Alone at Last: Fjällräven Classic

Words by Claudine Ong
Photos by Claudine Ong

It’s 3 am on a Sunday. I’m tossing and turning. My mind is heavy, crowded with all sorts thoughts. I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of “alone”, my growth in the past year, sense of belonging and so on. Living in the city can consume you if you’re not careful. I’m in desperate need of time, space, and reflection. I’ve been living an “on-the-go lifestyle” and was slacking on self-care. Well, just my luck I got chosen to participate in the Fjällräven Classic. ‘This is exactly what I need!’ I thought to myself.

I’ve never been backpacking before so naturally the Fjällräven Classic was another thing to worry about. Luckily, my optimistic side kicked in and I had a conversation with myself about how will I know I’m incapable if I don’t at least try? Also, I love hiking and camping. Backpacking is just the two combined, right? It’ll be okay….

Next thing you know, I was on a plane to Colorado! I spent the remaining 3 weeks gathering all the gear I needed and going on as many hikes as possible! If I’m being honest, I couldn’t go on as many hikes as I’d like because 1. hiking is a luxury, not a necessity. 2. life is busy and we have to prioritize. It wasn’t the physical aspect of the Fjällräven Classic that worried me, but more so the mental hurdles. I decided I was going to attend the Fjällräven Classic with zero expectations, that way no matter what happens, I can’t be let down.

Of course I was hoping I’d make friends at the Fjällräven Classic, but most of all, I was hoping to get answers to some of my questions to alleviate my mind. It was finally Tuesday and time to head to Copper Mountain for the big day…. or big next 3 days I should say. Out of all the questions eating at me, I focused on these:
Q: Does one find a sense of belonging permanently or is it always temporary?
Q: How comfortable are you with being alone both externally and internally?
Q: What makes one a self-actualized person?

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. I just wanted to pick people’s brain on the matter and see their perspective.

Here it goes…

Long story short, it was a rollercoaster of emotions. Day 1: an absolute breeze. Day 2: HELL, but undeniably rewarding. Day 3: need a shower or two. Would I do it again? NO DOUBT. Overall, the 3-day trekking trip was roughly 30 miles and boy, oh boy!

The views I saw were irreplaceable. Day 1 was both lovely and lonely. I really missed my family and friends and wished they could join me. However, it made me happy ending the day with the sunset melting into the mountains, mouthwatering barbecue and music around the campfire. For me it wasn’t difficult physically, but more so mentally especially during the 14 miles of day 2. It felt never ending, but the miles and miles of flowering meadows and the kind motivation from strangers as we passed one another definitely helped. Day 3 came sooner than expected! I was literally running down the trail while also collecting trash because always “leave it better than you found it”!

The hardest part…

One of the hardest part was not having any of my friends or family with me. Don’t get me wrong, everyone was very friendly and inviting! I was with a crowd, yet I felt alone… but it pushed me to go out and meet people, make new friends! The outcome was endless bonding and laughter. It’s amazing how fast a relationship can be built when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and share intimate information with one another.

As you can tell by now, day 2 is going in the books when it comes to hardest part. I don’t know how many times I heard, “you’re almost there!” or “it’s just right around the corner! Boy, was that a lie (eyeroll). Though I had a decently early start, I didn’t get to camp until sunset. I’m sure you can imagine how much pressure this added with the fear of not making it in time and having to pitch my tent somewhere random. I had to continuously convince myself I was capable and it wasn’t a race. Desperation was calling my name. Stress was chasing me. I had to stop and meditate before it all got too overwhelming. With the meadow surrounding me, the sun beside me, and the sweet whistling of the wind passing by, it truly felt like a divine moment. A sudden burst of energy and motivation entered my body. As I was taking my last 50 steps uphill to camp, I heard sudden cheering and people calling out my name. It honestly made me tear up internally. It was undoubtedly an extremely challenging day, but it was also the most fulfilling.

