If the famous Norwegian adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002), had kept a bucket list, it would have been quite a read.
1) Kon-Tiki Expedition: Sail 8,000 km across the Pacific Ocean in a self-made raft. Been there, done that.
2) Build a boat out of papyrus and sail from Morocco to Barbados. Second time’s the charm.
3) Travel to Easter Island to excavate and experiment with ancient stone ruins. Why not and what’s next?
Heyerdahl’s lifetime accomplishments are incredible. But now there’s an up-and-coming Norwegian adventurer who’s creating her own legend.
Meet Tonje Helene Blomseth.
On December 11, 2011, this blond, energetic, and very determined 17-year old checked something off her own list. 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 didn’t take her seriously. And of course, for her family, it was a scary thought to let their daughter travel alone. However, once they saw she was determined, and in fact tracking down economic sponsors for her trip, they too, gave her their consent.
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 traveling 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 made this remarkable trek. Maddox kept her company come rain or shine, in snowstorms and under the northern lights. She had seven to eight travelling 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. Being alone isn’t 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!”
And the next obvious question, “Did you ever want to quit?”
“I thought about quitting a lot of times! When the people who 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 him 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, deep 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, the bear eventually left her campsite, leaving Maddox and Tonje unharmed and unable to sleep the rest of the night.
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.
“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.”
Now, three months later, Tonje has settled back into everyday life and school, but her adventurous spirit is making new plans. In April of 2013, she and a companion will be travelling to the group of islands called Svalbard.
What’s the next item on Tonje’s list of adventures?
“I will cross the main island, Spitsbergen, from North to South (600 km/373 miles).” The travelling duo will be trekking on foot, cross-country and alpine skis. “We’re 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 journey, I think it will be mentally easier, but physically, more difficult.”
So for all the adrenaline seekers, explorers and adventurers out there, keep your eyes and ears open for the upcoming journeys of Tonje Helene Blomseth. Get ready to be inspired, wowed and challenged. I think her tales will go down in the history books.
Tonje’s website is in Norwegian, but please check out the photos she’s posted during her journey. They’ll make you smile! Jentetur250mil. And if you want to follow the progression of her Svalbard trip, she and her traveling companion have 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.