When Tiina Leinonen was 10 years of age, the new route to Anttola Village School took her through the forest. Whether winter or summer, the girl followed the route to school either on foot or on skis. The journey to school was filled with adventure and memorable experiences with nature. Gradually she started to understand more about the forest and learned to read its signs.
Now, at 50 years of age, Tiina still passes through the Anttola forests, both for work and pleasure. The beloved environment she grew up in has become her job, and under the name of Tiina the Guide, she leads various nature walks and hiking treks.
With Tiina the Guide, people can participate in canoeing, biking and hiking treks during the summers, and during the winters she serves as a guide for skiing and snowshoeing trecks. “The trecks are always inspirational and I combine cultural heritage with nature trails. At times, I use, for example, “lumberjack’s candles” or even rune reading for effect”, says Tiina.
Landscapes change, but nature remains
Although Tiina has returned to her native Anttola, there have been many landscapes in-between. Tiina studied at the University of Joensuu, Savonlinna Varpala Vocational Forestry School and at the Lahti University of Applied Sciences, and has also made international study tours.
She has earned various titles for her studies. Currently she is obtaining competence-based qualifications in environmental education from the Finnish Environment Institute.
Although Tiina has been to many places during her life, the leitmotif of her life has always been nature. Nature gives you answers, peace of mind, and a model for life.
“At the end of the 1980s, I had worked for the Municipality of Anttola as a physical education instructor. I had submitted my applications to several schools and then, to my surprise, I was admitted to Evo Forestry Institute. I did not know what to do as I did have a steady job. I remember how I took a canoe and went paddling and a fierce thunder storm hit. So nature gave me its answer,” reveals Tiina with an air of mystery.
When many years later, at the Forest Board, her career was facing a dead end, she made a decision to continue working with nature, but in her own way. And that is how Tiina the Guide’s nature trekking services were born. “When something does not work out, you just have to let it go. The same way as nature itself behaves,” she says.
Nature as a treatment method
Nature rehabilitation is close to Tiina Leinonen’s heart and these matters are given prominence on Tiina the Guide’s nature walks. The idea behind nature rehabilitation is to use nature to achieve the overall well-being of the body. Canoeing on the Saimaa waves soothes the mind and simultaneously treets the deep muscles of the lower torso and upper back. Snowshoeing serves as light therapy due to the white snow dunes, as well as giving soft exercise to the joints.
Tiina reminds us about the importance of nature in the treatment of, for example, depression. “For depression, the first cure offered is usually pills. These only make you numb. More important would be to experience well-being,” Tiina reminds us.
According to Tiina, nature should be prescribed in the same way as pharmaceuticals are. “Each day you would have to spend a certain amount of time in nature, even when you do not really feel like it. Once you have treated yourself in nature with perseverance and regularity, nature in turn will gradually provide you with the right rhythm and your perspective will be readjusted,” says Tiina.
Several irons in the fire
Enterprising Tiina is continuously involved in many activities. Besides operating as a guide and continuing her studies, Tiina has started to renovate her family’s old croft at Siiskonlahti, Puumala. The idea is to use the croft to present the traditional landscapes of the area to trekkers. “I do believe in learning things by doing them. At the croft I could teach interested people how to make, for example, a round pole fence,” saysTiina.
In summer 2014, summer travel information was made available at Anttola Harbour. On Tiina’s initiative, a booth for canoeing rental equipment was set up and soon the booth was also selling paddling trips and giving out general travel advice. The activity had an invigorating impact on Anttola village and was praised highly.