Still water, the reflection of a stone in it. Further on an abandoned swimming raft. Decor of somersaults, cannonball and swan dives during the day. And behind it, the forest on the other side of the lake, the reflection of it, the clouds brush stroked across the sky behind which the sun sets, just out of sight. There is not much that expresses so much silence and tranquility and brings me so much calm and relaxation than a still lake, a slowly moving sky above it, fading daylight.
arlier that day I was on the Åsnen lake, which is about 150 km² in size. With two rented canoes, lunch, a hammock. My daughter in the canoe with me, my son in the canoe with my wife and our dog in between them. No impressive expedition, no epic distances, just easy pedaling. Enjoying the sound of the water under the canoe, the landscape that changes imperceptibly. Diving in and out of the water, finding a place where we can eat our modest lunch, hang the hammock. Going swimming together.
The title of this piece is “Swedish Adventures # 4”, but I honestly wonder a bit if I am not adding to the continuing devaluation of the word adventure. What is an adventure? Does the going have to be rough, dis it about toughing it out, about blood sweat and tears? Does it have to be difficult or even dangerous to be called an adventure? Definitions please!
“An undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks” Merriam-Webster Dictionary
“an unusual, exciting, and possibly dangerous activity, trip, or experience, or excitement produced by such activities” Cambridge dictionary
The biggest Dutch dictionary has a more relaxed definition than its English / American counterparts:
“adventure: series of exciting experiences; strange or unexpected event”
And in my search for definitions, I come across softer, almost dismissive variations, for example: “‘Experiencing an adventure’ is what you experience when you follow your curiosity from a sense of freedom.”
If that is the definition, then browsing through the list of Netflix titles, or trying out a new bar are also adventures. As far as I am concerned it should have something to do with the unexpected, that you really do not know what is going to happen. That you feel that sense of excitement. It does not necessarily have to be dangerous, as far as I am concerned, but it must at least be uncomfortable. It has to take effort, however, it has to do with the unknown to you; “go where you have not gone before.”
I think of the view from my hammock that I hung between two trees that magically have grown exactly the correct hammock distance to one another. Above a rock that I used as a side table for my tea. Hanging at an angle to the view of Lake Åsnen so that I don’t fin my feet blocking the view of the lake I am looking for. The biggest danger I run is that the knot of my hammock comes loose; but I know hoe to tie a knot. The canoes we just arrived on didn’t almost tip over, the weather is nice, we have enough food and drinks, the beautiful campsite Getnö Gård, where we were spending a few days with our tents, is right across the lake.
No, I can’t say I’m on an adventure. But why does it feel so special here? Also when I simply hike through the woods in this area. I could run into a moose or disturb some deer, but there are no bears, no wolves, nothing really exciting to raise my pulse … and then again, why, why should it be an adventure? Why do I feel I need to have have achieved or conquered something to give value to this moment?
For me personally, and I think many like me, the exciting, “the unusual experience” if you want, the real search, the most difficult journey, is an inner one. Finding peace and quiet in your head might just be the almost inaccessible summit of the inhospitable mountain region of your own inner world. It may sound a bit wishy-washy, but at a time when work stress, social media overload and burn-outs are commonplace, it is a lot more topical than we might want to admit.
Perhaps paradoxically, with high adrenaline sports I also experience a kind of peace, or calmness in my head. When I think about too many other things during mountain biking I irrevocably ride into a tree or take a tumble on rocks. The speed and the risk requires focus, pushing thoughts aside. There is only that moment. When terrain and speed are demanding it goes automatically.
But here, here I am sitting on a rock, looking at the landscape that has no speed. It moves slower than the earth turns. There is nothing that takes the room thoughts or doubts need, there is nothing that gets in the way of worry. You really have to do it yourself, it has to come from within. That peace and relaxation. I try to mirror myself to those other reflections. Of that rock, and that swimming platform, the soft orange of the clouds where the sun has almost disappeared.
Is there danger? Actually yes. Kind of. Because what would happen to you if you never find peace, tranquility, calmness; if you never relax.
It doesn’t really matter though. I’m here, in that beautiful place, where I am surrounded by a calm, unassuming, almost modestly beautiful nature. Where I feel how the tranquility of the environment has silently intruded upon my cluttered mind. A place like that doesn’t demand anything from you and you can let go of “to do’s”. That still landscape has set things in motion, and it continues to move within me. That feeling is with me stil, I want to hold on to it. Back in the hectic daily life. I reach back, look at the photo of that rock, and search for the calm that I felt then. It’s almost impossible, … I think I have to go on an adventure again.
Review: Camping on Lake Åsnen
As an addendum, just a short review moment, about the Nature Camping Getnö Gård. I am not entirely positive about the camping. As you can read in the article, it is a very beautiful camp site, no doubt about it. There are plots on the lake that are impossibly beautiful. Spots you don’t want to leave ever. We had a plot further in tha back of the camp site, nearer the forest, on a field for tents without electricity points, which when all places are occupied, felt a bit cramped. You notice here that tents are actually a bit of a side issue. It’s Campers and caravans galore (I think you see that at more campsites in Sweden). These are actually also packed close together at the edge of the lake. The toilet / shower houses do not keep up with the capacity at the campsite, and there always a wait involved before you can use either toilet or shower. The noise of children playing soccer does not stop until late in the evening when it is finally and blissfully silent.
There are fire pits available on many of the plots, and everyone is happily blazing away. On a windless evening the many campfires blanket parts of the campsite with smoke. A bit of a frown forms on my brow at the idea of all the CO2 that is being pumped into the air here at the nature campsite.
You can buy bread (a limited choice) at the camping shop for a hardy breakfast. If you don’t want to cook diner, you can order pizzas at the reception or partake in an absurdly high-priced buffet. You will have to brave the rather unfriendly, almost grumpy staff at the desk. Where we actually encountered super friendly people everywhere in Sweden, at other campsites, restaurants, on boats, etc., we are given the feeling that we as guests are above anything else a burden to the staff and they would rather see us go, than come. The contrast between that warm feeling that the environment gives and the coldness of these people is quite large, and really a shame.
An alternative on the Åsnen lake is the Hätteboda wildernis camping. Friends of ours camped there and they were very positive about the location and the people at the campsite. Much more basic than Getnö Gård, no electricity, few facilities. I think we will try that next time we come here!