When a colleague announces that they’re leaving their job, you don’t generally expect the next words to be ‘to walk to Finland’. But that was exactly what happened back in December when my pal Lauren sat our team down to explain her adventure.
4 months and many trips to Mountain Warehouse later, she and her partner Leo finally set off from Exmouth at the beginning of April. One week in, I took a trip down to Purbeck to join them for a beautifully sunny leg of the walk, and find about more about their epic 1600-mile trip.
England to Finland is a pretty amazing adventure! What inspired you to do the trip, and how did you decide on your route?
I guess I’ve always dreamed of going on some sort of adventure, and Leo has too. But we also knew we wanted each day to have a purpose as we get a bit restless on sun-lounger holidays! I’ve always liked the old-fashioned simplicity of walking. There’s nothing flashy or fast about it, but you get a chance to admire the views, and you see the world at a slower pace.
We specifically decided on the walk to Finland as we want to get the Trans-Siberian railway after and Helsinki is pretty close to St. Petersburg where the train line begins. I started planning the route using a high-tech mix of Google Maps and general googling, until we decided on a path which took a short distance and had great scenery along the way.
How long did it take to plan this trip, and what did it involve?
We came up with the vague idea about two years before setting off but it took a while to save up and plan. We knew it would take about 6 months to walk so we had to begin in April to get the whole of spring and summer and arrive in Helsinki before it gets too cold.
The planning involved lots of route research, map buying and kit buying. I’ve done lots of camping before so had some good kit, but we needed everything to be super lightweight, waterproof or quick-drying and sturdy to make the trip as easy as possible, so there was lots to get!
Can you talk me through an average day on the trail?
We wake up naturally at about 7.30 (living alarm-clock free!) and start by having muesli for breakfast before taking down the tent and packing our bags. We try to walk about 10-15 miles a day, so once we’re about three or four miles in we have a snack break and enjoy the views wherever we are. Then we try to get over half way by lunch, when we might have a cheese sandwich and an apple.
At the moment we still have to stop quite frequently as we get lots of aches and pains, so the afternoon miles are typically spread between biscuit and Haribo breaks to keep us going! Then we might arrive at the campsite by around 5 if it’s a good day, set up the tent, make a camp-stove dinner and plan tomorrow’s route before getting an early night.
Are there any places you are most looking forward to visiting?
I’m especially excited about getting to Denmark and Sweden as I’ve never been to a Scandinavian country before, and they sound really beautiful! Also Sweden has the open access rule so it’ll be fun to do lots of wild camping there.
What’s been your favourite place you’ve seen so far?
We stopped for a while in Lulworth Cove on the Dorset Coast the other day. It was a really hot afternoon and there were lots of kids and dogs playing in the sea and little fishing boats bobbing up and down in the waves. Leo went swimming and then we sunbathed for a while and it was so idyllic!
What absolute essentials have you packed for along the way?
Our dry bags have been amazing. We’ve packed all of our things into different sized and coloured dry bags so we can find things easily without turning our rucksacks inside out. Also when the rain does come our things won’t get soaked.
The other essentials have to be our sleeping bags. We got Rab Ascent sleeping bags and they’re super cosy even when it’s been frosty outside. Being warm at night is vital to a good day’s adventuring.
What do you think will be the toughest part of your walking trip?
When the weather turns! So far it’s been hot and sunny with no rain at all, so keeping warm and dry hasn’t been a problem. I think the moment we have a few wet days it’ll be really tough.
What do you think will be the best bit of your trip, and what do you hope to get out of it?
I think the best bit is all the little moments when you realise you’re somewhere beautiful. I’m excited about the summer when we can go wild swimming all the time and sit out in the evening. I’m also looking forward to getting fitter so all the hills aren’t such a struggle.
I don’t know if there’s any one particular thing I’m hoping to get out of it, apart from general adventure skills. We’ve already lit a fire with just a flint and steel and we’re working on our map reading skills, so we’re getting there!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of quitting their job and setting off on an adventure of this kind?
Start planning early and fix a departure date in your mind so you’ve got something definite to aim towards. Then get saving and planning! We found there was a point where we had told too many friends and family about the trip to be able to back out, so if you easily succumb to peer-pressure like we do then tell lots of people about it! It’ll force you to go – even if you’re terrified 🙂
Lauren and Leo should reach Finland in September 2017, and you can follow their adventures via their blog Lllongwalk. Good luck guys!