The fire crackled as Sofie put the juniper branch in the fire. This warmth was welcome on this damp, cool hiking day in Jämtland – the southern part of northern Sweden. We had been hiking for about 3 hours through the soft, spongy, treeless tundra towards the border of Norway. This stop for fika, otherwise known as making coffee, near the lake was a well needed break.
Our guide Sofie let the juniper branch crackle and catch on fire; then she blew it out. The branch was smoking when she quickly lifted the lid off the coffee that had been boiling over our fire and put the smoky branch directly into the pot of coffee and stirred it around. This is how much Swedes love nature – they put it in their coffee.
When I first started hearing about Sweden’s scenic landscapes and obsession with nature and sustainability, I sort of filed it in the category of ‘world’s best craft brewery city’. What I mean is – every city calls themselves the best, biggest craft beer location in the world. But how can they ALL be the best? And much like craft beer, every destination also says they are the most organic, local, nature loving location. Yes, I normally roll my eyes when I am once again told the story of how ‘ours is more local and organic.’ I am a bit cynical about these types of marketing messages.
However, upon spending a couple of weeks in Sweden, I must admit – I was wrong. Sweden truly is obsessed with nature, sustainability, and responsible living to an extent that I’ve never really experienced before.
Nature as Religion
Nature is in the Swedes DNA. They are living, eating, and doing business in the name of nature. Children learn from a young age that they have to take care of nature. They even have outdoor classrooms. This is likely why the whole youth climate change movement was started in Sweden by a young Greta Thunberg. Air travel has become a subject of such shame and scorn there’s even a word for it: flygskam, which translates to “flight shame.”
In Sweden nature is a treated like a temple…it is the Swedish religion.
What is Sweden Known For?
Sweden is the largest country in Scandinavia, and it is one of the cleanest and happiest countries in the world. However, it doesn’t really have any signature travel draw. There is no Eiffel tower, huge mountain ranges, or polar bears. What Sweden is mainly known for in the travel industry is its occasional Northern Lights, a few fjords, and their fika/coffee culture.
However, after spending a week traveling through remote Western Sweden, I realized that it really is the country’s love of nature and outdoors that it should be known for and what makes it stand out in the travel landscape.
Throughout my week of outdoor adventure and attending the Adventure Travel World Summit, I continued to learn and experience why Sweden is known for their love of nature.
Sweden’s Right of public access
Swedish nature offers an authentic experience where nature is close, easily accessible and open. This is why they created the Right of Public Access. This allows anyone to roam freely in nature (hiking and camping) as long as they respect and treat the surroundings and other people’s property with care and consideration.
Sweden and Sustainability
Sweden ranks as #1 country in world for sustainability development, but they don’t stop there. They want to become the first fossil free wellfare society in the world. They are convinced it is the next natural step for the world. And they convinced me of that too.
Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
So what’s so special about this time in nature? A new case-study reveals significant health effects of the Swedish “close to nature” lifestyle – with a stress decrease of 70 percent after only 72 hours. In addition, spending time in nature increases creativity and productivity. It helps us connect with our true self; something we can all use.
When we get back to nature; forage for food, drink water from a spring or make a campfire outside, we gain a sense of adventure and a realization of how interconnected we are with our surrounding environment.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about how important nature is to our well being:
Why You Should Travel To Sweden For Your Nature Fix
A conference took me to Sweden’s natural environment, but why should you travel to Sweden to fill your nature prescription?
A video put on by the conference I attended…highlighting the importance of nature and adventure travel.
There are so many ways you can experience nature and reap it’s benefits while traveling in Sweden. I didn’t get to experience all of these, but you can be sure I’m going to be heading back there to do all of these things!
72 Hour Cabin
Sweden says, give us your sleepless, your stressed out, your over-stimulated, and your busy minds for 3 days and we will make things better. This was the premise for Sweden’s 72 Hour Cabin. In a 2017 experiment, 5 people from around the world with stressful jobs were taken to a remote island in Sweden. As part of the experiment they made them stay 72 hours each in a glass cabin with just a bed. The participants swim, cook over fire, and take sauna time. Their stress levels, heart rate, and blood pressure went down and their creativity went up after just 3 nights.
Since that initial experiment, various areas in West Sweden have added more glass cabins and they can be booked out by travelers and locals alike. This is your chance to de-stress and get closer to nature.
The cabins are beautiful looking and simply contain a bed. Your living room is nature…along with your bathroom! You can hike, cook your meals, kayak, or simply find a view and soak it in.
Stay in one of the glass cabins
The Edible Country
Believe it or not, Sweden has turned their whole country into a restaurant; fine dining can be found in nature! Four of Sweden’s Michelin-starred chefs worked together for this unique project. They transformed the whole country into a do-it-yourself gourmet restaurant.
Thirteen beautiful wood tables and benches were built and placed in remote, gorgeous landscapes. Here you can make up a gourmet meal while also foraging for some of your ingredients.
