The door was open for outdoor entrepreneur Linda Staaf. She would take the world to Omberg. Suddenly she could not take the step.
We have arranged a meeting in Hästholmen and I am looking for a suitable place to sit. The sun is shining and there are white geese on Lake Vättern. Linda will come right after a kayak guide and I wonder how it went. At the parking lot are some colorful kayaks that are rented out by Vätterkajak. On the other side of Lake Vättern is Olshammar, where I borrowed a kayak last summer for a fantastic paddling trip in the northern Vättern archipelago.
- It blew too much so it became mountain bike guiding on Omberg instead, says Linda when she appears with her breath in her throat and a splash of earth on her legs.
She apologizes for coming in cycling shoes. We sit on the benches by the mountain that protrudes at the far end of Hästholmen harbor. The water gurgles against the rock next door.
Why did you end up on Omberg and Vättern?
- I've lived here since I was 16 years and I like nature. Omberg is called Östgötarna's sacred mountain. It is incredibly important for Vadstena- and the people of Ödeshög. For those who live on the plains, there are not many nature areas to choose from. We have a lot of local visitors.
Do not want to promote air tourism
It stormed a lot on social media when Linda Staaf went out and said that she does not want to promote air tourism. Her posts abounded everywhere in threads, mail and private instagram messages. The year was 2018 and the world was still open. I thought she was brave enough to take up the debate.
- I listened to a meteorologist at a lecture who spoke with humor and seriousness about the climate. Tourism affects so much negatively! We Swedes let out 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide and should go down to two tonnes. A trip to the United States costs 2 your. What can I do to reduce my travel expenses?? Fly once every 5:e years? Eat vegan and so on? It stopped, tells Linda.
This happened at a tourism industry conference on Sustainable Tourism in Tuscany, Italy. After a workshop on the importance of the local population for sustainable tourism, everything changed for Linda.
- Tourism was my life, both professionally and privately. Now I suddenly started to question everything and thought about quitting. But if I did, I would not be able to change anything. So I came to the conclusion that I want to continue working with travel.
This time to make it as durable as possible, for the sake of the area and for the sake of the climate. When I went out and told why I will not work to run an aviation tourism, many in the industry thought it was an eye opener. There were also many people I do not know who heard from me and were critical.
Linda falls silent and looks out over Lake Vättern.
- I think a lot about my future grandchildren. What will they see?
A concrete consequence of Linda's position is that marketing is only done nationally and to neighboring countries. No pick-up at airports is offered, but it is clearly communicated that customers are expected to arrive by train, bus or car.
Secret strawberry places
Another charged discussion that Linda has taken on social media, she has over 4 500 followers on Instagram, is about whether we should share our strawberry places in nature.
- I am often asked about my strawberry places, but since a few years back I have stopped telling about them. My strawberry places are all a bit secluded where I usually get to be completely alone. These places would lose their charm if there were more than me there. I have had to find new places as my old ones have become known. Therefore, I instead suggest general stuff and mention already familiar places.
Linda is serious and takes several thoughtful breaks during the interview. It is a great contrast to the pictures of the smiling carefree Linda on the mountain bike or in the kayak on Lake Vättern. I understand that she is a person who loves and protects her homeland but is concerned about the major problems that climate change and mass tourism bring.
What drives you?
- It is of course nice to be out and it is fun with the people who come. Meeting people has become more and more important. Then I like to live in contact with nature, the seasons and to live with the day and the weather changes. It's a big uncertainty too, but that's what I like. I feel worst when I stress in traffic jams. But as soon as I am in nature, I land and get rid of stress. - What also drives me is that I want to inspire so that more people find out in a sustainable way and get a genuine experience, Linda finishes with a glow in her eyes.
The turning point that came when Linda was at the Adventure Travel Summit 2018 left its clear traces. No one can miss the fact that she now works hard to change the industry from within. With her commitment, Linda wants to inspire more sustainable tourism development at all levels. If you want to know more about sustainable tourism, keep an eye out for "Let's Meet and Talk" where Linda meets various representatives in Swedish tourism and outdoor life.