Discover Denmark & van life in the Nordics – with Klara Halkjaer
When finding Klara on Instagram and taking part of her inspiring life - we immediately felt we wanted to know more about this chica. Read her own words of how she has chosen to live her dream life including traveling with her family in a camper van. Also included: her favorite places and tips from Denmark!
Klara is wearing her Minna Wool Fleece Jacket in Camel.
Hi Klara, you're an outdoor lover, entrepreneur, Copenhagen ambassador and van owner. And a mum of two! Anything else you wanna add to the list of how to describe you?
Wow, when you put it like that - I sound so much cooler than I feel. But it is all true, of course : ) I live just outside of Copenhagen and recently started my own business in communication and marketing, after way too many years in corporate life. I am an old travel junkie who has turned my undying curiosity about the world around me into more low-key exploration of the Nordic countries. I love being outdoors, trying new things and seeing new places. Actually, I am addicted to it. And add coffee. Always coffee.
Where are you from and how did you end up living in Copenhagen?
I am originally from Uppsala, Sweden but I moved around a lot before finally landing in Copenhagen. I spent a total of six years in Nicaragua growing up and I don't know if that is what sparked my curiosity and constant eagerness to move around, or if it was there from scratch. I guess I'll never know but as the psychology buff I am, I would love to know! Anyway, after graduating from high school, I studied in Stockholm, Spain, France, Australia and Denmark, and worked in Cuba, the US and London.
And how I finally ended up in Copenhagen? Well, long story short: I left my corporate TV industry job in London to go traveling with my English boyfriend for a year or so. Broke up somewhere in a ramshackle bar in a middle-of-nowhere mining town in Western Tanzania, traveled together for another couple of months (strange I know, but it worked), traveled on my own for four months and then met a Dane on an insanely romantic boat trip in the Philippine archipelago. He was of course just a holiday fling. Fast forward lots of years and we have two kids and a house in the suburbs. And now I have been here over ten years - that's the longest I have ever lived anywhere. Life!
What's your relationship to nature and how has it changed over the years?
I guess this is where a lot of people will talk about how nature has always been a special place for them. But that's not really the case for me. Growing up, it wasn't a THING. It's not that we were never in nature as a family, but we weren't outdoorsy either. We did the normal stuff - skiing holidays, the occasional forest walk, biking, etc. but it's really in the last ten years that my longing for nature has started defining me and how I spend my time. After a lot of years of traveling and moving around, I feel like nature is my coming home. And now I sound terribly old, don't I?
Anyhow - I long for it when I am not in. Nature makes me take deeper breaths and think smarter thoughts. Things that bother me at home become smaller in nature. I now sometimes wish we lived closer to nature - a thought that didn't even cross my mind 15 years ago. Luckily, I still have a lot of life left to live and have no intention of being stationary for all of it, so who knows, maybe you'll find me in a hut somewhere up north in twenty years. Or in a surfing village somewhere down south.
What motivates you?
That's such a big question, but if I boil it down, I am motivated by designing a life where there is space for all the freedom and curiosity I have inside me. A life that doesn't just happen, but where I make conscious choices on how I want to live and how I want us as a family to spend our time.
I spent a large part of my life living it by the book. Living up to expectations that no one actually had, but that I thought were right. Business school, the right summer jobs, all the corporate jobs. I made several half-hearted attempts to break free but always landed right back where I started. Now I no longer feel like I have to turn life completely upside down to live according to my values, but see the power in the smaller things: starting my own business, adventuring in the camper van with my family, exploring and sharing my Denmark tips with all of you on instagram and my blog. Things that make me happy and that I chose, they didn't just happen.
I am also motivated by creating. I never thought of myself as a creative person but I am. I write, I take photos, I create things in my head all the time. I want to explore that more and I want my kids to grow up knowing that creativity is something that should be nurtured and valued. Oh, and trying new things! If I don't get to try new things, I get depressed. Really.
Klara is wearing Minna Wool Fleece Jacket in camel, Minna Wool Fleece Vest i in green & Amelia Hiking pants in green.
How has buying a VW California van changed your (outdoor) life? If it has :)
It has changed my life! Maybe that's a bit dramatic but at the very least, it has been a really important piece of the puzzle of life design I just mentioned, and one that has given me a sense of freedom that I was missing before.
