down the mountain (luckily I always use hiking poles so had something to lean on). Painful driving away, doing shopping and building a pile of blankets to keep my foot up at home. It’s strange how certain situations become more ingrained in your memory, I remember that day like it happened yesterday.

To cut the long story short, barely 3 weeks after I was getting off the bus in Nikkaluokta to begin my journey to Abisko. Why did I choose to go ahead? There were many people who had told me that it was a bad idea and I should have just stayed at home and recovered. But the trail was so tempting to me and I just had to at least try. Especially that we were to attend a medieval music festival in Germany first. All the plane tickets were already paid for and non-refundable so we decided to go. I always had an option to turn around in case getting to the first stop – Kebnekaise mountain station – would be too painful.

 

Snow covered mountains and autumn colors in southern end of Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Snow covered mountains and autumn colors in southern end of Tjäktjavagge on Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Hiking the Kungsleden

Armed with two hiking poles, an ankle brace and elastic bandage I was treading my way through the trail. Anything flat was fine, but I wasn’t too keen on all the stones and pebbles which were forcing my sprained foot to twist. Surprisingly though, walking was more comfortable than I thought it would be, so we just kept on moving. And once you make a commitment to hike the trail, venturing deeper into the wilderness, after 3-4 days you don’t have much choice but to carry on, as turning back would take you the same amount of time as getting to the end of the section.

I didn’t regret my choice (unless you count some occasional curses in my head). We walked through the amazing landscapes, from Moon-like flats, grassy and boggy sections, through green and fiercely orange slopes, snowy mountain passes to colourful autumn trees. We have encountered sun, rain, snow and wind. We got frozen, wet and caught a cold. We enjoyed the sun on our faces and blue skies with puffy clouds. Quite a few times I wished my boyfriend had not been a photographer and we could just go faster and without all this hassle of stopping and going, and smiling (which is not easy when you’re cold and tired)…

But it was one of the most beautiful trips of my life. Watching the video we made from the trip reminds me of how extraordinary our journey was.

 

The northern section (Nikkaluokta-Abisko / Abisko-Nikkaluokta)

You can hike the Kungsleden in both directions, the choice depends mostly on your personal preferences. The steepness of ascents and descents is comparable both ways. You might take into account the sun position, I would also advise to check the bus schedules and when the huts open/close (especially if you’re planning to do the trail at either beginning or end of the season).

The section between Nikkaluokta and Singi does not actually belong to the trail. It is a detour for those who don’t walk the whole trail or fancy climbing the highest mountain in Sweden – Kebnekaise. There is an option of taking a boat on the Nikkaluokta-Kebenekaise section which saves about 7km of walking (out of 19km). Affluent visitors and groups can take a helicopter taxi to/from Kebnekaise and avoid the whole stretch altogether.

 

Bridge in Ladtjovagge with Tolpagorni - Duolbagorni mountain in distance, Lappland, Sweden

Bridge in Ladtjovagge with Tolpagorni – Duolbagorni mountain in distance, Lappland, Sweden

 

Huts

The northern section of the trail allows you to plan your daily hikes from hut to hut without needing a tent which can in turn save some weight, one of the most important factors to consider before embarking on a long-distance hiking trip. Check out here how to pack light. We had a tent but we ended up camping only once. Most of the huts have shops where you can buy some basic camping food which again can lighten your backpack quite a bit. All the hut beds come with the bedding but I would suggest bringing either a sleeping bag or a sleeping sheet for better hygiene. More about packing here.

Most of the huts on the trail are run by STF. There is no electricity or phone signal for the most parts of the trail (except for the mountain stations, like Kebnekaise), no running water and basic bunk beds. You can pay with cash, prepay online or in the mountain stations. Don’t count on using the credit card on the trail, at least for now! You need to chop the wood for the fire, get the water from the nearby rivers and clean after yourself. But in return you get gas stoves for cooking, saunas in some of the huts (yes, saunas, it’s not autocorrect) and most importantly: the stunning views. And by the views, I don’t just mean naked guys jumping into the lakes or rivers after steamy sauna sessions…

The huts are in a need of repair to be prepared for future generations and STF is running a campaign to raise money to do all the necessary work in the huts and on the trail. Don’t forget that you are in the wilderness and someone needs to make it more accessible by building bridges, pathways in especially boggy sections and providing signposts so we don’t get lost. All this work also helps the conservation of the trail.

 

Candlelight illumintes room Singi mountain hut at night, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Candlelight illumintes room Singi mountain hut at night, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Cuting firewood at mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

Cuting firewood at mountain hut, Kungsleden trail, Lappland, Sweden

 

Singi hut, Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

Singi hut, Kungsleden trail, Lapland, Sweden

 

Helpful info

Cody Duncan Photography – More detailed info and guide about the northern section.
STF – Info about the huts on the Kungsleden
Save Kungsleden

 

All photos © Cody Duncan

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Reflections on Leaving Wales and Moving On

 

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

Pen y Fan sunrise in winter

 

I published my last post almost a year ago! Many things have happened since and I needed some time off, especially that I haven’t really had a proper “base” to work from.