The Edible Country consists of a nine-course menu with ingredients found in nature. Recipes can be found on the site, along with information on how to properly cook them. By simply following the instructions, you can enjoy fine do-it-yourself dining courtesy of Swedish nature. The recipes change based on the time of year and what type of ingredients you can forage for in the area.
When booking one of the tables, you get the possibility to rent a cooking kit containing the necessary tools to prepare the lunch, and more add-ons, such as your very own personal guide or chef, as well as a basket of ingredients to cook the recipes outdoors. Or you can do it all completely independently.
I got to see one of the tables in Ramsvik, but did not have the full experience. Once again, this is something I want to go back for as I love this concept of marrying food and nature. Everywhere I went in Sweden I was so impressed with their use of ingredients in season and unique ingredients simply found in nature.
Book an Edible Country Table
The Business of Nature
This respect and love of nature isn’t just a tourism thing, it goes way deeper than that. As part of my trip I got acquainted with a local company called Icebug. They make running shoes that that save the world from slipping with their innovative treads.
However, even more impressive it their mission to raise the bar for sustainability in the industry, making it easier to get outdoors. I’ve certainly seen my share of corporate visions and missions, but you seldom actually see those things take form and really truly happen in big companies.
After doing a hike using Icebug shoes in Ramsvik West Sweden, I was a believer in their no slip design. However, then I went on to their headquarters for an event and met the CEO and mangers for the company and that’s where I really fell in love with the brand. Icebug walks the walk. They have gone all in when it comes to achieving their mission.
“Icebug’s mission is to be a leader in transforming the industry, and indeed business as such, to become fully sustainable.”
Look, Icebug knows that you can’t save the planet by buying Icebug shoes; Consumption consumes resources (this goes for all products). But if you need a pair of shoes, they are doing what they can to reduce the environmental damage. And they are putting a huge effort into getting the rest of the outdoor industry to follow suit.
They focus on minimizing negative impacts of making their shoes, while still keeping the highest quality in mind. And then what’s left of CO2 footprint they will off-set with a surplus. They will be climate positive 2020.
This especially hit home for me considering my recent experience in the Arctic learning about how our biggest culprit putting microplastics into our oceans is fleece material made with plastic.
In addition, the company’s headquarters building was located around miles and miles of running trails and the office had a locker room and encouraged everyone to be out running whenever they wanted to go. Muddy shoes hung from the wall and it was the first thing you saw when you entered the building.
They also created the Icebug Xperiences which is a series of events that encourage people to get outside. They hold trail running races, ultra experiences and even the Frozen Lake Marathon, plus many other races around Scandinavia.
Visit Sweden for an Icebug Experience
Try Plogging to Make the World a Cleaner Place
Plogging – picking up trash and while jogging/walking/hiking – is another unique way to see Sweden! This new fitness trend started in Sweden in 2016 and has now spread around the world. As a workout, it provides variation in body movements by adding bending, squatting and stretching to the main action of running, hiking, or walking.
Everywhere you look in Sweden you’ll see joggers and walkers with plastic bags filling it up as they run. It’s impressive to see, yet it’s not at all surprising to me that this fitness trend started in Sweden!
This Swedish born craze has expanded out of Scandinavia and you’ll find plogging groups now all over the world!
Taking a rewilding holiday is the act of returning to a more natural state. It is opposite to domestication and affects both the body and mind. Now this Swedish definition of rewilding vacations isn’t far off from the actual dictionary definition that reads: the planned reintroduction of a plant or animal species into a habitat from which it has disappeared in an effort to increase biodiversity and restore the health of an ecosystem. In this case, that ecosystem is you.
ESCAPADE Sweden is a company which specializes in transformational travel to the Nordic region. Escapade got its name and brand from its founder Åsa Lind Chong’s love of travel and her heritage as a Nordic, Swedish adventurer. According to Åsa learning survival and other skills in the natural wilderness can give us a whole new perspective on life. Using our instincts and relying on what nature has to offer, we are and feel less dependent upon society, and this gives us a broader perspective.
I traveled with ESCAPADE Sweden and owner Åsa and guide Sofie on a 4 day Rewilding Adventure in Jämtland and had a chance to restore the health of my ecosystem. As I tramped around in nature, built fires, learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, and how to cook over an open flame, I did feel more free and confident in myself.
Simply being out hiking always restores my outlook on life in general. As I hiked in Sweden surrounded by the beautiful fall colors of the tundra, I had a renewed positivity in life and a burst of creativity. It’s so important to simply be outside and get fresh air; I am a believer in rewilding!
Go Rewilding in Sweden
Learn how you can get back to nature and take a rewilding adventure with Escapades Sweden
I arrived to Sweden as a skeptic in their commitment to nature, but I left as a believer; Sweden is the most nature loving country I’ve been to.
It is the best place I’ve been in the world to go refuel on nature, slow down and rewild. You will leave in a better state than when you arrived – and isn’t that what everyone wants out of a vacation?
I was a guest of the ATTA and Visit Sweden for my time in Sweden. I am a member of the Adventure media and was attending a conference there. However, all opinions expressed here are my own.