Emily Kerr, writer and journalist at ITV Calendar News, was inspired to write a feel-good romantic comedy novel after returning from our Finnish Wilderness Week adventure. If a winter trip in Finland conjures up images of husky dog driven sleigh rides, cosy wooden cabins, reindeer farms and snow caked forests with the striking aurora borealis floating above, you wouldn’t be far wrong. And our adventures in Finland deliver all that and more. We had the opportunity to catch up with Emily before the release of her novel “Meet Me Under the Northern Lights” becomes available in eBook and audio. Below, she shares with us what drew her to book a trip to Finland, and what favourite moments of her adventure made their way into the pages of her latest novel.
When asked what attracted her to book a winter trip to Finland, she explained, “I’d always wanted to visit Scandinavia, and when I read the description of the holiday on the Exodus website, the Finnish Wilderness Week sounded completely different to anything I’d experienced before. I went on the trip with two of my friends from university. We live in different parts of the UK, and we thought it would be a wonderful way of having a proper catch up while exploring a new country. I also loved the idea of being able to try lots of winter activities such as dogsledding and snowshoeing.”
Emily mentioned that she arranged her trip with Exodus because “I was impressed by the itinerary. The fact that all the winter gear was provided meant that we didn’t have to worry about investing in lots of expensive kit on top of the cost of the trip. There were also lots of positive reviews of the holiday on the Exodus website which further whetted our appetite.”
One of the best things about the Finnish Wilderness Week trip is that it’s perfect for complete novices and skiing experts alike. Emily commented, “This was my first winter holiday. I’ll admit that like the main character Lucy in my book “Meet Me Under the Northern Lights”, I was rather daunted at the thought of the extreme cold and the lengthy hours of darkness, but I quickly became a convert.” She continued, “We were well kitted out with the appropriate equipment by the Basecamp staff, so the cold was never an issue. The low height of the sun in the sky added a warm glow to the landscape throughout the day, while the darkness at night just made Basecamp Oulanka seem all the cosier.”
When it comes to the best time to see Finland in the snow, Emily recommends travellers head to this Nordic gem in January. “It was so lovely having the holiday to brighten up the post-Christmas lull, plus we were told there was a slightly better chance of seeing the Northern Lights at that time of year. And we did indeed see them, so I would definitely recommend other travellers book around this time.”
Delving into her first Northern Lights experience, she said, “We were lucky enough to see the Northern Lights from the veranda of the main building at Basecamp Oulanka on our final evening there.” She continued, “Our guide Henri rushed into the dining room and said the aurora was beginning to form, so everyone hurried outside. The colours weren’t as intense as pictures I’d seen, but the subtle shades of light were far more breathtaking in real life as they swirled and danced above my head. It was truly an otherworldly experience and I feel incredibly lucky to have had it. I knew I had to immortalise that moment in my writing, and the Northern Lights appear at a very key moment in my book.”
On our all-encompassing Finland Wilderness Week, we give travellers the opportunity to go snowshoeing through Oulanka National Park along the Kitka River, cross-country skiing near Juumba Lake and dogsledding with local huskies through Riisintunuri National Park.
When asked what her favourite activity of the week was, Emily paused and commented, “I find it really hard to pick a favourite activity because they were all so special in their own way. The dog sledding was amazing. It felt like I was travelling through Narnia, and I couldn’t believe how sparkly the snow was. The dogs clearly loved every minute of running through the woods. They went so fast! Another favourite moment was cross-country skiing on the frozen lake. It was so peaceful, just the gentle swish of the skis over the ice as I explored along the shore. The experiences really sparked my imagination and helped inspire some of the scenes in “Meet Me Under the Northern Lights”.
Apart from snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides, one of the unique activities you can do on our trip is learning key wilderness skills by building a quinzee, which in Finnish translates to “snow house”. Emily smiled and said, “I remember laughing a lot while building the quinzee. It seemed impossible that we could construct a safe sleeping space out of snow, but we had an excellent demonstration from the Basecamp Oulanka guides, and then we all had great fun piling up the snow and dancing on top of it to compact it down.”
She continued, “Digging out the interior was hard work – who knew it was possible to get so sweaty in minus 15 degrees centigrade? We had a disappointing moment when we got a bit too enthusiastic and accidentally demolished the back wall of the quinzee, but fortunately, our guide managed to save the day and reconstruct it! One of my friends spent the night in it and reported back that she slept very well.”
Opting to stay in her accommodation at Basecamp Oulanka instead she mentioned that, “The accommodation was really comfortable, and I felt at home straight away. It was lovely to be able to hang out in the main building with the other travellers, who were a really interesting bunch of people, and we had many fun evenings socialising in front of the fire. I also enjoyed trying out the sauna, although I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the authentic experience of rolling in the snow afterwards!”
When it came to local experiences with the Finnish people, Emily was only too keen to explain, “Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. I particularly enjoyed the evening when our expert local guide, Henri Suopanki, led us on a moonlit walk through the forest.” She continued, “It was amazing how much light the moon provided, and it gave me a completely new perspective on my surroundings. Henri told us some fascinating folklore about the Northern Lights and stories about what it’s like growing up near the Arctic Circle.”
As the interview came to a close, we asked Emily if she would book another winter experience with Exodus and she said, “I would definitely book another winter holiday with Exodus Travels. The Snowshoeing in the Dolomites trip sounds really good as I’d like to build on my snowshoeing skills, and I’ve never visited Italy in the winter. I’d also very happily return for another Wilderness Week in Finland and try some of the other optional activities that I didn’t have time to do the first time around.”
So there you have it. If Emily’s trip to Finland has inspired you to start planning ahead for one of your own, why not take a look at our collection of Finnish adventures here.