It’s the second time I am wrapping up my life for new beginnings. Hundreds of thoughts are racing through my mind, moving to another country is such a rare opportunity to rethink your actions, ideas, hopes and plans for the future. 11+ years ago I left Poland for Wales, to become a support worker in a small residential school for young people with learning disabilities. Little did I know where my life was going to take me, and that as of today I would officially be living in Bavaria, Germany.

 

 Carmarthen Fans - Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. April 2013

Carmarthen Fans – Bannau Sir Gaer with Picws Du in distance, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Apr 2013

When a young girl, I always dreamt about visiting the UK, possibly spending there a few months to learn the language and experience the romantic vibes of the country. Like from Jane Austen’s or Charlotte Bronte’s novels: rainy moorlands, green hillsides and purple heather blown in the wind. (Not mentioning a handsome man with shaggy hair riding a horse in the background…)

Years later, after finishing my supply English teacher post in a primary school in Poland, I started looking for possible jobs in Great Britain. An advert of a support worker position at a school run by a charity seemed a perfect solution for me, combining my two passions: education and social care. I was even more happy when, after receiving a job offer, I could choose between two locations: either close to Oxford and London, or in a rural English/Welsh border countryside. You should know by now which one was my choice.

 

 Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales, April 2014

Llangorse lake from Mynydd Llangorse, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. Apr 2014

 

I won’t lie, the beginnings were difficult. New place, new housemates, new job, new language (with what seemed like a hundred accent variations). Now I am able to look back with a smile at some situations which seemed scary and/or embarrassing at the time. Imagine a grown-up woman who feels (and probably behaves) like a schoolgirl trying to make new friends.

But most of all, I wasn’t fully aware that people with learning disability might choose to display aggressive behaviour as their means of communication. I had to learn how to safely deal with being punched, kicked, bitten, verbally abused and spat at. And in spite of that, there was a number of students I was fond of; witnessing their even smallest steps forward made me so happy and proud. I can’t even explain how it feels seeing a boy who kept hurting himself and us, turning into a young man who could fly on a plane to Lapland! With the promotions, my responsibilities changed. I still enjoyed what I was doing though, even with some staff members being the most challenging of people I had ever met!

Without going into too much detail, as I should not be talking about certain issues, the school I worked in got closed. For someone not knowing much about social care, you don’t know about all these crazy regulations that needs to be followed, even if it often means that paperwork is more important than people. Somehow the mountain was created out of the mole hill, and because of a few potential mistakes, many of great staff lost their jobs, and students lost a great place to learn and thrive.

I went through good and bad with so many great people. I learnt a lot about how to appreciate the uniqueness of others. I made friends for life, had my heart broken, fell in love with Scottish and Welsh landscapes, hiked my legs off and found my man (though not British and without a horse, but thanks to him photos of me were published even in Nat Geo!).

 

 Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. January 2013

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2013

Summit of Glyder Fach with Tryfan in background, Snowdonia national park, Wales. June 2013

Summit of Glyder Fach with Tryfan in background, Snowdonia national park, Wales. Jun 2013

 

Closing off the school pushed me to make a decision: ‘should I stay or should I go’ – I could keep working for the company and just move within the UK. But I knew that it was time for me to leave, to explore new places. I really love travelling, but what I like the most is long-term experiences, the familiar and the foreign interwoven with each other.

It took me about a year to be where I am now, I have travelled through Europe to Norway and my beloved Lofoten, then went to USA, Poland, back to Lofoten and Wales, and finally here to German Bavaria. The most exciting part of my travels was to meet a great British couple who were travelling Europe in their van (check out their website VdubVanLife), and now we are planning together a really cool project!

 

Sitting around a campfire with Bee from VdubVanLife, northern lights above us, Storsandnes, Lofoten, Norway

Sitting around a campfire with Bee from VdubVanLife, northern lights above us, Storsandnes, Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

 

The big unknown ahead of me, thrilling and scary at the same time, not only due to starting in a new place and learning a new language, but also because of changing my area of work quite significantly and jumping into self-employment. (I even learnt to design eBooks, check them out).

I just wish that the school would still exist and I could sometimes check in to say hello…

 

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. January 2013

Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Jan 2013

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

Sunset from the summit of Markan (602m), Lofoten, Norway. Sept 2014

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Learning how to ski…

My plans to write more articles before my next trip have been put on hold due to a broken computer. A flashing question mark folder on an iMac screen… Not a good sign. Temporarily I am using my Toshiba laptop, but it is less convenient especially without certain programs. (And I will not mention that haven’t backed up everything before the crash so lesson learnt.) I am not able to post new photos but hopefully it will get fixed soon.

