My swim between the landmasses of Europe and America was far less of a challenge than I initially anticipated, it required neither years of training and preparation nor support teams and record-breaking feats of endurance. On the chilly February morning which had been chosen for my swim, I woke in my cosy double bed in Reykjavik (which was to be the starting point of my adventure), enjoyed a delicious continental breakfast and waited for my crew to collect me in reception, without any real sense of trepidation at all.
Credit: Dive. is
As my grandma always used to say "to be on the move is good for your body and soul".
That is probably why I've always been a person who likes to leave the car in the garage and go for a walk.
There is nothing better after a long day at work or when you just want to escape daily life.
After I started working for The Artisan Travel Company, I had the opportunity to do this wonderful self-guided walking trip and as I really like walking and hiking this was the perfect trip for me. For safety reasons you are not allowed to do it by yourself, so I just had to convince my colleague Jono that walking can be great fun!
When we arrived at Ajaccio Airport our taxi driver brought us to our hotel, which was the perfect starting point to explore the city. It is only a couple of yards away from the beach, nice restaurants and the port. After checking into our rooms we had a wander around the city and a meet and greet with our local experts. They gave us a lot of tips for our walks and provided us with useful maps and route notes. We then finished off our day with a delicious dinner in a restaurant near to the port.
I had been to Gozo once before several years ago with my family and my two favourite things about this island destination were the food and the wonderful climate! I jumped at the opportunity to go back to Gozo but this time it would be a very different type of holiday.
I was set to join a short break focused entirely on improving my overall health and well being... (So probably much less pasta, pizza and ice cream than during my last holiday!).
I met the small group the first night after we had the chance to check into the beautiful Bella Vista Farmhouses. There were all kinds of people in my group of varying age, physical ability and also trepidation of what the week ahead would hold.
One of the first tasks I had, when I joined The Artisan Travel Company, was to spend two weeks acting as the company's representative in the tiny ski resort of Luosto. Travelling north of the Arctic Circle on my first assignment all seemed a bit daunting at first but I got to know Luosto and our suppliers very quickly and found myself falling very deeply in love with the place because it has just about everything you could ever want from a winter holiday.
As a Product Development Manager, I get to visit loads and loads of places but this very often has to be done reasonably quickly.
Spending 14 nights in the same destination allowed me to appreciate the slower way of life, to get to know the wonderfully friendly locals and take huge joy in the vast range of winter activities available in Luosto.
There is nothing quite like the excitement of imminent departure as you and your small band of wilderness explorers wait to start the 5 day Husky safari at Harriniva in Finnish Lapland.
The anticipation has been building since the moment you awoke, ate your hearty breakfast and made your way the mere 200m across from the main building towards the increasing volume of eager huskies waiting for the chance to do what they love as working dogs...pull.
The important thing in our job is getting to know a destination and experiencing everything it has to offer. On my very first trip to Finnish Lapland I learned very quickly that the best way to appreciate the wide open wilderness spaces north of the Arctic Circle is by snowmobile. You can enjoy all sorts of activities here in Lapland; dog sledding and reindeer safaris, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing will all get you from A to B but nothing will show you as much or take you as far as a snowmobile.
My first snowmobile safari was blessed by a typically beautiful early-spring day (in the opinion of most locals, late-March and early-April are the best times to visit) with not a cloud to obscure the azure blue skies.
The other thing that struck me about this pristine setting was just how calm and unspoiled it is. Lapland must be as close to purity as anywhere in the world and the air is said to be the cleanest anywhere in Europe (and very probably further afield too).
Arriving at Kittila Airport on a very late flight from the UK last December, I was happy in the knowledge that I had a very short transfer to get to my hotel. No sooner had my friendly Finnish taxi driver helped me into the car, he was then helping me out of it 5 minutes later as we arrived at the hotel. I was quickly checked into my room and tucked up in bed in anticipation of tomorrow's adventures.
I was met the following morning by my guide for the next two days, Jaakko. He was absolutely fantastic with the small group I joined and had obviously built up a brilliant rapport with the members despite the assortment of nationalities and ages.
This morning's activity was cross-country skiing and once we had established that no one in the group had actually done the activity before he led us through the very basic first steps of learning how to move around with the ski's attached to our feet. Once we got our balance and had learnt to stand up (!) we began a short circuit so we could practise negotiating the skiing tracks which run alongside almost all the footpaths in Northern Scandinavia.
I have been lucky enough to visit Tromsø in Norway several times in recent years, both in the summer and winter months, and I really like the city. It has a lot to attract people, including some mind-blowingly good restaurants, lively bars, cute little shops and a really beautiful harbour area.
I thought I had seen most of what Tromsø and the surrounding area had to offer, but it was only on my recent visit last summer that I learnt of the island of Senja....