WHERE: Kungsleden + Sarek National Park, Lapland, Sweden
WHEN: August 1 – September 11, 2016
WHO: Karma & Helena
OBJECTIVE: Thru-hike
DISTANCE: 532 km

Turning forty a few years ago kickstarted a journey of discovery culminating in the realization that I needed to reboot my life. This reboot basically involved a whole lot of walking, and I finally decided to walk 500 km this summer to test my limits and to see who I would become on the other side. The dream was to thru-hike the famous Kungsleden (The King’s Trail) by the arctic circle in Sweden, adding a trek into Sarek National Park along the way for good measure. I talk a bit more about my motivation to do this here.

Kungsleden is Sweden’s longest and most famous trail. It has become increasingly popular with international hikers in recent years in part due to a National Geographic article listing it among the “World’s Best Hikes“. Although that reviewer did not cover much of the trail’s actually distance, but that is beside the point. Kungsleden is a beautiful 440 km trek through the Scandinavian mountain range between Hemavan in the south and Abisko in the north. Trailing across majestic mountains, river valleys and highland plateaus it is a truly breathtaking experience! Early in the season you can enjoy the midnight sun and later the northern lights. Weather can be unreliable all season though, including late or early snow. We experienced snow already early September this year.

Before I set out I told you that this would be a transformation – I was right. Not only does my iPhone no longer recognize my fingerprints (I must have left them on my trekking poles), I also left a considerable amount of weight somewhere along the trail, but more importantly here are some of the reflections I brought back with me.

Rebooting is more than just walking of course. Hiking for me is about disconnecting from stresses and obligations and just enjoying my own company for a while. This time it surprised me how fast I was able to leave “normal life” behind as I fell into a routine where every day became all about more primal needs, such as navigation, distance covered, shelter and food. In that simplicity is a comforting serenity. Basic survival. Being out for this long really allowed me to reflect over my values and what I think is important in life. Reevaluating my priorities I guess.

I had mixed feelings at the finish line actually. Of course, I was super excited and very proud, but those feelings were mixed in with a palpable dose of melancholy. I wanted to keep going! It had been a truly amazing experience. You feel so small and insignificant yet remarkably present and aware completely surrounded by nature like this… a feeling of serenity and energy combined that I have never felt anywhere else before! Of course, there had been hard moments endured by sheer willpower and grit, but the strongest emotion I felt when approaching the end was that I did want it to be over!

A quote I had read on Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line, a while back kept playing in my head… “Every day was a pilgrimage, every mile earned and etched into our bodies. The land we traveled though burned into our minds.” I feel the same! So intensely that I can taste it. This has been a life-changing experience. I feel stronger and more alive than ever and I want to hold on to that feeling and not let go!

The drive behind this whole reboot is my intense conviction, resonating through my entire core, that life should not be about falling in line and just waiting to die. This scares me more than death itself. Actually, I am not at all scared of death. What I am scared of though is arriving at the end of the line with regrets over things I did not do. Even though big life changes can be scary – regret is even scarier. You never know how long time you have left, you can be struck down by lightning tomorrow, so I don’t want to live my life in the comfort zone. While my life does not have to be perfect, it most definitely has to be honest and real!

For a full account of the travel journal, and A LOT OF PHOTOS, please refer back to the 6 latest posts before this one, one for each stage. I backdated the posts so the account works better as a time capsule going forward.

“Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.”

Jack Kerouac