Yuva is a biomedical scientist from Amsterdam who joined one of our trips to Norway – it ended up being a trip that changed her life! Originally from Turkey, Yuva grew up just 10 minutes from the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea and has always had an affection towards the water. She moved to Amsterdam to further her career in the field of oncology and was adamant that it was as far north as she would ever go.
So how did she end up on one of our boats with a bunch of strangers sailing the waters of the Arctic Norway? We caught up with Yuva and spoke about embracing the cold, embracing the joy of sailing, the connection with other people, and plotting her next trip up north.
What made you join the trip? What inspired you?
It’s a bit of a long story…
I just love being on the sea and I really wanted to go for a trip on the water, so I started looking. I looked at the Mediterranean because I grew up there and it was all I knew. Then I started to look north, and I never realised that the harbours and places in the north are so beautiful. It was quite an eye-opener and it made me really want to explore that side of the world.
Interestingly enough, I was speaking to a really good friend of mine from Canada, who used to live in the Netherlands. He had done the Whisky expedition and was heading to Europe to do another trip, this time along the Caledonian Channel in Scotland. During his trip, he would report to me a little bit about how he was doing and seeing, and sending me some photos.
It sounded like a wonderful experience and I realised that it was exactly what I was looking for, because I want to learn more about sailing. However, I wasn’t confident enough to go on a multi-day trip on my own, so we agreed to go on the trip together.
I went to the website and I saw the gorgeous photos and I knew it was definitely not something that I’d done before. I love doing things that are very different to what I’m used to, and I’ve never been to Norway.
How did you choose your trip?
We looked at the different trips and saw the Træna Festival trip. What I liked about the Træna one was that it was so varied. And I like music festivals. I go to music festivals all the time because I love music and dancing. I also felt like, hmm, island hopping, that sounds like Greek islands.
I thought this is kind of nice because it’s like a ‘soft’ entrance to this whole Nordic world because you’re not heading straight to the Arctic with the cold and polar bears and stuff. So we booked the trip and I decided to take a summer break because I wanted to do this trip properly because I just wanted to be there and not studying and not taking my laptop.
How did you feel before the trip?
I was excited and anxious at the same time because it was so much unknown. This was the first trip I left without my work phone and my laptop in five years, so the thought of that was pretty daunting. I heard all kinds of concerns and thought, how am I gonna live with so many people in the same small space? Am I going to like it? Is it going to be really cold?
When I saw I had to take gloves and things like that, I thought, “This is June/July and I need gloves and a beanie?! That made me a bit nervous because even though I’ve been living in the Netherlands for a while now, I still have warm Mediterranean blood in me. Also, I’ve never been to Norway, I can’t even pronounce the names of this place, and where are we going? I was also a bit concerned about how to get there since it’s a bit off the beaten path.
How did you ease your mind about these?
I knew from my past experience that if you’re scared, it’s going to be a great trip.
When it came to my concerns about getting to the boat, I approached it like a puzzle — I figured out how to get to each place where I needed to be, and how to get home, then booked everything. So that was sorted and I could look forward to the trip!
What were your fellow travellers like?
There were four boats with a total of 40 people, and most people were between 30 and 45, some younger, some older, and everyone in different stages of their lives, but it didn’t really matter, because everyone just had the same mindset. I could actually not believe that everyone was so like-minded! It was incredible.
Out of the 40 people, only 3 of us weren’t from Norway, which was great because I got to know and love Norwegians. They have this amazing country with an amazing depth of culture, and they’re such beautiful-natured people, they are very respectful of nature and they understand it.
They really made me realise what an amazing country Norway is. Everyone was in such a good mood, it was a sailing trip, but we were always dancing and partying. I loved it so much that I started going out more when I got home to Amsterdam!
Tell me about the friendships you made on board.
The incredible thing about the trip was that when I left after 10 days, those 40 people felt like they were my best friends from high school. I miss them, they have a really warm space in my heart. From the first day when everything was a bit new and scary, especially living so close together, everyone was super kind and positive that it just felt natural to be spending time with these people. I actually forgot what it’s like to be treated so nicely.
The sailing crew played a big part in making everyone feel comfortable. It felt like they took care to put people together who would get along really well. I really love that. It felt like the way that the trip was planned was just a bunch of friends going island hopping, going to festivals and fishing, and everything. A bunch of friends having the best time. That’s what it felt like.
We even organised a reunion in Oslo, which I’m so excited to go to because then I’ll get to see all these people again.
Did you have any sailing experience prior to joining the trip? Do you think you need experience to go on a trip like this?
I had a little bit of experience. I grew up around sailing culture, but I never sailed myself. I sailed on the boats, but I never did the actual sailing. When I moved to the Netherlands to do my Ph.D., I started to discover a little bit more about the Northern Hemisphere. I got to know who the Dutch skippers are because I wanted to learn.
