An alternative home-office: discovering Sweden during the pandemic

A Bright Christmas #18

Since March, my daily routine has practically been the same: wake up, set up my desk for the working day, and then keep on working until lunch, take a break and a short walk outside, and then repeat until it’s time to close the laptop and store all work-related items in the closet until the next day. While the months were passing, I was wondering whether other scientists feel the same way. From the digital group meetings and occasional coffee chats with colleagues and friends, I got the impression that nearly all the researchers around me were living in a similar way, and others who still came to the lab, had to follow more-or-less strict schedules to avoid having too many people in the lab and the offices at the same time.

There was one exception, though. I was able to follow the exciting journey of my friend and former colleague Ulrikke Voss, who set out to a hike through Sweden in the beginning of this year, without the slightest idea that a pandemic was on its way to turn the whole world upside down. After 6 years of research post-PhD, Ulrikke reached a standstill in her academic path. To reflect on her career and to re-discover her scientific purpose, she decided to pack her bag and set off on a 5000 km long journey through Sweden – from the very South in Ystad to the very North in Abisko. She didn’t only hike to challenge herself, but along her way, she also pursued a walk’n’talk project and interviewed numerous scientists from different universities and disciplines across the country. Ulrikke documented these interviews and made the videos publicly available, and together with her own reflections that she summarised in a blog, it’s possible to follow Ulrikke’s journey and listen to passionate scientists who tell about their research, as well as their ideas and views on science.

Keeping up with Ulrikke’s adventure and listening to the walk’n’talks kept me energetic throughout spring, and many times when my data analysis did not result in interesting findings or when my manuscript was repeatedly rejected, I was determined to transfer my home-office into the wild, grabbing my hiking shoes and following in Ulrikke’s footsteps….literally and figuratively speaking.

If you were wondering what other scientists outside of your own work ‘bubble’ were doing during the start of the pandemic, too, and always wanted to know how many kilograms of chocolate it takes to ‘survive’ various hiking days in snow, rain, and cold weather conditions, you can read even more about Ulrikke’s journey in a recent column in Tidningen Curie.

Blog post and picture by Katharina Herzog.

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