Feeling free has always been essential to me, and the camper van is like a little bit of freedom sitting on the driveway just outside our house. I have travelled so much in my life and really have no interest in living a nomad life with the kids but before we got the van, I was constantly trying to fit short travels into our calendar. I did it because I loved it but it was also sort of exhausting, and the camper van is just a much easier way of getting out and about. Leaving Copenhagen on a Friday evening and waking up next to the ocean on a Saturday fills me with so much energy and happiness - it's priceless!
3 favourite outdoor spots in Denmark?
Am I the only one who finds favourite questions so difficult? I feel like I have to have seen every corner of Denmark to give you the very best, and I haven't. Hello, recovering perfectionist.
But ok. Møn and Møns Klint. The island Møn lies around 90 minutes south of Copenhagen and is itself a really pretty part of the country. But the real draw is the area around the large white cliffs that drop into the sea on the easternmost tip. It's dramatic and intensely beautiful.
Vesterhavet in general and Klitmøller in particular. Vesterhavet is what the Danes call the sea off the western part of Jutland. Over there - the ocean is vast, the waves large, the cliffs high, the wind strong and the nature raw and intense. It's humbling. Klitmøller is a small fishing village in the national park Thy and has turned into a bit of a surfing hub in the last decade. A totally unassuming but lovely little place.
The islands south of Fyn. There are plenty of them and I have only made it to Langeland, Thurø and Tåsinge but I am definitely coming back for more. It's so close but feels far away and looks as if you turned Skåne into an archipelago. It's summer feelings in a box, flowery fields, ice cream on almost empty beaches and vegetables sold by the side of the road. You can buy an island-hopping pass and explore for a week or so!
3 tips for a more comfortable van life experience?
Ditch the sleeping bags and bring your fluffy duvet and soft pillows. Unless you are extremely cramped for space there is just no need to sacrifice that comfort. We bought silk duvets that are always in the car and it's just so much nicer than a sleeping bag.
If you are traveling with kids - leave your chef ambitions at home and keep it simple. If we are on shorter trips we'll often bring something from home that we can just heat, or eat tapas-style dinner that requires minimal preparation and fewer dishes. As much as I love the idea of spending time preparing and cooking a really good meal, it's just not compatible with our kids. I love those two boys more than anything but they are god damn everywhere all the time - climbing, running, fighting, yelling, playing, wrestling, you name it. That peaceful dinner-making will just never happen :)
Be pragmatic. None of us has any interest in staying in the van for four days if it's pouring down with rain outside. It's not big enough and we would all go insane within a day. So be prepared to change your plans according to the weather or, if you have the possibility, check into a hotel for a few days or rent a place. We actually do that anyway - we are planning two weeks in the French Alps this summer and will probably do two times two days in a nice hotel somewhere, in between all the camper van magic. Love the contrast!
How do you get your family onboard with adventuring?
Not sure that they have a choice : ) My husband has always spent a lot of time outdoors and is an avid skier, mountainbiker, kitesurfer, climber, you name it, so he has it in him and is in many ways more adventurous than me. Coupled with my relentless desire to experience the world around me - it just means that we both really like to get out there.
The kids have grown up with it and don't really know anything else. I sometimes worry that I am raising kids that are just as addicted to exploring and adventuring as me but I guess there are worse things I could give them. They LOVE the camper van and the outdoors life and since the day will come when they would rather die than spend a weekend in a camper van with their parents, we are soaking it up while we can.
What's your most memorable outdoor trip in the Nordics?
It's actually not the most spectacular or wow-factorish one, but my 40th birthday weekend last October. I knew that I did not want to have a party but instead invite my closest friend to an amazing weekend close to nature. I wanted TIME, lots of outdoors, fun activities, great food and wine and lots of laughter. So I rented a big house outside of Tiveden national park and twelve of us spent the weekend mountainbiking, hiking, swimming, eating and talking, talking and talking. It was everything I had wished for and I have already started planning my 50th in 9 years time, haha. I am thinking somewhere far up North - hit me up if you have a place to stay in nature that is out of the ordinary!
Thank you so much Klara for the chat. Don’t forget to check out her inspiring Instagram, and if you can’t stop reading and want more - this is for you!