The outdoors became my life
Constantly being on the move and getting from A to B using your own two feet is Lina Hallebratt’s life six months of the year. On bike, by foot, on skies, mushing, or in the kayak, she travels mile after mile. But she is never the fastest or out to set a record; she takes her time when enjoying nature.
“I’ve learned something new about myself and my surroundings every time I’m out on one of my long excursions. The more I learn, the more susceptible I become to new knowledge. As a beginner, I had a hard time reading the signs in nature because I was so busy keeping track of where to put my feet. The most meaningful knowledge I’ve gained is learning what is most important for me right now, and how I want to live my life. As well learning acceptance – no teacher is as great as nature. There are many things we have no say over, but just have to accept,” Lina says.
Lina’s adventures began ten years ago during a bike ride from Lofoten back home to Jämtland, where Lina is from. After that experience, Lina was hooked. The bike ride made her more in tune with herself and she really enjoyed the sparse life between movement, food and sleep. A longing started to grow. Six months later she went by skis through the entire Swedish mountain chain, from Grövelsjön to Treriksröset – a 1,300 kilometer long excursion.
“There was a great curiosity and undefinable longing that pulled me out on the trail. And how I loved it! I think it was during that excursion the outdoors became my life. I unconsciously started to notice what was, and should be, important ingredients in my life,” she thoughtfully says.
Since then, Lina has just kept going. She has taken on the pilgrimage Santiago de Compostela; Haute Route Pyrenées from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean; the route Via Alpina, that runs through the Alps; and cycled 2,000 kilometers through Europe. After that, she wanted to return to Sweden and there go all over the country. Said and done: She skied through the entire mountain chain, this time from north to south. Thereafter, she kayaked from Svinesund to Haparanda. And finally, she hiked through the Swedish mountains, the same stretch she had skied through only a few months ago. The long excursion awarded her Adventurer of the year 2015. Lina was just home a few months and then left to hike 4,300 kilometers, from the Mexican border to Canada. She crossed the Carpathian mountains in 2017, and the following year she crosse the island of Crete, from coast to coast.
In 2019, it was time for another long trek resulting in yet another Adventurer of the year award. First, she skied through the Swedish mountain chain yet again, followed by kayaking from Svinesund following the coast, and then over to the coast of Finland and the Russian border, then back to Vasa and over to Estonia. A total of 4,500 kilometers and 111 days in the kayak. After a terrible assault in Lithuania, that resulted in physical injury, she re-started the excursion in Stockholm. On bike, she took herself through Germany and on to the Black Sea and Istanbul. 6,000 kilometers in the saddle over 113 days.
“The excursion I completed right after the assault taught me the most about myself, and what is the most important to me. How much you sometimes have to fight to regain your sense of safety. I had to learn a lot about my strengths and weaknesses,” says Lina.
Lina has during the last ten years been more on the road, or off the road, than at home in the cabin in Jämtland. It is in nature she feels the best and where she is the most alive. Regardless of country or means of transportation, she always brings at least one of her ten dogs with her.
“I love the feeling of waking up in the tent with my dogs. To be able to fit, we have to play Tetris in real life! I never know what the day will bring, but I always know there is something good and exciting coming. It’s wonderful to be out with the dogs and it really strengthens our bond. We are all independent and dependent on each other.
The last few years, the long adventures have consisted of mushing during the winter. This year, she is hoping to accumulate 100 days in the mountains with her dogs. This summer, she is planning to explore the Via Dinarica, going from Albania in the south to Slovenia in the north. There are two hiking trails and one kayaking route. She will probably go for all three at once!
“If you’re out months at a time, you can access your entire emotional range. I can feel doubt, pride, worry and bubbling joy. And all in just one moment. I think of everything and nothing. Impressions come to me at such a slow pace that I have time to process them all. I don’t think we find ourselves out there, but I think we can create versions of ourselves that we enjoy,” Lina concludes.
Which tips do you have for a hiker who is out on their first long excursion, and who in the middle of it gets a feeling that they won’t be able to finish?
Take a break and something to eat, and contemplate the purpose of the hike. Maybe your goal is another than the geographical end goal you’ve set up from the beginning? Think about what is important to you on a hike. Is it to transport yourself between two geographical points, or what you experience in between? It will not be all roses all the time. Maybe you are just tired and need some extra rest and food. I would only make the decision to go home if I had felt an intense longing to leave the trail for several days in a row, and if extra rest and chocolate doesn’t help. You’re on the hike for yourself and your needs matter. If it’s more painful than pleasure, maybe you’re not in the right place right now. If it’s a temporary dip, pitch your tent and have a piece of chocolate. Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities!
Tips from Lina on how to physically prepare for a long hike
Don’t get stuck on how fit you are, but instead choose a trail that matches your current physical ability. I think it’s easy to get stuck at home because you’re afraid you might not make it. Start small and make sure the first step isn’t too big. Start by sleeping in your tent and have dinner and breakfast at home. Choose a spot close to home to get less travel time, and more outdoors time.
Take time to get to know your equipment and your boundaries, as well as what equipment you are comfortable with. Don’t start by buying a lot of stuff. Use what you have at home and customize your excursion to that. Learn how to fix things that break, on both yourself and your gear! And test your shoes; one chafing can ruin the experience.
Find your own way. There is no right or wrong as long as neither individuals nor the environment gets hurt. Use cabins and hostels if you feel like it, or just take day trips. If you lack the knowledge of a particular environment, take the help of a guidebook.
The best hikes are the ones you do!
Tips from Lina how to mentally prepare for a long hike
I think there are as many strategies as there are people. Some like to read articles and dream away. Others like to do something else. Our biggest enemy is our own fears. Find strategies to deal with them. If you’re afraid of sleeping in a tent, start in an environment where you feel safe. If it’s the living room or the balcony, then start there. If you know how your gear works, you feel safer. Learn how to pitch a tent and try out your camping stove. Find things that make you happy, like a book to read in the tent or some chocolate!