LIFE AS A CABIN MANAGER IN THE SWEDISH MOUNTAINS
– and making one’s dreams come true
It’s sometimes hard to find time for everything, especially if you are a parent. One’s own dreams often get placed on the backburner, or postponed to a “later” that maybe never comes. Time to yourself is often overruled by all the ought-tos and must-dos. But does it really have to be that way? Few people manage the art of regularly getting time to themselves. Alexandra is one of the successful few. With great support from her partner and her family, she has had the opportunity to follow her dreams and treat herself to that essential time to herself that we all need.
Alexandra Hägglund lives just outside Östersund by Önsjön. We meet Alexandra on a crispy autumn morning in the setting she most enjoys being in, namely outdoors next to a fire with a cup of hot tea. We talk about life, outdoor recreation and most of all about the work as a cabin manager that Alexandra has been away doing during recent years. Being a cabin manager during the summer is a huge contrast to her job as a youth investigator for the police, which involves meeting people that sometimes do not feel well and have ended up on the wrong path in life. Alexandra believes that more people would feel better if they had the chance to get outdoors and feel the calmness of nature.
Her interest in outdoor recreation and love of spending time outside developed already as a child when she spent her days on her grandparents’ farm in Sunnansjö in Västerbotten. She liked it best when she could eat her breakfast sandwich with a cup of hot chocolate behind the milk tank where it was lovely and warm.
“My grandmother took us out on lots of day trips. In the winter we went ski-touring and it was my grandmother who taught me to ride a bike. As they had a farm to take care of, our trips were always quite close to the farm. But you don’t always need to travel far to have an adventure.”
Daily adventures and adding a special touch to a normal day is something Alexandra values highly still today. She often goes out on adventures in Jämtland, together with her partner and their two children.
“I’m probably a bit impatient sometimes and always want things to happen. That’s why I try to do something extra, like having a little bonfire on an ordinary Monday night.”
But it is not only everyday luxuries and mini adventures that she enjoys. In summer 2018, Alexandra spent a month as the cabin manager at Teusajaure mountain hostel, located along the northern part of the Kungsleden hiking trail. She had wanted to work as a cabin manager for a long time. She first applied when her children were small and the idea was that her partner could take paternity leave, so that they could spend the time there together. Unfortunately she was not accepted then, and it was some time before she saw an opening and applied again last year.
“Last year they didn’t manage to fill all the vacancies and when I saw that they were looking for extra cabin managers I took a chance and applied. I got a place and also got to do the cabin manager training so that I would be able to apply for posts in the future, if I wanted to.
Being able to apply for posts again was something she made the most of and she also went away to work as a cabin manager this summer. This time is was Tjäktjastugan hostel, also along the northern part of the Kungsleden trail. Each cabin differs in the number of managers and the daily routines. During the first summer when Alexandra was in Teusajaure, there were three cabin managers, and in Tjäktja this year there were two of them.
“We had a shop, a sauna and boats in Teusajaure, which is why there were three of us. STF doesn’t handle boat services at many of its places, but there we took care of the motorboat that people could take if they didn’t fancy rowing themselves. There are rowing boats there too, but if your luck is out you have to row the boats over the water three times as there must always be at least one boat on each side.”
The daily life of a cabin manager can vary from hostel to hostel. But they usually get up at around seven or seven-thirty to say goodbye to the guests that have stayed there and give them tips on tours. If there is a shop in the hostel, they open it then as many people want to buy food before they head off. Then it’s time for the daily tasks. The rooms and toilets have to be cleaned, wood needs to be chopped and rubbish needs to be taken care of. They usually get some spare time then, and if there are several cabin managers in one hostel they take turns to go on tours in the mountains.
“Both Sofie, who I was with last summer, and I enjoyed running, so we explored the area in our running shoes. And when we returned from our trips we would go bathe in a lake or shower in a waterfall that was quite close to the hostel.”
When we ask Alexandra what the best thing was about life as a cabin manager, the answer comes without the slightest hesitation.
“It’s meeting all the people! Both those that come and stay in the cabins, and then I’ve also had fantastic cabin-manager colleagues. I’ve been so incredibly lucky and have been with really lovely people. Beforehand, I didn’t know either the people I was with last year or Sofie who I was with this year. But both summers have been incredibly good. You get very close to one another, which can probably also go very wrong. But I’ve had really lovely colleagues and that makes the entire experience really wonderful.”
The amount of time you spend as a cabin manager can vary greatly. Those who are willing and able, can spend almost the whole summer as a cabin manager. The first year that Alexandra was a cabin manager, she spent a month in Teasajaure, and this year it was two weeks in Tjäktja. Leaving the family for so long last year was a hard decision. Alexandra explains that she had a very bad conscience and there were a lot of tears, but it was her family that gave her the most support.
“There were those who questioned my being away from my family for so long. It’s probably very difficult for many people to understand that you can go away and leave your children for so long, especially as a mother. It was tough when people made me feel guilty, especially as I already had a bad conscience anyway, and it was really hard to be away from them for such a long time. But my partner is really enormously supportive and I know that the kids have a great time when I’m away. They usually go off and do loads of fun activities and visit my grandparents. They hardly have time to miss me. And I try to really think as one of my colleagues said to me, that I inspire my children to follow their dreams and that everything is possible if you really want it.”
Alexandra would have most preferred it if her family could have accompanied her during her assignments, but on these occasions it hasn’t been doable. However, her partner and children went up to visit her last summer when she was in Teusajaure, and this year they met up at Kebnekaise after Alexandra had finished her assignment.
“Tjäktja is located further out in the mountains, so it was too big a project for them to get there. That’s why we decided to meet at Kebnekaise afterwards instead, and spend a few days there.”
The children, who are six and nine years old, are used to being in the mountains. The whole family often goes out on adventures together around Jämtland. They adapt the activities, and both adults and children have to compromise so that everybody is satisfied. It’s obvious that Alexandra has a great love of the mountains and she happily shares tips on trips that suit both young and old alike on Instagram.
For Alexandra it is important that both she and the children have the right clothes and equipment. But she doesn’t rush at getting the right equipment.
“Sometimes I would rather go without than simply buy something mediocre. I would rather save up for something I really want and it’s OK to pay more for good quality. I want good products that last a long time.”
SOMETIMES I WOULD RATHER GO WITHOUT THAN SIMPLY BUY SOMETHING MEDIOCRE. I WANT GOOD PRODUCTS THAT LAST A LONG TIME.
What Alexandra chooses to pack into her bag to bring with varies greatly depending on the activity. But one thing she always prioritises is having good woollen socks on her feet. And since Alexandra has Reynards syndrome, which means her fingers and toes can become stiff and white in the cold, which can be very painful, she also frequently wears wrist gaiters and gloves.
“Yes, it is so important to be dressed correctly, from the inside out. Good underwear and a merino wool sports top. I think many people often forget these.”
Alexandra works as a youth investigator with the police, and she first came across Woolpower in her job. “We’ve of course had Woolpower as our working clothes for years, and before I bought my own, I sometimes “borrowed” my Full Zip Jacket from work to wear at the weekend, because it’s so comfy.”
39 years old
Favorite Woolpower garment:
I love the LITE range. The Crewneck and Long Johns, and I think the blue colour is gorgeous. And then I’m also a bit addicted to your Wrist Gaiters too.