The easiest part…

I gotta say, Hanwag is my new favorite hiking boots brand! It was absolutely effortless breaking mine in! They definitely made trekking easier. Collecting my gear was very easy with the help of Fjallraven, Wayward, and Sierra Trading Post. Oh, and my mom of course! Thank gosh for that woman! Always watching out for me and sneaking snacks in my pack just in case. Collecting and packing my gear was tons of fun. It’s exciting to see all of the different gears they offer for backpacking and how little/compact things can get! It was also easy asking strangers the questions that have been lingering on my mind. It was beautiful hearing their answers. It was raw and filled with passion. Whether it was setting up for camp or cooking up dinner, everyone nearby was ready to lend a hand.

Slowly but surely I was beginning to feel a sense of belonging with the Fjällräven Classic community. It seemed that no matter what you believe in, it was only natural to feel blessed during this trip. I was thankful for good company, astonishing views, and overall just the privilege of being able to enjoy nature and go backpacking. The last day was my ultimate favorite. Especially when I was taking my last few steps to finish and finally join my fellow trekkers in celebration. It was easy and relieving knowing and accepting that I did it. My very first backpacking trip! After collecting my metal and patch, I rushed to hang out with some llamas and enjoyed a freshly cooked meal.

In conclusion…

Q: Does one find a sense of belonging permanently or is it always temporary?
A: Sense of belonging is a basic human necessity. It creates motivation, inspiration, and makes one feel they have a purpose. We find a sense of belonging within different communities. As we grow and gain more experience, we are constantly seeking different communities. We cannot discover sense of belonging within others until we can find it within ourselves. It can assist us when coping with painful emotions and moments. Many claims they found a permanent sense of belonging within their partners.

Q: How comfortable are you with being alone both externally and internally?
A: Being alone physically can be satisfying at times. For example, doing chores can be faster when you’re by yourself or you discover new hobbies and interest without the influence of others. Finding comfort in being alone internally can be challenging at times. It’s lonely and can turn into physical pain. It takes time. You can be surrounded with a group of people, yet still feel alone, but that’s okay. The more knowledge and experience you acquire, the more comfortable you become with being alone (internally and externally). Whether intentionally or not, people will always let you down. Once that comfort of being alone is established, you are able to fully depend on yourself. At this point, you can’t point fingers at anyone else when things go wrong a.k.a. accountability. From there, there’s only growth.

Q: What makes one a self-actualized person?
A: A self-actualized person is independent, realistic, and possess self-acceptance. They are spontaneous yet sets goals for themselves. They find satisfaction in the process of reaching their goals. It’s hard to say when one becomes a fully self-actualized person. For many, the different characteristics of a self-actualized person comes in and out and we are constantly working towards it. It’s an on-going journey that allows one to blossom. Overall, not even a self-actualized person is perfect.

At the end of it all, who would’ve thought I’d fall in love with backpacking! I find myself constantly craving nature more than ever. I’m now able to share with my friends and family all of the things I learned at the Fjällräven Classic. It was very interesting to hear people’s insights especially that they were from all over the world. The most intriguing part was how similar everyone’s answers were even though the demographics varied in ages, gender, origin, etc. I’m still developing my own answers for these questions, but for now it’s safe to say my mind is at ease. This trip was extremely refreshing. There was so much beauty to capture. A photo just wasn’t the same. It was quite a trek for sure!

Fjällräven is an outdoor clothing and equipment company that’s committed to making nature more accessible. The concept and goal of the Classic series is simple: to encourage and enable more people to get out and enjoy trekking. The idea came directly from Fjällräven founder Åke Nordin at the start of the 21st century. He had always been inspired by the dramatic landscapes and breathtaking scenery of the Swedish mountains. He wanted others to explore the same landscapes and, more importantly, the same feeling of freedom from spending a few days trekking on the trail. His solution was Fjällräven Classic. 
The initial focus of the Fjällräven  Classic was a multi-day hike experience in Sweden, but has now expanded and includes four different locations around the world: Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, and the United States. Trekkers pre-register and then complete a supported hike along a pre-planned route to different checkpoints that include varied terrain and beautiful vistas. This year’s US Classic took place at Copper Mountain in Colorado over three days in June. With over 300 registered participants; it’s a chance to have fun, meet new people, experience the mountain landscapes of Colorado, and challenge yourself mentally and physically. 
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