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A hiking Hungarian in scenic Sweden

I was born and raised as an ethnic Hungarian in the comunist dictatorship of Romania, and spent my early childhood in that regime, which could be compared with today's North Korea. 

First of all you weren't allowed to travel abroad unless you planned to visit other communist countries.

Second, there was nothing to buy in the stores. No food, no clothes, no shoes and definitely no outdoor gear and equipment. 

If you had friends or relatives in Western countries or less communist East block countries, you might have been lucky enough to inherit some second hand yellow vintage boots, a rain jacket, or a tent.

I am still able to say I had a very adventurous childhood. My parents took me on great hikes in the Transylvanian mountains. I have memories of scenic limestone caves, stunning waterfalls and incredible rock formations. We travelled around and explored the country without even owning a car or a backpack. Back then, I had never thought about this as a lifestyle or as something unique, it has just been natural to me, I thought it was something that everyone did.

When I was 23 years old I moved to Sweden because I met my future husband who happened to live here. I wasn't really interested in nature at the beginning as I was trying to adapt to the culture, learn the language, study and find a job. It was a very difficult time for me because the Swedish society did not welcome me with open arms saying: “Hello, Erika, let's be friends!” I struggled a lot to find people with similar interests but I didn't go very well. 

After several years of studies in order to become a teacher I took a course called “Outdoor Education”. It was back then when my interest for the outdoors awakened again. We had many classes in the woods, spent some nights camping and learned a lot of things about nature and wildlife. I started to study the nature around us, found some nice trails nearby and went on weekend hikes with my husband.

Later I got an opportunity to spend two months in Kenya to visit some schools and I was really excited to explore African nature. My husband joined me for two weeks and we had the opportunity to go on great adventures there. When we came back home we decided that we wanted more of this. Since then we have become unstoppable.

Our adventures as a couple continued for at least 10 years. We explored many places in Sweden, in other European countries but also distant destinations in Asia and South America. After a while we felt that it was time to expand our family and share our journeys with children. I have always dreamt of having a large family with at least three  kids, but life didn't go as planned. We struggled a lot to get pregnant and spent many years with different treatments and losses. Finally I asked myself if this was really worth it and if I really wanted to have kids. I had a good life, we traveled a lot, we went on epic outdoor adventures, why ruin this with kids? 

Years went by and we lived our happy little life when things took a turn. Suddenly we had the opportunity to adopt a child. Adoption was the most amazing thing I've done in my life. The first time I held our son in my arms I just felt a responsibility for showing him the wonders of the world and I knew he would just love it. He was a curious, adventurous, little creature from the first day and he still is. Already during the first weeks I decided that he will not stop me from going on adventures but he will inspire and push me to explore more.

He is five years old today and he is a restless and impulsive little guy with loads of excess energy that is sometimes hard to channel indoors. He needs the space that the outdoors can offer him and as a working mother I need that too. 

Fortunately Sweden is a country where we safely and freely can enjoy the outdoors. There are almost 4000 nature reserves, 29 national parks, 100 000 lakes, a coastline of 3218 kilometers and scenic archipelagoes. There are only 10 million inhabitants so there's plenty of space out there. It's a country with a long tradition of outdoor life and there exists many associations that promote outdoor life for both kids and adults. The trails are well maintained, well marked and it's easy to find them on the map. There are not many dangerous animals, especially here in the South where we live. There's a law called the Right of Public Access which allows you to freely roam the countryside. Because of the Northern climate and much rain there's also an attitude that there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.

Swedish people grow up with nature around the corner and kids visit the forests from an early age in preschool and school. You might think that because of this there are an incredible amount of people out there wandering, but honestly we almost never meet other folks when we are out hiking, unless during the peak season in the summer. 

Summing up, I am grateful and happy that I live in this country because I have the opportunity to work part-time and go on Wednesday hikes on my day off with my son. I have plenty of trails to choose from only within a couple of kilometers from where I live. I can walk freely in nature and I can feel safe. So, the only thing I need to think about is what to show him so that he learns to appreciate the amazing earth we are living on.

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