Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
Many of my friends asked me why I decided to go to Finland in January where the temperatures drop to minus 40 degrees and you only have daylight for a few hours. My answer was always the same: Why not? The time was right. I wanted to do something completely different from my normal life at home. I’m an adventurous person who likes to try new things and test my limits. I want to see every part of this wonderful planet and I wanted to discover the untouched nature that still exists in Finland. In other words, there were not the deepest reasons. I just did it without thinking too much about it. I was never really worried about the cold and the short daylight. Why should I? Nothing can go wrong with the right winter clothes and some vitamin 3d tablets. (Back then I didn’t know how expensive really good colthes are. Damn, I really spent a lot of money on it or my mom, anyway ;-)) With this motivation, I left my comfort zone for three months and started my trip or rather my adventure in another part of the world. Finland, here I am! Get ready!
And what’s about the huskies?
The topic „Finland“ has now been clarified. But why did you land on a husky farm? That was always the second question my friends asked. Let me explain it. Finland is the perfect country for huskies. The temperatures are ideal for these cold loving animals. As a result the sled dog business in Finland is huge. That’s just how it is with the different countries. In some countries you go diving. Other countries are perfect for hiking and in Africa you can book a safari to see lions. And people go to Finland to book a sled dog tour.
There are numerous husky/sled dog farms and each of them trains the dogs so that they get fit for the sled and pull tourists. I wanted to be a part of this sled dog phenomenon and so I decided to experience the whole thing not as a tourist but as a worker. I got the opportunity to work as a volunteer on one of the many husky farms. I think voluntary work is a good thing because you don’t have any expenses in the country and you get to know the locals best. By the way even as a small child I have always dreamd of working with sled dogs. I already loved dogs back then and have always been fascinated by these creatures.
104 dog names and minus 35 degrees
104 dogs lived on the farm. Yes you heard right. A pretty big number, right? And every single dog has its own name so I had to remember 104 dogs names! Frankly, it was easier for me to remember the 104 dog names than 20 names of my classmates during my studies. I have no idea why I can remember these names better. Maybe it’s because they had special names and not every second dog was called Fabian or Nicole. Sorry Nicoles and Fabians! At the end of my stay I was able to recognize all dogs even from distance. So if people want to know what the hardest part of my time in Finland was then it was definitely not the 104 dog names to remember but the cold temperatures. Yes I really underestimated the cold. There were days when the temperature reached minus 35 degrees. Not even my fashionable canada goose jacket helped. By the way, before the animal rights activists attack me, I have already taken off the fur. Fur… not a good thing. After we have clarified that let’s go back to the cold temperature. While the Finns happily took off their gloves at these icy temperatures and played around on the mobile phone, I first had to learn how to breathe and how to handle this damn coldness. But from time to time I learned how to deal with it. The Finns always told me: „You get used to the cold!“ At the beginning I thought that was a typical Finnish statement but they were actually right. At the end of my stay I could not only take my gloves off, I could even handle my mobile phone and my camera. So you see behind these photos is a lot of work and a real fighting spirit. 😉
A good team and a rustic house
Handling 104 dogs is not a big deal if you have a good work team by your side. The number of workers varied during my stay. Sometimes we were a little less and sometimes a bit more people. On average, about 8 people worked on the farm. The owner of the farm was called Timo. He also worked every day on the farm. My work team consisted of different nationalities in almost every age. Many Finns worked on the farm but also Dutch and Swiss people. That made the whole life on the farm even more exciting. Most of the workers lived right on the farm. So you have seen each other for almost 24 hours a day. Of course it was not always easy to hang out with the same people for so many hours but it was a nice challenge and now I’m back home and I already miss them. They really grew dear to me. The farmhouse was really nice and rustic. Yes and of course it had a sauna there which was almost never empty. The Finns use it almost every day. They chat and enjoy a cold beer in their favourite room. I became a real sauna fan too. Once you start using it, you can hardly stop. I swear. I also had my bed room right in the farmhouse. It was small but nice. Right next to my room was the kitchen which was used by all of the staff members. Then it had a few bathrooms, two showers and a large living room. We didn’t often use the living room because it was intended for the tourists. They had coffee and cake there after the dog sled tour. We spent most of our time in the kitchen.
A daily routine with a difference
No time for make up
At 7:45 a.m. my alarm clock woke me up more precisely the alarm clock of my iPhone.That’s not really early for me. At home in my everyday life I always get up between six and seven o’clock in the morning. I’m a real morning person. Getting up was never a big problem for me. I washed my face (with extra cold water), ate breakfast (mostly porridge), drank coffee (a lot of coffee!) and brushed my teeth. I did exactly these four things in my mornings in Finland. I could dispense well on make up. The dogs loved me even without this stuff in the face. That saved me a little bit time. The work began at eight o’clock. It took me only 15 minutes to get ready. At home I need at least 30 minutes.
