In the second of our occasional interview series with the LWimages team we ask our Swedish dynamo Ulrika Larsson about her back ground in Ecotourism, the wonders of adventure kayaking and just what exactly does a Studio Director do.
Thursday, March 30th, 2017
>> You studied Ecotourism in Dalarna, Sweden, how have you applied what you learnt there in your career?
Devoting 2 years of my life to outdoor studies is one of the best things I’ve done because it led me in the direction of inspiration, excitement and self development. Learning new skills in an area that I had only briefly touched in my previous life was extremely rewarding in so many ways. We got the chance to explore so many different elements of the outdoors. It was almost like a smorgasbord where we go to try telemark skiing, river kayaking, horseback riding, canoeing, trekking, bivvying in proper winter conditons, ice climbing, mountain navigation etc. But I also learnt a lot about flora and fauna, team building, German, English, book keeping and how to run a business. We also did 27 weeks of internship, which gave us insights into the world of adventure and tourism. Being able to work with a wide variety of people no matter background, age and personality in such a tight and sometimes pretty harsh conditions gave me great perspectives on how to be part of a group but also being able to take the lead when that was my task. It also opened the door to sea kayaking and rock climbing that have become two of my favourite things to do in the outdoors.
>> Kayaking has been a big part of your life, what attracted you to it and does it give you a different perspective on the world as opposed to land-based activities?
Kayaking is such an amazing sport because it gives me so many different kind of experiences. On a flat calm sea it’s pure mediation. My heartbeat slows down, my mind relaxes and my body is working automatically without any effort. In rough conditions, in big sea state I’m activating every single little brain cell and all my muscles to work hard and be precise. It’s fun but can also be extremely intimidating. I grew up next to the sea and I loved being in the water already when I was a kid, swimming, doing tricks, staying under water for as long as I could, diving etc. It’s an element I know but it can also scare me to my core. I guess that’s what is so attracting.
>> In 2007 you kayaked round the whole Swedish Coast alone, what was that experience like?
Spending 66 days, on my own, in a kayak was amazing! I started on the border between Norway/Sweden and paddled towards the Swedish/Finnish border and not even one minute during this trip, during all those thousands of paddle strokes did I feel bored. I never wanted to give up. I was did day trip after day trip after day trip after day trip until I had done 66 day trips after each other and reached my goal. During the first 2 weeks I was thinking about everything I had done in my life. My brain was working non-stop and then one day it just went quiet. The rest of the trip was a pure joy and my brain was really resting. But it was also one of the worst summers in Swedish history from a weather perspective. I’ve been given the nick-name “the rain goddess” by a friend of mine, because the weather quite often seems to mess with me when I go on expeditions. Luckily I had a proper dry suit that kept me warm and dry. Apart from seeing the whole Swedish coastline on this trip, I really enjoyed all the meetings with people along the way. Strangers who opened up their homes for me, offering food, fresh water and wanting to hear my stories about my adventure.
>> A big adventure like that can be life changing – what did you learn from that expedition?
One of the reasons for me doing this trip (apart from the adventure in itself) was that I wanted to work on my navigational skills and to experience how I would act/react under pressure when it was all down to myself to sort things out. I couldn’t rely on anyone else. I couldn’t hand over the responsibility to anyone else either. I had to make the right calls and if I did something wrong, I had to take the consequences. Keeping calm at all time is definitely key during an adventure like this one. It helped my staying safe and making the right decisions for sure.
>> You worked with the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) before joining LWimages, what was your role there and what perspectives has that work given you on adventure travel?
Adventure travel is one of most important segments of the tourism industry since it’s intimately connected with looking after the environment and supporting local communities. There’s also quite often an educational element, which adds to a better understanding of nature, culture and people from different countries and backgrounds. I was working with ATTA for 3 years, supporting our members and developing adventure travel in Europe and globally with my team. Our members were tour operators, tourist boards, travel agencies, industry partners etc. All of them were in some way connected with adventure travel and interested in developing the industry together into something better. The ATTA served as a hub, you could say, with an extensive network and with an amazing source of intel for the industry professionals. It was a very social position with lots of communication with great people who all were passionate about adventure travel.
>> What does your work involve now as LWimages Studio Director/Producer?
I keep it all together. 😉 Making sure all our productions are properly planned, that all the communication with our clients run smoothly and that we meet the expectations the clients have and that everything behind the scenes is working. I have also picked up the camera a bit and I’m doing a lot of behind the scenes filming, which I really enjoy. It’s never a boring day in the office that is for sure. >> This past year you’ve been on an amazing range of assignments, what have been your personal highlights? To finally, properly, get to explore Iceland is a dream coming true this year. We’ve already been once to the island and have another 2 visits planned for this year. Spending time on the glaciers and being part of that grand landscape was mind blowing. The assignment is to create content for a top notch tour operator called Icelandic Mountain Guides and I’m really looking forward to going back.