We spoke to the explorer and outdoorsy surfer chica Josefin Alvtegen, currently living in a van up north, driving around seeking adventures and waves among snow-covered mountains in the Nordics together with her hubby Alex. But, that wasn't a part of the original plan.
So tell us, you moved into a van and headed up north? Why and how? What sparked this amazing idea?
To go north was not really included in our plan. We we’re heading south to warmer surf, coffee & croissants, but when Covid-19 escalated, we didn’t feel it was the right thing to do so we decided to drive up north until it calms down a bit. It’s funny how a change of plans can turn out to be just the right plan. To drive up north has always been a dream of ours, especially in winter time, so this is an even bigger adventure. And when Europe opens up again, we will continue south.
What’s the plan - if you have one?
We’re not much for planning, especially not under these circumstances, when everything can switch over a night. But we have just left Lofoten after spending 3 weeks with amazing surf and views. For the moment we are in Abisko and will drive through all the beautiful places in the north of Sweden towards Åre, where we will spend Christmas with family. The plan is to stay there until we can drive south again.
How do you choose your destinations? How long do you stay?
Well Lofoten has always been a “bucket-list” destination for us. Not only for the surf, but also for the stunning nature. And just like we imagine, both the surf and nature was mind-blowing. We loved every bit of it (even though it was 4 hours of daylight and mostly rained). We usually try to stay in one place for a longer time to really get to know the area, but both me and Alex is pretty restless so we do change places to find new adventures.
Tell us about the van - have you renovated it or was it ready to move in?
We’ve spent quite a lot of time in vans around the world, but mostly small ones. This time we wanted it to be our home, for at least a year. And we wanted it to work both in summer and winter. We kind of knew what we wanted and we spent a lot of time searching and searching for the right one. Finally we found a van with the right gear for us. It’s a Fiat Ducato from 2017 and it was all ready to move in to. We have always wanted to build our own van, but it’s time consuming and we didn’t have the time. So instead we did some finishing touches to make it feel more like our home.
Can you tell us more about yourself, you run a surf school on the west coast, create magic with a camera, own a sailboat..and?
Haha, when you put it like that it sure does sound like a lot. But I still get restless sometimes. This trip is actually a big step for me to try to be more in the present, instead of planning ahead and make too much big dreams. I will always be a dreamer, but sometimes I have so many ideas that I forget to really appreciate what’s happening right now.
But yes, Namasea Surfskola is our little darling in Halmstad. We started it 2017 and we’ve met so many amazing people over the years. It’s so fun to show and teach the love for surfing to other people and let them experience the best sport in the world. And I’ve always have had a camera in my hand, I love photographing everyone and everything. But six years ago I hurt my back pretty bad and it resulted in slipped discs, which I’ve had a lot of troubles with ever since. I couldn’t do any of the sports I love and I needed to put my energy into something else. Since then I see, dream, breath photography everywhere.
What did you do before this? Do you guys work while traveling or have you saved up before this trip?
Alex quitted his job to do this trip and instead got a job online, which he can do anywhere in the world and as much as he want to – suits us pretty good. I’m a Product Developer at a company in Gothenburg and asked for one year off to do this trip, and come back with even more experience and a little bit less restless. When we travel I work with my own business as a Graphic Designer and also photographer. We did save a bit before we left but it’s not that expensive to live in the van so it’s easier to make the money last.
What’s your best memory so far? And worst!
Oh, we already have so many good memories. But the best one is definitely the first surf me and Alex had in Unstad. The sky was pink and the mountains where white. We paddle out to the point, looking like seals in our wetsuits, with the biggest smiles on our faces. We got 30 minutes by ourselves and caught some amazing waves. Only a few nights before this we arrived in Lofoten. It was snowing and the wind was pretty strong. From nowhere a storm hit us and we almost lost contact with the road. We decided to stop on the side on the road and wait out the storm. The wind got worse and we literally thought we were going to flip over. The wind was 35 m/s and our camper van was shaking. We slept less than two hours that night. Funny thing is that when we woke up the day after we were parked just next to a point-break with perfect waves, so it all turned out pretty good.
Any "Smultronställen" in Norway?
We really liked Trondheim and the area around it, and of course all of Lofoten is a must!
What’s been easier than expected and what’s been tougher?
Living in a van sure is compact living, and when we bought the van we thought we were going south. So we had planned smart solutions for warmer climates, for example window in the toilet so that we can take a shower outside through the window. When we went north, that’s not really an epic solution anymore. When surfing or doing other activities in the north there’s always wet gear as a result. We were a little bit worried that this was going to be a problem but little did we know that our toilet turns out to work as a sauna or drying cabinet. So we put everything that’s wet in the toilet and it all dries over the night – pretty epic!
A less good thing, that is a little bit frustrating in the north, is the lack of sun. Which means our battery can’t charge from our solar panels. This leads to us having to drive for a long time to charge, or stay at a campsite. Surfers as we are – we do drive a lot looking for surf, so we haven’t stayed at a campsite for more than two nights in 7 weeks. But the colder it gets, the harder it will become, so we will probably have to stay at more campsites in the north of Sweden. We hope they have saunas.
How do you like your Astrid Wild gear? How do you use them?
When you live in a camper, function and warmth is the most important factors. I brought so much of my favorite clothes which I wear back home, but none of them is functional enough to suit vanlife. My Minna Wool Fleece keeps me warm and my Avant-Garde Pants is the perfect combo for functionality and style.
What do you wanna say to other women dreaming about doing this?
The most important and maybe the only thing to say is – just do it. If you’ve dreamed about it for a long time, don’t look for excuses not to do it, and don’t let anyone or anything stop it – not even Covid 19 (but of course, travel responsible and listen to the directions in this pandemic).
How will you celebrate the new year and do you have a wish?
Due to Covid-19, we don’t want to drive through all of Sweden to Halmstad just to celebrate Christmas, so we stay with some of the family in Åre instead. Maybe we finally get snow on Christmas, the last years we’ve been surfing in the tropics. And I wish everybody an amazing Christmas and hopefully a little bit less hectic 2021!