Hiking Kungsleden trail, 2012

Hiking Kungsleden trail, 2012

On a positive side, in less than 1 week I am flying to Sweden. I will be back on the Kungsleden trail, but this time on skis! Well, I hope I will ski and won’t end up as a snow(wo)man. It might not sound very adventurous to some people, but it will be my first time on skis (in the real world). My last Kunsgleden trip in Autumn 2012 was great and unforgettable. I really need to write about it more one of these days. But as I did it shortly after I had sprained my ankle, I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. But still, hiking from hut to hut, far away from civilisation, without electricity and running water, seemed like a dream to me then and is also very tempting now.

I have done some lessons on an indoor slope and to be honest “Learn to ski in a day” didn’t quite work for me. I had a foot surgery when I was little and – to make long story short – my right leg is weaker than the left one. So when everyone else in my group was progressing into turns, I could hardly snowplough down (really slowly) trying to keep my balance and not to swerve to the left. It was one of those moments in life when I felt a bit like an idiot surrounded by children speeding down from the top of the slope when I was slowly making my way down. On the other hand, I actually had a lot of fun, giggling every time I fell down (which was most of the time).

Snow snow snow, Lofoten islands 2013

Snow snow snow, Lofoten islands 2013

To move things on a bit, I did some research and discovered something which is called Skiplex. So I went to Reading with my friend having booked 4 hours of skiing. For a first timer Skiplex seems like a funny place with the revolving carpet which pretends to be a ski slope. But it is really clever though, as the gradient can be changed and it becomes steeper if you want to, or the speed can be increased and you almost feel like flying down. I would really recommend it to those people who are slow learners like me. Or to someone who wants to learn really fast. I gained confidence and started finally doing snowplough turns. I even started working on parallel turns and I guess if not some muscle pains I could probably get there as well. My friend did much better as a regular “gym goer”, and annoyingly she was eager to do more whilst I could hardly move my legs after 4 hours of skiing (even with the breaks they give you!). If you live far away from the slopes and want to do as much as you can in one day, booking 3 hours rather than 4 seems to be a wiser option. Especially, if you don’t want to look like an idiot the following day when you have difficulties sitting down on the chair (unless of course you are my friend who went to the gym the following morning).

Skiing the Kungsleden trail will be of course absolutely different being cross country skiing rather than just going downhill. So I am trying to become fitter as I don’t want to die of the exhaustion on the trail. (The balancing board seems to be helpful as I can shift the weight from one leg to another). Squats, and more squats.

Kungsleden trail, Sweden, September 2012

Kungsleden trail, Sweden, September 2012

After getting from Nikkaluokta to Abisko, we are planning to go for a few days to the Lofoten islands. If you have read some of my blog posts, you would know by now that it is one of my favourite places. There is not much snow there now and I hope it will change by the time we will get there so I can do more skiing. This time I will not take my ice climbing gear as I don’t want extra weight on the trail but apparently the conditions are much better than last year… Well, you can’t have everything.

Inspired by a true story – Leo Houlding

I have been sick for quite a few days now, not lady-like symptoms so I won’t go into much detail. A while ago my friends and I had bought tickets for yesterday’s  presentation by the climber Leo Houlding. I was not 100% sure if I could make it till the very last moment but I decided to risk it and go anyway. And although it was a bit difficult to ignore my stomach-aches and other things, I am so glad I went to see him at Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon. It was absolutely worth my effort.

For those who don’t know, Leo is a world-class UK climber and base-jumper who has achieved a lot in his young life. His slide show tour is about his latest adventures – from Amazon to Antarctica. Amazing stories with great photos and video clips (snapshots from the films available on DVDs). The tour is almost finished but if you’re in the UK and can make it, check out the dates. If not, try to watch the DVDs and you will be taken to the world of challenge, adventure and inspiration.

Leo Houlding at Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, November 2013

Leo Houlding at Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, November 2013

I started Somewhere It’s Raining wanting to share some stories with you. They are not as awesome as Leo’s but I wish I could inspire someone one day like he inspired me. Before preparing my blog to be published online and since then, I have listened to great podcasts by Pat Flynn and Natalie Sisson about having online businesses. I am far from being a business person yet but each podcast has been a lesson for me how to develop as a blogger but also as a person. Although Pat and Natalie approach things from a slightly different angle, they both believe that to be successful one needs to provide the unique value to their audience. And one needs to take action…

So yesterday I decided that “I need to move my freaking legs!” (This sentence is a politically correct version of an instruction I was given once when stuck climbing on the rock.) So I have just booked a full-day ski lesson (in the UK!) and I am planning to ski through a part of the Kungsleden trail in Sweden (which I hiked last year). Ok, I know it is quite a simple trail and mostly flat but I have never had skis on my feet before. So if I survive my lesson and I am able to move on skis for a few minutes without falling down and breaking my limbs, I will buy the gear and tickets. And I will have more stories to tell.

Backwards and forwards at Kungsleden trail, Sweden September 2012

Backwards and forwards at Kungsleden trail, Sweden September 2012

Last note to stress my point (and this can be only understood by a photographer’s girlfriend or wife – I have publicly (on social media) promised my boyfriend that I would never complain again if he asks me to turn around and do the same part of the route a few times to take hiking photos. I am not sure though if it is being inspired or just stupid on my part…