A solo trek across Scandinavia. Q + A with Anna Blackwell
Tell us about your latest trip. What does it involve?In July I’m starting my Green Ribbon expedition, a 1,300km trek across Arctic and Northern Scandinavia. Starting at the Treriksröset (the cairn where Finland, Sweden and Norway meet), I’ll spend a few months making my way south along the mountains on the Swedish-Norwegian border. The expedition is solo and self-supported and crosses some of Europe’s greatest wilderness areas.
What do you expect the major challenges will be?
Physical challenges aside, one of the toughest aspects of the trek will be the fact that I’m doing it solo. I will be responsible for motivating myself through the hard sections when the terrain is difficult or the weather is bad - or even when I’m just struggling through a bad mood! Having done long distance solo adventures before, I know the struggles of not having someone to encourage or distract you.
Boredom will also pose a challenge; I have some long sections on roads and while the scenery around me will still be incredible, the monotony of tarmac underfoot can be grim!
What nutrition plan do you have?
On long-distance treks in cold places like Arctic Scandinavia, it’s all about finding a balance between high energy and low weight. My day will start with a small bowl of porridge with a few nuts and seeds (great sources of nutrients). After that it’s down to snacking little and often throughout the day and a dehydrated expedition meal for dins once I’m settled in my tent. With the exception of foraged blueberries it’s pretty hard to get anything fresh in, so every few weeks when I stop at a mountain station I’ll be loading up on fresh fruit and veggies.
What will be your major sources of energy and how are using MISSION to fuel the trip?
I’ll be eating a lot of snack bars, protein balls and dried meat (biltong and peparami), but I try to avoid anything that’s overly processed or high in sugar. I’m taking a generous stash of Perform, Endure, Recover and Sleep teas - Perform and Endure to drink during the day for a steady release of caffeine to keep me energised, Recover for my end-of-day wind-down with my Kindle or journal, and Sleep to make sure I get the all-important rest before cracking on again the next day.
How did this all come about - have you done trips like this before?
Over the last six years or so I’ve been off on a number of big adventures and expeditions which came about after I spent a few weeks trekking in Costa Rica on my gap year. Since then, I’ve walked 500 and 1,000 miles across Europe, spent five weeks trekking across the wilderness of Arctic Sweden by myself, climbed the highest peak in North Africa and last year a friend and I kayaked from London to the Black Sea which was 4,000km through eleven countries and five capital cities across Europe!
I had been using university holidays and then annual leave but in February 2018 I took a leap and left my law firm job to instead be a full-time adventurer. I currently earn money through public speaking, writing and photography.
Why not choose a normal career?
I gave it a go! I consider myself incredibly lucky to have worked for a phenomenal woman who gave me a lot of flexibility and independence and even went as far as encouraging my adventures… But at the end of the day it wasn’t fulfilling enough and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to give the adventurer career a go. I now earn a living - albeit small - through writing, public speaking and photography which are all things that I genuinely love doing and I get a lot of flexibility in terms of when I work meaning adventures are possible.
Do you ever wish you did choose a normal career?
From time-to-time I fleetingly miss the financial stability of a normal career but there are so many positives to pursuing this career that thankfully outweigh that!
What’s your proudest achievement in adventure?
Probably last year’s Kayaking the Continent expedition. My kayaking partner Kate and I overcame the odds to even reach the start line, let alone dealing with and persevering through everything that went wrong on the trip itself (kit breaking, illness, delays, nearly getting squashed by huge shipping barges or drowning in locks, brutal headwinds, almost irreparable damage to the kayak… You get the picture).
What makes me most proud about the expedition though is how Kate and I dealt with these challenges together. We didn’t have a single argument or turn against each other, even when we were exhausted and hungry and something else had gone wrong. Instead, the experiences made us stronger we came out inseparable and more like sisters.
What will the next adventure be?
I have some ideas brewing… I expect while I’m away trekking this summer I’ll work out what captures my imagination and interest the best and go for that, so watch this space!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into adventure?
Work out what it is that’s holding you back and tackle that. It’s ok to be nervous about trying something for the first time, whether that’s a solo bivvy, kayaking or climbing, so try to avoid putting too much pressure on yourself and remember that at the end of the day it’s meant to be a fun experience!
If you’re after people to try things out with, Facebook groups are a great place to find people who are going on mini adventures in the evenings or during weekends. I recommend The Yes Tribe, or groups like Adventure Queens and Love Her Wild if you’re a gal.
Favourite blend of MISSION tea?
Favourite song or artist to walk to?
My current go-to is Mausoleum by Seryn (possibly because a friend and I listened to it on repeat during a recent roadtrip around Botswana so it brings back awesome memories).
Controversially, I try not to listen to music/podcasts/audiobooks on my solo adventures and I won’t be taking headphones on my Green Ribbon trek. I know how easily I lose touch of my surroundings when I’m listening to something good and I want to make sure I’m really present in the highs and lows of this trek.
Most inspirational person you know?
It’s impossible for me to choose just one person… I’m incredibly lucky to have a lot of friends who continue to inspire me, not just through their achievements in adventure, but also through their attitude to life and their constant drive to better themselves and the world. In a way, it’s those people using their everyday lives to do good who are the most inspirational.