Featured Writer: Erica K. Haugli
Sometimes somebody’s adventurous spirit speaks to our own and stirs in us the desire to dream big. Maybe it’s because we know the same voice as they do: Not that of friends, family or society, but the inner voice that calls us to face our fears, test our physical and mental limits, and dare to live life to the fullest.
Tonje Helene Blomseth is someone who stirs this voice within me. I’d like to introduce you to this adventurous soul and hope that her story inspires you to say yes to the next challenge that awaits you. Meet Tonje:
Just over three months ago, on December 11, 2011, this blond, energetic, and very determined 17-year old achieved one of her goals. She became the youngest person in the world to walk the length of Norway. On June 26, accompanied by her faithful, fluffy Siberian Husky, Maddox, she left Lindesnes, Norway, and embarked on a 2,500 km (1,553 mile) journey. Destination: Nordkapp.
As is often the case with big dreams, one can meet skepticism, whether it comes from strangers or loved ones. Some of Tonje’s friends thought the idea was foolish. And of course, for her family, it was a scary thought to let their daughter travel alone. However, once they saw she was serious and had sponsors for her trip, they too, gave her their support.
As an American, I believe many people would have told Tonje it was too dangerous for her to travel on her own. When I asked her if she’d met the same response, she said, “I think there’s a big difference between Norway and the United States. Not only are the cultures different, but also the environments. Of course I had some comments about travelling alone, but most people just nodded and thought it was tough, but cool as well. Nevertheless, I’M STILL ALIVE!”
With her backpack filled with essentials, like a tent, sleeping bag, fishing equipment and satellite-tracking device, she embarked on this remarkable trek. Maddox kept her company the entire way. They walked isolated trails that lead alongside ancient rocky fjords and up and over majestic mountain ranges. In the six-month journey they experienced glorious sunshiny days, as well as pouring rain, freezing sleet and ice-cold snowstorms
She had seven to eight traveling companions that joined her for a few days along the journey, but for the most part she was alone with her own thoughts.
When I asked if she felt lonely, her honest answer was, “I felt lonely all the time when I hiked alone. It’s not really my thing. I like to talk to people and be social, but it was a great experience to be by myself and just know it all depended on my dog and me. Everyone should experience that feeling once in a lifetime!”
With regards to quitting the expedition, she said, “I thought about quitting a lot of times! When people that had hiked with me for days had to go back to their lives, I struggled with continuing alone. But I kept going, knowing that it would get better after a couple of days.”
Maddox’s friendship was extremely important for Tonje during this adventure. She says she wouldn’t have made it without her furry husky and that she’s never loved anyone the way she loves her dog. “He’s everything to me!”
Another trusty companion along the 2,500 kilometers was music. Tonje’s IPod had over 3,000 songs on it. “I listened to a lot of rock on the bad days, when I needed to get angry or just get through the day. Especially rainy and snowy days – then Metallica, Linkin Park and ACDC were my favorites. But when the sun was shining and everything was good, I liked to listen to The XX, Empire of the Sun, Coldplay, Death Cab for Cutie and Mike Snow. When the night came along, I listened to Eddie Vedder, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. It was all about the mood!”
Most adventures need an element of suspense, and Tonje’s trip is no exception. As she lay asleep one night, she was awakened by a sound outside of her tent. Maddox was standing on all fours, alert and intent on the deep breathing that resembled a sick person with a severe cough.
A bear was investigating their campsite. Tonje called her mom, but within seconds her cell phone went dead. Crying and knowing she had nothing to defend herself with, this courageous girl lay still; ready to press her Satellite tracking device if things, in her words, “Got ugly.” Thankfully, she and Maddox were unharmed and can share about the scariest moment of their six-month trek.
On December 11, 2011, Tonje Helene Blomsesth achieved her goal of being the youngest person to walk the length of Norway. With mixed emotions she stood on the Nordkapp Plateau.
She said, “When I reached Nordkapp, I was very happy. I’d made it despite all the resistance from people around me, as well as the things that happened along the journey. I’d completed my dream and was heading home for Christmas with my family that I hadn’t seen for months. But at the same time I was really sad. It was all over: Six months of hiking and living my dream. I had to go back to reality and it made me restless and sad.”
Three months later, Tonje’s not slowing down. She just finished participating in the world’s northernmost sled dog race, Finnmarksløpet. And in April of 2013, she and a companion will be travelling to the group of Norwegian islands called Svalbard.
“We will cross the main island, Spitsbergen, from North to South.” The travelling duo will be trekking the 600 km/373 mile-distance on foot, cross-country skis and alpine skis. “We are hoping to film the trip so we can show people what it’s like and what we like to do. It will take about five weeks to complete the trip, so compared to my Nordkapp trip, I think it will be mentally easier, but more difficult physically.”
Tonje’s determination, maturity and “Go-for-it” attitude are inspiring and contagious. I believe her journey is one worth following, and will no doubt challenge many adventurous spirits to take the leap and dream big!
Tonje’s website is in Norwegian, but please check out the photos she posted during her journey. They’ll make you smile! Jentetur 250 mil. And if you want to follow the progression of her Svalbard trip, she and her traveling companion just started a facebook page and a website will soon follow (Svalbard Hoyt og Lavt – Svalbard High and Low.) All photos belong to Tonje Helene Blomseth and are used with permission.
For more stories and pictures from the north of Norway, please check out experiencenorthcape.wordpress.com
An AWESOME and POWERFUL story. The “bear part” is scary and that alone insures that I won’t be trying that “when I grow up!” CONGRATULATIONS to Tonje and BEST WISHES on her future endeavors.
Yes, she’s one tough kid. I don’t think I’d do very well with a bear outside my tent.