So last year I started doing the Royal Yacht Academy’s competent crew course, where we sailed to the Wadden Islands in the Netherlands. However, I didn’t get a chance to practise more because it was the end of the season and I actually broke my ankle, so that couldn’t happen.
Do you need experience? No, there were people of all experience levels on the trip. Some people had never even set foot on a sailboat before, but everyone loved it! And you learn about sailing on the trip, so even if you’ve never sailed before, you’ll be a sailor when you step off the boat.
Tell me about learning about sailing on the trip.
You definitely learn a lot about sailing on the trip, but it depends on the skipper because every skipper has a different style of teaching. On our trip skippers rotated, so one skipper would tell you what to do and why you should do it, and then another would be more about the details. So there’s a lot of variation. And you can basically learn as much as you want to learn. Some people want to learn as much about sailing as they can, others want to relax a little bit more.
What I liked was doing all these things that I learned from books, in real life. And the things I already knew how to do, I got better at. I tried to learn as much as possible and get as much experience as possible. I’ve definitely become a much better sailor because of the trip. We even got to race in a little regatta, which was great, because it gave us a chance to put the skills we have learned to the test.
The whole experience made me realise how much I love sailing. I got home to Amsterdam and all I was thinking about was when and how to get back on a boat again. I even joined a local sailing club!
What were the highlights of the trip?
Definitely, the connections that I made and the beauty of the people. Don’t get me wrong, the natural beauty you get to experience on the trip is truly incredible, but it’s that human connection that’s really special. I also had the opportunity to go beyond my own boundaries, which was definitely a highlight for me. To do things that I never thought I’d do.
What did you take away from this trip?
The trip made me realise that there is so much more to being a human, and I really felt that. Like you hang out with these people that you’ve just met and it feels like you’ve known them for years, and you think, “That’s what being human is really about, that’s what really matters, the connections with other people”.
You are forced to be in the moment because everything you’re doing is so amazing. And so many of us don’t actually do that, we’re always living the future, thinking about the next thing.
This trip makes you realise how amazing NOW is. For 10 days, I didn’t think about anything other than just being there, at that moment, fully present. It was a real wake-up call for me.
I definitely came home a better person, both physically and mentally, and even emotionally. I’m a better sailor now physically, sure, but I’m also happier as a person and I look at life a bit differently. It really expanded my boundaries in so many ways. I mean I didn’t know that I could climb mountains or live on a small boat so close to other people I’ve never met, or even that I’m totally ok with the cold!
It’s actually funny, because I always said that Amsterdam is as far north as I would go in my whole life, but the next thing I knew I was in the Arctic and I loved it! It’s like I discovered this part of my personality that I never knew existed!
What advice would you give people who are considering going on an adventure like this?
Be open and stay open to variation and change. You meet all sorts of different people, there are all kinds of boats and there will be all kinds of weather. Even with yourself. You might go in and expect that you just want to sail or just want to relax, but you might end up doing the complete opposite, so be open to change. That includes a change in yourself as a person.
These trips can really change your life, but you have to be open to it, to new experiences, to new beginnings. So have the courage to embrace this.
Then of course there is packing. As I mentioned, you get all kinds of weather, and it can change quickly so be prepared. Just because you’re going on a trip in summer in Norway doesn’t mean it’s not going to get cold, especially on the water, so pack a beanie and gloves.
And forget about cotton, go for wool! It’s the best, especially in colder weather.
At the same time, pack as little as possible.
There really isn’t a lot of space on the boat and you don’t want to be struggling with lots of things the whole time. Just keep it simple and pack only what you REALLY need. If you get to the boat and you see there’s something you don’t have, Norwegians are some of the most generous people I’ve met and they’ll lend you whatever you don’t have…or like in my case, knit you a jersey!
Would you go on another sailing adventure like this? Which one(s)?
Absolutely! I would go on another sailing adventure right NOW!! There are so many trips I want to go on. I love whisky, so I would definitely like to do the whisky experience and the ‘ski and sail‘ trips because I like snowboarding. It’s such a contrast, because in my head sailing is still in the Mediterranean where it’s warm, and here’s this trip where you go sailing and skiing at the same time?! That’s amazing.
Then of course I would love to do the Træna Festival again, because it’s so magical. There are so many trips I want to go on, but those are my favourites right now.
Speaking to Yuva you get a strong sense that the trip was more than just witnessing the incredible beauty of Norway and exploring its magnificent fjords. What she found on that adventure was a new perspective on life, lifelong friendships, and some pretty amazing stories to tell. Yuva’s roots may be in the warm Mediterranean, but the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean have captured her heart, and she can’t wait to go on another life-changing adventure. In fact, she is busy planning her next trip right now!