Featured Writer: Erica K. Haugli
Sometimes somebody’s adventurous spirit speaks to our own and stirs in us the desire to dream big. Maybe it’s because we know the same voice as they do: Not that of friends, family or society, but the inner voice that calls us to face our fears, test our physical and mental limits, and dare to live life to the fullest.
Tonje Helene Blomseth is someone who stirs this voice within me. I’d like to introduce you to this adventurous soul and hope that her story inspires you to say yes to the next challenge that awaits you. Meet Tonje:
Just over three months ago, on December 11, 2011, this blond, energetic, and very determined 17-year old achieved one of her goals. She became the youngest person in the world to walk the length of Norway. On June 26, accompanied by her faithful, fluffy Siberian Husky, Maddox, she left Lindesnes, Norway, and embarked on a 2,500 km (1,553 mile) journey. Destination: Nordkapp.
As is often the case with big dreams, one can meet skepticism, whether it comes from strangers or loved ones. Some of Tonje’s friends thought the idea was foolish. And of course, for her family, it was a scary thought to let their daughter travel alone. However, once they saw she was serious and had sponsors for her trip, they too, gave her their support.
As an American, I believe many people would have told Tonje it was too dangerous for her to travel on her own. When I asked her if she’d met the same response, she said, “I think there’s a big difference between Norway and the United States. Not only are the cultures different, but also the environments. Of course I had some comments about travelling alone, but most people just nodded and thought it was tough, but cool as well. Nevertheless, I’M STILL ALIVE!”
With her backpack filled with essentials, like a tent, sleeping bag, fishing equipment and satellite-tracking device, she embarked on this remarkable trek. Maddox kept her company the entire way. They walked isolated trails that lead alongside ancient rocky fjords and up and over majestic mountain ranges. In the six-month journey they experienced glorious sunshiny days, as well as pouring rain, freezing sleet and ice-cold snowstorms
She had seven to eight traveling companions that joined her for a few days along the journey, but for the most part she was alone with her own thoughts.
When I asked if she felt lonely, her honest answer was, “I felt lonely all the time when I hiked alone. It’s not really my thing. I like to talk to people and be social, but it was a great experience to be by myself and just know it all depended on my dog and me. Everyone should experience that feeling once in a lifetime!”
With regards to quitting the expedition, she said, “I thought about quitting a lot of times! When people that had hiked with me for days had to go back to their lives, I struggled with continuing alone. But I kept going, knowing that it would get better after a couple of days.”
Maddox’s friendship was extremely important for Tonje during this adventure. She says she wouldn’t have made it without her furry husky and that she’s never loved anyone the way she loves her dog. “He’s everything to me!”
Another trusty companion along the 2,500 kilometers was music. Tonje’s IPod had over 3,000 songs on it. “I listened to a lot of rock on the bad days, when I needed to get angry or just get through the day. Especially rainy and snowy days – then Metallica, Linkin Park and ACDC were my favorites. But when the sun was shining and everything was good, I liked to listen to The XX, Empire of the Sun, Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie and Mike Snow. When the night came along, I listened to Eddie Vedder, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. It was all about the mood!”
Most adventures need an element of suspense, and Tonje’s trip is no exception. As she lay asleep one night, she was awakened by a sound outside of her tent. Maddox was standing on all fours, alert and intent on the deep breathing that resembled a sick person with a severe cough.
A bear was investigating their campsite. Tonje called her mom, but within seconds her cell phone went dead. Crying and knowing she had nothing to defend herself with, this courageous girl lay still; ready to press her Satellite tracking device if things, in her words, “Got ugly.” Thankfully, she and Maddox were unharmed and can share about the scariest moment of their six-month trek.
On December 11, 2011, Tonje Helene Blomsesth achieved her goal of being the youngest person to walk the length of Norway. With mixed emotions she stood on the Nordkapp Plateau.
She said, “When I reached Nordkapp, I was very happy. I’d made it despite all the resistance from people around me, as well as the things that happened along the journey. I’d completed my dream and was heading home for Christmas with my family that I hadn’t seen for months. But at the same time I was really sad. It was all over: Six months of hiking and living my dream. I had to go back to reality and it made me restless and sad.”
Three months later, Tonje’s not slowing down. She just finished participating in the world’s northernmost sled dog race, Finnmarksløpet. And in April of 2013, she and a companion will be travelling to the group of Norwegian islands called Svalbard.
“We will cross the main island, Spitsbergen, from North to South.” The travelling duo will be trekking the 600 km/373 mile-distance on foot, cross-country skis and alpine skis. “We are hoping to film the trip so we can show people what it’s like and what we like to do. It will take about five weeks to complete the trip, so compared to my Nordkapp trip, I think it will be mentally easier, but more difficult physically.”
Tonje’s determination, maturity and “Go-for-it” attitude are inspiring and contagious. I believe her journey is one worth following, and will no doubt challenge many adventurous spirits to take the leap and dream big!
Tonje’s website is in Norwegian, but please check out the photos she posted during her journey. They’ll make you smile! Jentetur 250 mil. And if you want to follow the progression of her Svalbard trip, she and her traveling companion just started a facebook page and a website will soon follow (Svalbard Hoyt og Lavt - Svalbard High and Low.) All photos belong to Tonje Helene Blomseth and are used with permission.
For more stories and pictures from the north of Norway, please check out experiencenorthcape.wordpress.com