OMG. WOW. Only seventeen? Are you KIDDING me? Makes me feel like an ant. OMG. Can’t believe this.
I know, 17! And now she just finished participating in a two-week long dog sled race. I’m inspired!
Congratulations to you Tonje! I am humbled as I read your story, as I can think of non as young, and obviously mature and courageous as you are to embark on a solo adventure, something, not many adults, let alone youths of today, would have the courage or strength to finish such an amazing journey. You certainly could serve as a role model for youth today. To face such obstacles like having a bear outside of your tent at night, afraid, you won! You persevered and kicked the heck out of your fears. And I can only imagine this was one of perhaps many, solo. I wish you all the best on your newest adventures and those to follow. I would be honored to follow you on your travels as I sense there will be more. A true inspiration for all. Excellent. Thank you for sharing.
I agree, she’s an inspiration for all. She said she’s not sure she wants to be called a role model because of the responsibility it implies, but she is honored by the term.
Wow, Unbelievable journey and Congratulations on completing it. I can imagine how scary it was with the bear.
Thank you for sharing this amazing journey! I loved the way you used music and listened to different types as your mood changed…some for calming, some for uplifting, some just to keep you going. 🙂 Best of luck in your future adventures!
Its very moving and inspiring to read about the courageous adventures of a 17 year old that many adults wouldn’t dare to try themselves! I have no doubt that she’ll go on to achieve bigger things. Nice story.
I agree, her determination and fearlessness are inspiring. I’m glad more people can read about her, thanks to Bucket List Publications.
Good luck with Svalbard … that place looks seriously beautiful!
Thank you to Leslie and Darren for publishing this article about Tonje on Bucket List Publications. I’m grateful that more people can read about this amazing girl.
It was our pleasure to publish this article on Bucket List Publications. Tonje is an inspiration to us and we look forward to featuring further adventures and accomplishments like this.
Thanks Leslie. One practical detail. The link to experiencenorthcape.wordpress.com doesn’t work at the bottom of the article. Are you able to fix that problem? Thanks for looking into it.
I’ll fix that now 🙂
What an inspiring story.
What a fantastic story! I’m planning an 800 mile backpacking trip that’s rarely going to be far from the highways and civilization, and reading about this young lady doing twice that distance, mostly off road really settles all of my fears. If she can do it alone at 17 years of age, then I have no excuse haha! Good for her!!!
Jim, I’m glad her story is an inspiration for you! I think your 800 mile backpacking trip sounds quite amazing as well. Where’s your traveling route? I wish you the best of luck on your adventure!
Thank you Ekhaugli! I am marching from the front door of my home in Gardnerville, NV to the Space Needle in Seattle, WA. I’ll be blogging during my journey if you wish to follow along. Poked around on your blog and you got some great stuff going on!
Wow! Sounds like a wonderful trip. I’m definitely going to follow your journey. And thank you for checking out by blog. Please come back. Maybe you’ll be inspired to take a pilgrimage of your own to the North Cape 🙂
Already subscribed to your blog! 🙂
We all need a challenge if we want to feel alive. I’d rather take risks than live in a rut where the sides are so high I can’t see out. I aiming at 312 miles in 12 months around the Cornish Coast, which includes climbing more than the height of Everest twice. I’ve felt my blood vessels almost bursting, fallen, made dramatic errors of judgement but just love it. (Just 77 left to go now) I already have the next two trips in my mind. The best bits are when I’m totally alone, and don’t meet a soul or hours, I feel like I’m on a private adventure and everyone else is missing out.
Sounds like an amazing adventure you are on! I wish you the best of luck on your last 77 miles to go!
What an adventure, and good to read that she has continued. Reminds me of “A Walk Across America” by Peter Jenkins, which describes how the author walked across the States with an Alaskan Malamute dog. In one of the saddest parts of a book I’ve read, he writes about his dog being run over near the end of the walk, I do hope Maddox is OK though.
Yes, Maddox is doing fine, as far as I know. I haven’t read the book you mentioned, but what a tragic story. I can imagine the heartbreak he went through losing his his dog along the journey. It would be hard to continue on the journey, I imagine. I”ll have to check out the book. Thanks for your comment. Erica
This is absolutely amazing. I mean, for someone to be so determined to chase her dreams and fulfill it. That’s just great to read. Let this be a source of inspiration for all the other people who have big dreams, but lack the guts to chase them.
Tough journey if you don’t like being alone. Well done Tonje.
Thanks for sharing the story, Erica. Very inspiring for all of us, regardless of age, background, experience or dreams. There’s a dream in each of us that asks to be lived. Tonje is someone who knows how to listen to that voice and follow it. So can we all!
Thank you, Julie and I couldn’t agree more.
Erica, thank you for sharing this story. Tonje is a brave and adventurous little girl. I hope she never loses that spirit — and her faithful companion, Maddox, is the best friend on four legs that she could have.
What an amazing girl! I understand she would not be afraid of travelling on her own because Norway is not the States not even most of the European countries where danger comes from other humans, but in Norway danger may come from wild animals, and she had the experience of a bad encounter with a bear. One month ago I was travelling in Norway, and we were not allowed to go to certains areas because of them. My God, she was brave! Awesome!
WOW, what an inspiring adventure! She accomplished more at 17 than so many of us will ever achieve. Though I don’t see myself trekking the freezing plains of Norway any time soon, this is so motivating.
Thanks for the link to her site — you can translate it into English on Chrome! I like how she described going back to school will be difficult after traveling for 6 months, and that she defines herself as a “restless spirit.” I, too, can feel her burdens…
Hmm, wonder where my next journey will lead??
Thank you for this interview!