My name is Maiu and I'm a hiking artist during the summer and a sleddog musher/wilderness guide during the winter.
I started my YouTube channel (then called "Hiker in Estonia", now "Maiu Takes a Hike") back in 2016 when I went for my first solo overnight hiking trip in Estonia. My goal was just to de-stress from my office work and city life, but I ended up finding a new passion and career in wilderness guiding.
Since 2016 I have uploaded over 100 videos to YouTube and I have accumulated 2,5 million views on my hiking, gear and painting related videos. With all of that what I want to spread the knowledge of hiking and encourage people to spend more quality time outdoors.
My love for the outdoors
I grew up in Estonian countryside and I spent most of my days roaming outdoors with my friends. Every summer my family took car camping trips all over Estonia and that's when I fell in love with sleeping in tents, grilling bread on campfires, and seeing our natural surroundings slowly and deliberately.
When growing up I always appreciated nature, but never got into hiking as all the necessary gear and knowledge seemed unreachable for me. Instead I tried to be a rower (was too short for that) and a dancer (folk dance was my kind of thing!) After getting my masters degree in social work and social politics I ended up working not in the social work field, but at different office jobs at production and construction companies. Finally, trying to find some relaxing hobbies during an especially stressful time I decided to try out long distance hiking.
The start of my hiking and YouTube career
It was year 2016 when I went to my first solo overnight hiking trip. That exact moment was also the start of a 3-year long journey where I hiked thru Estonia in sections. As I wanted to be kept accountable (I'm sure I wouldn't have finished the 830 km trail otherwise) I started to record my journey and learning on video, that I then posted on YouTube to my channel called "Hiker in Estonia" (now renamed as "Maiu Takes a Hike"). And that, my friends, was the start of my new life.
Of course changes didn't happen overnight and many times I was doubtful that I could exit the "normal" and "responsible" life. But step by step, one courageous decision after another, I have expanded my love for the outdoors so much that I have now quit my all-year-round office job, hiked some dreamy trails all over the world (including Nepal and New Zealand), and even tried out sled dog mushing behind the Arctic Circle on a highly popular event called Fjällräven Polar.
Becoming a sled dog guide
That Arctic adventure was truly transformational for me as after that (in 2019) I went back to the Swedish Lapland to work as a wilderness guide and dog sled musher in a sled dog kennel. And with that I had completed one of my dreams of having a job that makes me be outdoors all day long!
As the sled dog guiding job is seasonal I'm having a welcoming change in the workplace environment and pace (seasonal jobs are tough, guys!) by doing freelance work and forwarding my art career during the summer months. This kind of balance between a very hands-on job in the freezing cold, and more studio and computer centered work suits me perfectly! I'm eager to translate all the inspiration form the Arctic to the paper and hopefully you, my hiking friends, will share this new artistic adventure with me.
My love for watercolors
I do not have a formal art education and I can't even stay that "I have been drawing as long as I can remember". But I have always been very crafty and silently in my heart I knew it would be pretty awesome to draw or paint a picture I would be proud to call "beautiful".
So, in 2016, along with the start of my hiking adventures, I also picked up a small watercolor set and a sketchbook. I thought that if I'm spending so much time looking at landscapes, I might as well try to sketch them. Immediately this became my favorite way of recording the places I had hiked to. Even now when looking at my first modest sketches, I remember exactly how the place felt and looked like even outside the sketch area, what the weather was, how heavy of a backpack I had with me, and how relieved I was to take a break from walking.
With the help of my followers on YouTube, who have been seeing me paining on my hikes from the start and who have been encouraging me forward on my art journey, I have started to expand my creative expression beyond my small sketchbook. I'm currently I'm working on a 100 days project on Instagram where I paint one small painting every day for 100 days from my hiking adventure pictures. I couldn't be more excited to see where my art takes me next!