Cycling from England to Finland

26.04.19 – 14.05.19

Distance: 1704km /1059miles

Duration: 18 days

Nights in bed: 7 – I used the websites warmshowers and couchsurfing to arrange a place to sleep for free. A huge thank you to everyone I stayed with, it was amazing staying with locals and taking a glimpse into their lives and their countries. Warm Showers was so much easier to use than couchsurfing, as people often leave contact information, so you can call or message directly. You have no message limits on warm Showers, whereas you can only contact 10 people a week on couch surfing.

Nights Camping: 10

Cost: Around €220 (There were a few days that I didn’t record my spending, so this is a roughly accurate calculation, I think most of the spending was on ice cream). €120 of that was on ferries. So on average €5.5 a day if you don’t include ferries and €12.2 if you do.

Injuries: Sore butt and sore neck


Earlier in the year I cycled 1704km /1059miles from my hometown of Brackley to Helsinki via The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. I was back home visiting family and friends in April, and decided I would cycle back to Finland. I left on the 26th April in the hope of getting to Helsinki by the 15th of May – in time to start my summer contract. I have included my daily instagram posts below to help tell the story, but overall – other than a sore butt (expected), sore neck and 2 punctures – all went smoothly.


Route


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Studying Finnish – 2 Years Down the Line… Fluent yet?

I’ve been studying finnish now for almost 3 years. I was about to start writing a 3 year review and some trip reports and came across this unfinished post from a year ago. I thought I’d post this 2 year marker, although it’s a year late. I’ll add in some additional thoughts in *bold text.

I’ll do a ‘3 years of learning finnish’ post soon!

So, after two years of studying these were my thoughts.


Studying Finnish – 2 Years Down the Line… Fluent yet?

Last time I wrote about this challenge was a year ago, which means I have been learning Finnish now for 2 years.

The aim of this challenge was to become fluent, in *cough*, 5 months. In the last post I explained that I still hadn’t reached fluency after 1 year of learning, but would aim for a B2 level by August 2018. So, after 2 years of trying to crack this language have I reached fluency yet? The short answer is no. Did I reach the B2 level I had wanted – yes and no.

In this post I will explain what level I am at now, give brief overview of what I have been up to over the last year, how I have been studying, how I am feeling about this challenge, what I am good at, where I can improve and where I will take it next.

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Selected as one of 101 Inspiring Adventurers

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Really chuffed to have been selected for this list of 101 inspiring adventurers.

There’s a load of inspiring people on the list and many of them are personal heroes to me. There’s no reason for the order, but I am number 19 if you fancy taking a look.

Also, in case you were wondering, I had nothing to do with the picture selection on their blog post… but I have put their picture choice above: longjohns and wellies in the Russian wilderness.

Just finished my second winter season working as a husky guide in Finnish Lapland. Now I have a month off before starting the summer season as a guide Helsinki.

During this time I have a few small trips planned with friends including: a 4 day forest skiing trip in Syöte National Park and a 10 day trip in the area near Pallas yllästunturi – trip reports to follow!

https://www.campsites.co.uk/guides/feel-more-adventurous

A Year of Studying Finnish – What’s Next?

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The last post I wrote about learning Finnish was in April (almost 7 months ago now!). I had just moved to Helsinki and I was a few weeks into a 2 month intensive Finnish language course. I have been studying Finnish for over a year now. 8 months in Finland and 4.5 in the UK.

So, on returning to Finland for another winter season as a Husky Guide, I think it is about time to explain: Why I am doing this challenge? What I have been up to for the last few months? Did I achieved my language goal? What are my next steps…


WHY?

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. There was a particularly uninspiring day where I questioned whether it is even worth it… So, I think a re-evaluation of why I am learning the language will be beneficial.

  • Curiosity – To see if I can…
  • To learn about the culture and people on a deeper level – Languages are there to communicate with others, through writing, speaking and listening. But, every language has unique qualities, and by learning it, you will understand more about the culture.
  • To be able to communicate with people in their own tongueAlthough many Finns do speak good English, many don’t and it always feels great to have exchanges in the native language.
  • To challenge myself – Challenges help me focus my energy and time, and I enjoy doing them and find them rewarding and interesting.
  • To learn – I’ve always wanted to speak another language, fluently, so… (next point)
  • Why not? – There’s nothing to lose by trying.
  • I work and live here – I am a trained guide, and will be working a second season here now. It will only help if I have a good grasp of Finnish, and being in the country is the perfect place to learn. 

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Learning Finnish – 6 Months Are Up – Am I Fluent?

Just over 5 months ago I came to Finland to spend the winter working as a husky guide. I set myself the goal of becoming fluent in Finnish in these 5 months. I didn’t know whether ‘fluency’ was even possible in this time, but it had a nice ring to it, and I think it is always better to aim higher. So here I am, almost 6 months down the line.

So, am I fluent in Finnish I hear you ask? Hell no! But, I can speak basic Finnish, and can have simple conversations with people. The purpose of this post is to sum up the last 5.5 months, and also state my next plans. It’s quite a mammoth post, and I found it pretty hard just trying to write down everything in some kind of order – languages are absolute beasts! But maybe, if you’re learning Finnish or another language you can take some pointers. If I were to offer just one piece of advice for aspiring language learners, it would be:

“Just Start”

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Becoming Fluent in Finnish – Dealing with Procrastination / Studying Wisely

If there was an award for procrastination I would be some kind of world champion I am sure of it.