The first thing that had to be done in the morning was the food preparation for the dogs. The food was a mix of a lot of water and a bit of meat with dry food. It was important that the dogs drank a lot as they ran several kilometers during the day. So it was more of a soup than anything else. The food preparation didn’t take long and could be done well by one person. Right after the preparation it was already feeding time. You would think that it took a long time to feed 104 dogs but that was not the case. We usually fed the dogs in threes. Therefor we only needed 15 minutes. We fed them each morning and in the evening at 5 p.m. again. In the evening they got more meat and more dry food. Believe it or not the feeding was really exhausting. We had the food in six big buckets which were quite heavy. If you’re not used to physical work or already have problems with your back then you should rather refrain from doing this.
Get your s*** done
And then we were in the shit. Literally. After feeding it was time to clean the dog kennels. Imagine 104 dog’s poop. That was a lot of work. But hey, at least the poop didn’t smell like anything because it was frozen and hard as stone. With a shovel and a wheelbarrow we collected all the poop. If we were several people we were relatively fast and were easily done in an hour. While some people were busy with the dog poop another person prepared the dog sled for the tourists. The runners had to be cleaned so that the sled could slide smoothly over the snow. The number of sleds varied. It always mattered how many tourists booked a tour. Sometimes we had to prepare only three sleds and sometimes up to twenty sleds. Between 9:30 and 10:30 we were done with this work and could eat something before the bus with the hotel guests arrived.
Let’s go on a safari
In the afternoon the really exhausing part of the work began. The tourists came in a large number. We had them on our farm almost every day, sometimes less, sometimes more. The farm works together with two different hotels which brought the tourists with a bus to the farm. The range of the farm offers various tours.
There is the short coffee safari which takes about 2,5 hours alltogether. The tourists drive 12-15 km with a own dog team. It’s always two person per sleigh. We have one short stop to take photos and change drivers during the safari. After the drive we take the harnesses off the dogs and enjoy a hot coffee and cake with the tourists in the farm main room.
Then there is also the lunch safari which is 28-40 km. The tourists have also an own team of dogs and drive two person per sleigh. During the journey we stop with the tourists and have lunch by open fire, which includes soup, sausages, sandwiches, cookies, coffee, tea and hot juice. We also make a stop for pictures and change drivers during the day. After the drive we make the same things as on the coffee safari. This experience takes alltogether 4-5 hours.
If someone wants to experience a real adventure then they book the overnight-expedition. At this trip every participant has its own team of dogs and drives 35-50 km per day so it’s a very long distance. Both days we stop to have lunch by open fire. The first evening they spend in a little cozy wilderness cabin without any electricity. The customers may participate in caring the dogs and other tasks like warming up the sauna and making the little ice hole for an ice bath if they wish. In the evening the tourists can enjoy the prepared sauna and have a delicious traditional dinner of either reindeer or salmon cooked the local way. At the dinner we always have time to talk with the tourists and tell each other many different stories. The tourists spend the night at the cabin in regular beds. At the second day we make a regular safari day after a balanced breakfast. We arrive at the farm in the afternoon, release the dogs and enjoy as always hot coffee and cake.
Next to the overnight-expedition the farm offers also a 3-day safari. It’s the same like the normale overnight safari but with one drive day more and a overnight stay at another cabin.
There were days when we had to do several different safaris while on other days we didn’t have much to do. It always varied a bit by month and weekday. Some days we didn’t have any safaris. Those were the cozy working days where we only feed the dogs and cleaned the kennels. We each had one to two days off in a week. On those days I often took my camera and shot a few pictures of the dogs or the Finish snow landscape.
Goodbye Finland I’m exhausted
In Switzerland I’m working as a marketing and communication manager. This means I’m sitting in my office chair and looking in my computer for almost eight hours a day. Of course, that’s exhausting but mentally exhausting. As a sled dog guide we are not talking about mental effort but about a physical effort. And this work is really physically demanding. Spending the whole day outside in the freezing cold with an average temperature of minus 25 degrees is rough. The people who do this their whole lives have my fullest respect. You can only know how exhausting it is if you did it by yourself. So I know what I’m talking about. Nevertheless when people ask me if I would do it all over again my answer is clearly yes! I really loved it. I’m often asked what my personal highlight of my time in Finland was. This may sound a bit banal but I was fascinated by the nature of dogs. There were 104 dogs and everyone was somehow unique and there was not a single one who showed an aggresive behavior. If you visit a dog school in Switzerland there is always one of ten dogs which doesn’t get along with the other dogs. I fell in love not only with the dogs but also with the beautiful, cold Finland. Anyone who wants to experience something different AND loves dogs should try such an adventure. It was truly unique and unforgettable. You should just prepare yourslef well for the cold. And please don’t forget the vitam 3d tablets! But honestly I have no idea if this stuff really helps. I think I would have been happy in Finland even without it.
Written enoug and bye.
See you soon, Finland!
You’re always wanted to work with sled dogs and you love the cold? Contact directly the farm where I lived. Clicke here to go directly to the official website of the farm Finn-Jann.
You want to konw where else did I go? Visit my travel overview.