A few years ago, the English architect Chris Mount noticed that he wasn’t enjoying his office job. Instead, he would have wanted to spend more time outdoors, having adventures. Time was passing by, and he realized that he wasn’t doing any of the things he truly enjoyed.
Now Chris is a husky guide, living in Northern Finland and spending his time on the things he loves: being outdoors, exploring the wilderness and learning new things, like Finnish. How exactly did this happen?
“After I got fed up with my life in the office and quit my job, I attended a 10-month international wilderness guide course in Kuru. After the course, I went back to England for a while to work as an outdoor instructor and returned next year to work as a husky guide in Taivalkoski”, Chris explains.
“At that time I was planning to stay in Finland for about half a year, and I decided to set myself a challenge: I wanted to learn fluent Finnish in five months”, he continues with a gentle smile on his face. And the results, if you ask me, are pretty amazing. He might not be totally fluent yet, but he is well able to answer my questions in Finnish and have a simple conversation. How did he succeed?
“I started by reading a book called Fluent Forever. A friend recommended it to me, and it served as a kind of foundation for the whole project. It taught me to focus on pronunciation and to use pictures instead of translations when learning new vocabulary”, Chris says.
He also took an intensive course, had weekly Skype sessions with a language exchange partner and exercised with applications like WordDive.
“I studied for about an hour a day whenever I could. I also had a Finnish tutor, a lady from the same town, that I met with regularly to practice speaking.”
His next plan is to take another intensive course and speak more Finnish with his Finnish friends.
“I speak about 30-40% Finnish with my Finnish girlfriend. The problem with Finnish people is that they speak English quite well and when I first started learning they would often answer in English even if I asked the question in Finnish.”
When I ask him whether he plans to stay in Finland for good, he answers:
“The longer I stay here, the more I fall in love with this country. What I like the most about Finland is the nature. There is a lot of wilderness here, lots of forests and lakes. The lack of sunlight is hard, but on the other hand it makes the summer seem amazing. I also love sauna and avanto.”
(For those not so familiar with Finnish culture, “avanto” means a hole in the ice where you can take a dip to cool yourself when having sauna in winter.)
“And I like Finnish people. They are friendly, very connected to nature and eager to hold on to their traditions. I really like that. I do miss my life and my family in England but I love spending time outdoors and going on expeditions. When I am older, I want to be able to look back and think that I did everything I wanted to do. Or at least really gave it my best shot.”
You can follow Chris’s adventures on chrismountadventures.wordpress.com.
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