Outdoor guiding experience in the old forests of Oulanka national park / Learning great stories and falling in love with Lapland
Aarni Velhonoja & Sebastian Mardones
Outdoor guiding experience in the old forests of Oulanka National park
My studies in adventure education began rather modestly. I had broken my ankle during the summer and was going into surgery while my peers were on their first hiking trip in Lapland. Needless to say, I was not able to take part in many of the physical activities during the first semester, and instead followed the studies from a more theoretical perspective.
I found a place for my internship period in Kuusamo, right next to the National Park of Oulanka. This internship would allow me to finally put to test the theory I had learned during the fall studies and also give a reality check of sorts about the actual nature of an adventure educator’s work. Studying adventure education is one thing, but the working life and the nature of customer service and tourism industry in general is something that one should get an understanding of as soon as possible. While there are many ways to apply the skills we learn in adventure education, a large part of our employment seems to be centered around tourism.
My main goal for the internship, and the reason I wanted to do it in Finland, was to learn about the professional way of working as an outdoor guide. Also, for future purposes, I wanted to see the way an organized outdoor related system is run from an entrepreneurial perspective. Lastly, I really just wanted to get to know Lapland better because it is a big part of the Finnish culture and not something that even the Finns get to fully explore if they live in the South.
After my first full week of internship, (I started it a little later than most of my peers) I’ve already gained massive amounts of experience. I was one of the three guides during a week-long wilderness experience in which we hosted a group of twelve customers at a traditional logging lodge and took them on a two-night trip to the Russian border on snowshoes. Although not filled with huge adrenaline rushes, the week was definitely enough activity for my recovering ankle and the still, old forests of Oulanka were an enjoyable environment for a ‘soft’ adventure. I was able to take responsibility, learn about the logistics of taking care of a group in a relatively remote place, and most importantly, reflect on the values of working as an outdoor guide.
Looking forward to more lessons!
Learning great stories and falling in love with Lapland
My trip to Ylläs was a long drive to the unknown but familiar at the same time. It was amazing to see how the weather and scenery were changing kilometer by kilometer. In September I visited Ylläs on a hiking trip organised by the school, and completely fell in love with the place. That’s also why I asked to get an internship position here and nowhere else.
Snow Fun Safaris is the name of the company where I was doing the internship, and it certainly was Fun. It was a great experience putting into practice all the tools that we were provided with during our studies. Turning all the knowledge into words and action was easier than I thought it would be. The job was mostly customer service-oriented, which is something I’ve been doing throughout my adult life. Something new I’ve learned during my time in Ylläs has been the Finnish culture in Lapland and some great stories about the area – I always enjoy getting to know the little tips and secrets of new places.
Reindeer is well adjusted to the extreme weather conditions (Photo: Sebastian Mardones)
Some of the most exciting adventures I’ve done for work have been snowshoeing treks in the fells, skiing school and snowmobiling around the area. It has been great to take part in the activities and to prove myself I’m able to do this type of work. I truly enjoy the Finnish nature in extreme weather conditions.
On a snowmobile safari (Photo: Sebastian Mardones)
In March I packed my stuff in the car and headed back to Helsinki. Leaving the place left an empty space in me that will be filled the next time I visit Ylläs again. There’s more learning to do, places to fall in love with, and adventures to experience. The time spent in Lapland has been great, but new and different kind of responsibilities are waiting for me now in the South. I’m really excited about the future and the new challenges ahead of me.