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In the autumn of 2009, Jarmo and Laura Järvinen started to plan how they were going to live for a year in a Tentipi Nordic tipi. They chose to put up the tent, a Safir 9 cp, (about 15 square metres), on an island in the Åboland archipelago in southern Finland. There, they lived in the bosom of nature with all its fluctuations: rain and storm, sun and heat, and icy cold winter. There, they wound down and learned how to follow the changing seasons and the rhythm of nature.

Perhaps many of you who read their story have wondered what happened next? How were Jarmo and Laura affected by their year in the Nordic tipi? What habits and experiences did they take with them back into”ordinary life”? What lessons had they learnt and what can we in turn learn from them?

Tentipi contacted Jarmo and Laura to find out how their return to ordinary life had gone and how they are living today. Here is their thought-provoking story, related by Laura.


Back to life in civilisation

”We moved back into an ordinary house, a terraced house, in the middle of winter. At first, it was hard for us to get used to the heat and we often wore only shorts and a shirt. At night, we had our bedroom window open, even when it was minus 15 outside. It took a few weeks for us to get used to normal indoor temperatures, roughly as long as it took for us to get used to the cold when we moved into the Nordic tipi in early winter 2010.

Barnvagn pa strand

We went on making fires

We missed a fire very much during our six months in the terraced house. Making a fire in the evening was the best moment of the day when we lived in the Nordic tipi. It was dark and cold outside and we were hungry but after only a few minutes it was warm in the tent and we loved listening to the sound of the fire.

We always use magnesium matches to make a fire, not ordinary matches. Magnesium matches are much more reliable for outdoor use. They work even if they get wet which ordinary matches certainly don’t!

Now we live in a house with a tiled stove in the living room and a wood stove in the kitchen. We never light our fires with paper; it’s so nice to make kindling wood to get the fire going. No paper is needed!

Even though we have a tiled stove at home, sometimes we just have to go out into the countryside and make a fire there. It’s not really the same to make a fire indoors.

Priceless water

After living in the Nordic tipi, there are a few things that we appreciate much more than we used to. One of them is water. Just think that we can get as much water as we like from a tap. At first it felt strange (and it still feels stupid) to use a water closet instead of a mulch toilet. So much water is wasted when you use ordinary toilets and clean water is truly a ”luxury commodity” in the world.

When we lived in the Nordic tipi, we noticed that we didn’t need to wash our hair so frequently. It was better for our hair not to be subjected to different hair care products every day. Nowadays, neither of us wants to shower every day or take long, warm showers.

Hand i vatten

Stuff, stuff and more stuff…

In the Nordic tipi, all superfluous items were just a nuisance. Of course they’re a nuisance too in ordinary houses but modern homes are normally so big that you can hide unnecessary stuff away in cupboards and storerooms. Nowadays, we really think carefully before we buy something new. And when we have bought something, we consider whether there is something ”old” that we can get rid of.

On the odd occasion when we go into town, the range in the shops feels quite absurd. You don’t need more than perhaps a few percent of all the things that are for sale — not even in an ordinary food store.

Bird song, societal noise and fellowship

We erected our Nordic tipi on a small island which was about one square kilometre big. Some fifteen people live on the island all the year round so it was quiet and peaceful most of the year. The birds could sing and the wind play its melody without being drowned out by the noise of civilisation. Now, we live on a larger island but there are no cars here apart from the two lorries that are needed to fetch the goods from the boat that regularly stops here. We have only one shop on the island, a food store. So in other words, we don’t have that much noise around us here either. We get enough of the noise when we go to town to do our errands. We find the amount of noise there very disturbing. There’s not a single second of silence!

The noise of modern society is not only that made by cars and other noisy machinery. All the information that we are inundated with can also be seen as a type of noise. It was so nice to escape unneccesary information when we lived in the Nordic tipi. Several days had passed before we heard about the earthquake in Haiti. At first, it was a bit scary that we had not heard such a big item of news until then but on the other hand, what difference would it have made if we had heard it earlier? Normally one would follow an incident like that intently but is it really so important to know everything? Isn’t it enough to hear the news once a day? Many people watch several news bulletins a day. As for us, we have no television and no daily paper but we do use the internet.

We try to avoid all forms of ”noise” caused by modern society but it does feel nice to have people around us. Perhaps we humans do need to belong to a community, even if it’s a small one. There are about 40–50 people who live permanently on this island and that feels just about right. Tourists and the people who have holiday homes on the island also come here.

Bebyggelse pa o n2

The rhythm of nature in our daily habits

After our year in the Nordic tipi, we follow the rhythm of nature even more closely than before. In the winter, we take it easy. We go to bed earlier and work shorter days. In the summer we are up (and outside!) almost all the time. In winter when it’s cold, we eat lots of stews and soups (although not as big portions as when we were in the Nordic tipi!!!) while in the summer, we eat lighter food. When we lived in the Nordic tipi, it was very noticable how our energy requirements varied according to the season.

We eat as much organic/natural/game food as possible but that was something we tried to do before as well. One thing that is much easier to do in a modern kitchen than in the Nordic tipi is to have large amounts of food in one’s own storerooms. It is always dry inside a house and food can be stored at the right temperature.

Obesprutade a pplen

Knowledge to pass on

Realizing our dream of living for an extended period of time in a Nordic tipi has given us many wonderful experiences and knowledge. For instance, both of us are now pretty skilled at making a fire. We know that we can cope well in cold weather, day or night, and that it is possible and fun to be out in nature for long periods. We don’t use the Nordic tipi any more (a friend of ours has it) but we hope that we can pass on some of what we have learnt, especially knowledge that can be useful when out in nature: how to make a fire, how to cope with cold, first aid, how to do the cooking, hygiene…

Freedom, happiness and possibilities are inside our heads

We felt free when we lived in the Nordic tipi, just as we feel free with the lifestyle that we now enjoy. After all, freedom is primarily inside our heads. Nevertheless, the life we lived in our Nordic tipi made it easier for us to find freedom within ourselves. We were not disturbed by external ”noise”.

Of all the things I learnt during that year, the most significant lesson was that you can live happily in many different ways. If you want to do something and you have a dream, it’s simply a matter of working to realize that dream. Most of the things that prevent us are inside our own heads. We have heard many people say that they would like to do something similar to what we did but they say they can’t afford to. I think most people probably could afford to if they just gave it some thought. We do not have high incomes now either but I don’t see our economic situation as something that prevents us from doing fun things like travelling, being out in nature, partying with friends… You just have to ask yourself what it is you really want to do, what do you need, and what can you live without. After our year in the Nordic tipi, I have started to see possibilities — EVERYWHERE! If I was able to do that, I’m sure I can cycle round New Zealand as well or participate in an ultra-marathon or… because ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, if you believe it’s possible.”


Laura Järvinen

Odlingsba nk



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