I know this and if I let myself get distracted I will spiral out of control on an eating / cleaning binge, suddenly spark up an interest in double clutch gear changes or watch super slow motion videos of people being slapped in the face, or sometimes, I even find myself writing a blog post when I should be studying. (I actually started writing this a month ago, then procrastinated about my procrastination). You get the idea.

This was starting to happen more regularly, and at times I really wasn’t looking forward to doing my language studies. So I thought it would be useful to look at my routine and try a new approach.

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An Overdue Update – Becoming Fluent in Finnish

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Selection of my Finnish books

Almost three months have passed since starting my challenge of becoming fluent in Finnish. I don’t even know where to begin with this journey, but here goes. It has been very tough at times, and hugely rewarding in others. I won’t go into massive detail about the language itself, but rather I will explain my approach, where I am now with Finnish, the highs and lows, and where I see myself at the end of 6 – 8 months.

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2 Years Ago Today – First Spoon of 52

2 years ago today I had just completed my first wooden spoon of the year. It was the start of a slightly bonkers challenge for 2015 where I decided to carve a spoon, using only hand tools, for each week of the year. I completed the challenge and ended up giving a handful away, keeping my favourites, and selling about 35 of them – donating half of the money towards the charities I supported whilst swimming the Thames. To see all the spoons take a look here.

So, if you bought one of the spoons, or gave it to someone as a present it is about time it needs an oil. What if I don’t have any special oil I hear you ask? Not a problem, just use regular sunflower oil. Apply it to some paper or a cloth and wipe onto the spoon. This will keep the wood nice and supple and stop it from drying out. Don’t use olive oil though, it will make it smelly.

And don’t oil if you bought:
Spoon 23 – The Paella Server (Just oil the unpatterned side) – Anna Hobbiss
Spoon 34 – The Egg and Spoon Race Spoon (Just oil the spoon bowl) – Antony Joury

Also, I would love to see some pictures of the spoons in use, or wherever they may live now  Happy Spooning!

 

Next Challenge – Becoming Fluent in Finnish

Moi moi. (Hello in Finnish) My next challenge is going down a slightly different route. For the next six months I am stepping away from physical challenges and I am going to try something different – to become as fluent as possible in Finnish.

Why Finnish? My answer is, why not? I am going to be working there for the next 6 months, so I thought it was a good opportunity to learn the language. I nearly didn’t do it. Finnish is meant to be a really tough language to learn, and my over riding fear was ‘What if I fail?’. What if I fail! Seriously, why does the thought of failing hold you back so much? It’s like your body would rather just carry on in its comfort zone than trying something new.

I have lived in Finland for a year before, and felt like I had started to understand their culture, but at the same time I felt I was only scratching the surface. I feel like learning the language will help me to explore Finland in a new light, and get to know its people from a different perspective.

I have never been much of a language-y person. I mean I did French GCSE, but left feeling confused, and incredibly un-confident at speaking the language. I have spoken to my Dad about learning a language a few times, and he texted me the other day saying:

“Remember you were going to learn a new language – you could get a Finnish tape.”

I replied saying it was a good idea, bu the only thing holding me back was the fear of not being able to learn it. To which he replied.

“Remember the famous saying. There’s nothing to fear except fear itself. Don’t expect miracles, its obviously a very tough language – give it a go.”

So that’s what I am going to do. And even though I am still a bit worried I wont be able to grasp it, I am going to give it my best shot and see what happens.

End Goal

I feel like having an ‘end goal’ will help to see how much I have learnt over the next 6 months. So, I am going to perform a speech/song/poem and also write a blog post in Finnish.

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I have been recommended this book by a friend who is learning Arabic. Let the learning commence.

Swimming 137 miles down the River Thames

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It has been over two months since I clambered down a ladder into a small river at Lechlade, setting of on a 137 mile swim down the River Thames, finishing 15 days later at Putney Bridge. The physical reminders and sore muscles have long since subsided, but the memories and emotions forged during countless days in the water will stay with me forever. It seems like a hazy mad hatter alice in wonderland dream and I can’t quite believe I even attempted it.

WHY?

I’ve been asked this numerous times. I undertook this trip as the thought of doing such a thing terrified the crap out of me. I wrote about my fears in a previous post here. I remember hearing about David Walliam’s inspirational Thames swim several years ago, and I was completely in awe the someone could swim that far, especially in the murky depths of the Thames. But subconsciously I think a seed had been sown and around 3 years later I decided to take on my own swim down the Thames. It was shortly after I had run the Pennine Way and I was looking for next year’s challenge. My right knee was in absolute pieces so the thought of doing a running challenge was out of the question. I’d been mulling over the idea of swimming a river from source to mouth for a while, so whilst writing a sponsorship email I decided in the space of about 5 minutes I would attempt to swim the Thames the following year. I then emailed 2 more people asking for advice, and once you’ve emailed or told 3 people or more, it becomes official.

I also undertook the swim with the hope of raising £5000 for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Helen & Douglas House. We ended up raising £3200 in the end, which I am really happy with. I chose Helen and Douglas house, as they are a local hospice that supports children with life shortening conditions. I chose The Cystic Fibrosis Trust as a family friend’s daughter has CF, and I know how hard the illness can be.

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Knowing that what you’re doing can potentially help someone with a life threatening disease made the harder days of the swim pale in comparison to what they have to go through on a daily basis.

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