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Young German woman moves to Finnish forest, plans to subsist on rice, berries and insects

23-year-old German university student Charlotte Arnswald travelled to Finland to live alone in the forest and test her survival skills. She lives in a remote shelter in North Savo and eats whatever she can forage or catch.

Charlotte marjastamassa.
Charlotte Arnswald has lived alone in a Finnish forest shelter for over a month. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Charlotte Arnswald's first nights in her North Savo forest shelter were an ordeal. Temperatures fell to 7 degrees Celsius, but she couldn't move any closer to the fire for fear of her sleeping bag catching fire. 

After a few miserable nights, she came up with the idea of putting stones in the fire. 

"I put the stones by my feet to warm them. After that, everything was fine" she says.

Arnswald is a 23-year-old student from Oberhausen, Germany who came to Finland for the ultimate wilderness experience.

"I thought I could learn to know myself better, so I could see things in a new way," she says.

She wants to see how she will manage in the forest on her own. She had initially planned to hunt for the food she needs, but she didn't have a permit to carry a firearm and the hunting season in Finland had expired.

Preparation at home in Germany

Before she left for Finland, she studied Finnish plants and practiced survival techniques. Finnish spring is late this year, however, which put a dent in her preparations.

"These are the first green sprouts I have been able to find," she said, chewing on some plants.

Arnswald was still a vegetarian before she embarked on her Finnish adventure, now she is prepared to eat whatever is necessary to fill her stomach: fish, frogs, berries and even bugs.

"I'm ready to eat beetles and insects if I have to. They have essential proteins."

The only food item she has brought to her shelter from "civilization" is rice. The rest she plans to forage and find from nature.

Nature and animals for company

Arnswald has already achieved one of her goals: seeing things in a new light. She says being solitary in the midst of her natural surroundings has taught her to make independent choices, as there is no one else to offer an opinion.

"I'm not lonely in the forest, as I've got nature and animals for company," she says.

She's got a daily schedule that keeps her occupied. She starts her mornings with Qigong meditation and she's brought a clarinet along and intends to learn to how to play it with practice in the evenings.

Pepper spray for security

Arnswald brought a solar-powered cell phone with her from Germany and says she calls home once a week "to tell mum that I'm still alive". 

In addition to her axe and knife, she's got pepper spray to stay safe. She's fairly certain she could use it to fend off a bear.

"When I was still in Germany I was frightened about the prospect of bears and that wolves don't steer clear of humans anymore. But now I understand there was no reason for this."

As long as her body says it's okay

Arnswald says she'll live in her secluded bit of Finnish forest as long as it is necessary. She has no departure date in mind, but says she hopes to utilize her experience in Finland later in life, in work as a survival skills instructor, for example.

"I believe my body will tell me when my work here is done," she says.

Before that she plans to make the most of her forest life and the feeling of freedom it offers her.

"I don't care what is happening outside this forest, in terms of politics or society. I just sit here and eat my fish. I am entirely free and unattached and that's why it's so worth doing."

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