Travel: Someone's Got To Do It - Jobs in the travel industry

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WALTER ALLVIN is from Gothenburg in Sweden but has been living in Lapland for eight years and works as a mountain guide at Abisko Tourist Station

What made you decide to be a guide?

I always had a big interest in outdoor activities and the environment, and it seemed the perfect chance to do something I enjoyed for a living. It gives me a real buzz to take people out and show them the nature of this area.

Why Abisko though? It's very remote.

At first I just came up to Lapland for a holiday but I really loved the landscape and so I kept coming back to visit. Having given up my job as a drawer for an advertising company, I was already working as a guide further south and one time I came up here I decided I wanted to stay.

People always ask how I cope with the darkness during the winter but, actually, there's so much snow that, when the sun is reflected, it gets really light. When the sun does appear, it's very low so you get the most fantastic pink and orange skies, like sunset or sunrise during the rest of the year.

So what do you actually do in a typical day?

In the winter I work as a ski guide, teaching telemark skiing and taking people out on ski trips. Then in the summer, when it's light practically all the time, I take groups out on one-day treks. Sometimes when the weather's good we take people up to the top of a nearby mountain by cable-car and look down over Torne-trask Lake, watching the midnight sun.

I've always been interested in the landscape and the local botany and geology but, for me, the cultural history of the area is what makes it so special - how the railway got built a hundred years ago to take iron ore out to ships on the Norwegian coast and stories of how the local Sami people used to live.

Did you need any special training?

In Sweden I had to study for two years to become a ski instructor and trekking guide. I also took an extra year's course in mountain ecology.

So, what's the best part of your job?

Just getting people to come here and see what the area is like is great.Visitors are mainly German or Swedish and it's interesting how many Swedish people don't realise that this landscape exists within their country.

But, wherever people are from, I get a real sense of satisfaction when I see that they are taking an interest in the area.

If I wanted to, I suppose one perk of the job is that I could stay in the Swedish Touring Club's facilities (which includes Abisko Tourist Station) all over Lapland, but actually I'd much rather be out in a tent. At Abisko we have reconstructed a traditional Sami settlement and we sometimes take people to one of the tents there to sit on reindeer skins and make coffee over a fire. It gets really cosy inside.

There must be some bad sides to the work?

The people who come here generally have a real enthusiasm because it's quite a difficult place to get to, so the tourists are never a problem. If anything, I'd like to see the tourism managed better. At the moment, although there's always plenty to do here, the number of visitors is very seasonal and that can make it difficult for the guides.

Don't you miss the city?

Not at all. There's a village just down the road and, if I don't have something I need, I can just get on the computer and order it. There's always something to do out here whereas in the city you can easily find yourself bored.

And what about the pay?

An average salary for a Swedish Touring Club guide is about SKr15,000 a month (about pounds 1,150) but, if you have your own company, you can make more money.

For information about activities in the area, contact Abisko Tourist Station, SE-981 07 Abisko, Sweden (00 46 980 40 200) or Kiruna Forskningsturism, PO Box 60, SE-981 07 Abisko, Sweden (00 46 980 40 270)

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