I let my friends talk me into a mountain hike on the Kungsleden hiking trail in Northern Sweden - 110 kilometers of rocks and mud high up in the mountains. I don't know how I let such a thing happen because I have become a person who really likes the little comforts of life. I like my bed, I like good restaurants (plenty of them in Tallinn!), I like long evenings with a good book, I like having my phone on me at all times. So I was really surprised when I found myself packing only the most essential of things into a rucksack (a tent, a mattress, a sleeping bag, handful of clothes and protein bars, brand new hiking boots, head lamp and bikinis) and taking off for ten long days in an unfamiliar place far from home.
As I was walking on the trail, I thought about the whole things as a massive experiment I run on myself. So I guess one of the main reasons I agreed to go was because I wanted to get to know myself better and because I was curious about my limits and my abilities, trying to find the different breaking points in myself. I wanted to know how long I could walk without getting tired. I wanted to know how much pain I could endure without starting to cry or complain. I wanted to know how many days I could go without washing myself. I wanted to know when I would stop caring about my looks, away from our mirror-obsessed culture. I wanted to know how many days it would take me to go through a Facebook rehab. I wanted to know whether I could always stay calm or not. I wanted to know if my relationship with some of my friends would change radically during the trip. I wanted to know how I would react if someone treated me unkindly - would I snap, would I lash back? I wanted to know if I could get real quality sleep on a thin mattress in a cold tent. I wanted to know if I could swim in a lake of melting snow water. And I wanted to see if there was something God needed to tell or teach me that He couldn't tell or teach me at home.
I guess every experiment has twofold results. There are the results that you were looking for and that make you happy, and there are the results which, well, you wish weren't there...
I could go on without washing for about five days. I stopped caring about my looks on day three. Facebook became meaningless already on day two. Yes, I could swim in a lake of snow water, only for about 10 seconds though (the temperature of the water, we discussed, might have been around +6'C). I could get used to constant pain. But I couldn't sleep in a cold tent very well, at least during the first nights. One night I had to change the tent in order to get warm, and had to sleep between two big guys like between a sandwich. I couldn't get use to the tasteless canned food (there were only a few bright exceptions to this and they all happened when A. cared to cook - I knew he could cook but I didn't quite know he could make magic with the most simple of ingredients). Yes, some relationships changed, some for the better, at least one for the worse. The person I thought I knew the best I didn't know at all, as it turned out. Some teenage guys whom I didn't know and didn't expect anything from, turned out to be some of the nicest and kindest and calmest people I know. Most of the time I could keep my mouth shut and not complain. Most of the time I could stay calm and not lash back. Most of the time. Not always. And God managed to come through, His voice and answer to a question I went to Sweden with sounded crystal clear. It was the answer I didn't want to hear, I was until the last moment hoping for another answer, but the answer came and I think that's the most important thing of all.
There are three things I am especially happy about or thankful for as I look back on the hiking adventure. I am very happy about my hiking boots (I called them Tough Mudders) that brought me through all that mud and mountain rivers, keeping my feet ever so warm and dry. I am grateful for having such a wonderful hiking buddy as W. - one of those teenagers. He never tired of making me laugh with his jokes, and I never tired of laughing. One moment (the only moment I really wanted to cry) when I managed to spill the frying pan with mushroom sauce that was almost ready for supper, losing at least a quarter of the precious sauce, I could see how he made an extra effort to comfort me and cheer me up. He has no idea how grateful I was to him for it. And third, the nature - the breathtaking, Lord of the Rings kind of nature, massive mountains, little streams with wonderfully tasting water, rushing rivers, big plateaus, massive clouds hanging right above your head, big rocks that gave shelter from the ice-cold wind. Oh, the nature really was the real star of the hike!
But I am also glad to be back. On the first evening as we arrived back late at night, I just fell in my bed, only thanking the Almighty for life and for my bed before dozing off to sleep. The next evening I was in a better shape - I made myself some good salad, put my feet up (literally because they are still swollen), listened to classical music, ate ice cream, and started reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography. And on the third evening (yesterday, that is) I accepted my dear auntie's dinner invitation and stayed at hers until I was so full I could eat no more of her delicious food.
Wilderness is good. Home is better.