It’s not even 11 weeks since we realized the full impact of the corona crisis on our life and company. And tomorrow, after less than 3 months, all the auctioned items from our company’s bankruptcy estate will be picked up by the buyers.
Time is a strange unit of measurement.
Sometimes it feels like this bankruptcy sh… does not stop at all and then I suddenly find myself with the feeling – yesterday everything was still okay – when did it all happen?
But I’m starting from scratch …
On Saturday, May 16, Johanna and I drove to Haparanda with Kitkat and Rubin (two of our young dogs) and the official letter to declare our bankruptcy. It is 120km to the office’s mailbox which is responsible for the bankruptcies in Norrbotten. Distances have a different meaning up here in Swedish Lapland. We could have sent the letter by mail, but we wanted to make sure that it was official with the bankruptcy on Monday.
Behind us were 7 long weeks in which Johanna went through all possible and impossible scenarios with external consultants on how we could save our company.
What could we pause, what ongoing costs would remain? How many guests do we need to keep the company active? It became clear that due to the ongoing costs, the mountain of debt continues to grow, without us knowing when we could continue with our travels and guiding again.
In addition, national and international corona requirements would turn any premature opening into a minus business and any concessions from the banks and the community would only minimally reduce our growing debt burden.
After a last 6.5 hour zoom meeting with our consultant, she also realized that there is no scenario that would end well for us.
Now it was clear. There is no way around the bankruptcy.
Johanna had been in discussion with our responsible insolvency administrator for a long time and we knew that it would be very quick after the official announcement.
So we wanted to get a precise overview of what will go away.
With the shopping lists of the past few years in our hands, we have sifted through and sorted all the items that belong to the company and, in parallel, have compiled a list of the things that we absolutely need for our life, the care of dogs and training.
Road trip Haparanda – Mieko
And then we sat in the car with our official bankruptcy declaration.
I felt like I was on the way to a funeral – when we drop the letter in the mailbox it’s all over – there’s no going back.
We took our time. Rubin and Kitkat were VERY happy about the stop at the rapids near Kukkola. The sheer enthusiasm of the two – so carefree from the tragedy of the moment, somehow won us a smile.
We went on to Haparanda.
While large ice floes were being driven towards the sea on the Torne river, we threw the letter with our bankruptcy application in the mailbox from Tingsrätt. The symbolism of the ice masses floating away somehow suited this strange moment.
Strangely nothing else happened – no timpani and trumpets, no vibration and the earth´s shell has not been cracked open… Everything has stayed calm. Here and there a car, here and there people who come from somewhere and go somewhere and we are in the middle of it with a letter in a mailbox and a decision that ends the 12 years of work.
We talked a lot on the way back. How shall we continue? How can and should we start earning money from today? What is important now and what is not? During a picnic with Rubin and Kitkat we got a little foresight and enjoyed the view from the hill Luppio. Breathed deeply. Stopped.
I like clarity and I was beginning to feel that things could go on now. … and also must, because at the same time I feel a huge uncertainty. Responsibility for my dogs challenges me to find solutions. In the short term, the food is secured, but time is deceptive and passes quickly – and then I want to be prepared to continue taking care of these wonderful creatures.
The next day, Johanna cleaned out our office. Throw off ballast and take a little bit of a spirit of optimism and a new beginning in the whole farewell.
She has gone through all the filing cabinets and drawers, has thrown private bills from the past few years and the bookkeeping up to 2010 in a big pile and then thrown into the fire side by side with loud music.
Nirvana, Queen and ABBA provided the soundtrack for a look back over the past 12 years. First invoices (still handwritten), logo designs, invoice designs, plans, project descriptions. Pages and stories and a nice reminder of everything we did and built up burned while Freddy Mercury sang “We are the champions”.
And then the bankruptcy machine started. The process is required by law. Being in the middle of it does not make it easier.
The bankruptcy administrator came on Tuesday.
He already knew our situation and thought it was a shame that we could not find any other way out. If the occasion had not been so sad it could have been almost cozy with coffee in the grill house.
We have submitted our inventory list, the entire bookkeeping and all documents of the past 7 years, including login data and passwords for all accounting programs.
Then it suddenly became strange for everyone when he asked for bank cards, bank access data and passwords for online banking. He collected all the keys for the vehicles and officially pointed out that we are no longer allowed to use anything that is attributable to the company.
Bankruptcies are published in the daily newspaper and appear on publicly accessible lists. And after the official end, I switched off our pages on social media or made the news public.
Johanna has taken our websites off the internet and canceled the domains for 8SeasonsVilla (guest house), 8SeasonsKitchen (restaurant) and MI.EKO BASECAMP (activities and travel). And of course, she informed all partners (travel agencies, tour operators, rental platforms) who also have sold our offers.
The reactions to our decision varied. Many have only realized now the extent of our situation, were shocked and concerned and had many questions about what that means for us.
Our neighbors were worried that we would go back to Germany, that our house and the dogs belong to the company. Fortunately, this is not the case and we had not even thought about going back to Germany! Our center of life and our dogs are here – of course we stay!
Many encouraged us, that we are now taking a break and when tourism starts again, we just continue.
We cannot do that! We do not have accommodations neither touring equipment – everything is gone due to the bankruptcy.
12 years in tourism are over. Now we have lost our foundation to work in this area. We have resigned ourselves to this for now.
The fact that our basics disappeared became visible at the end of the week at the latest. On May 22nd an external auction company, which takes over the sale of the “bankruptcy estate”, came to us and took photos of everything according to the inventory list, added it to their system, collected information, tested all the machines and stuck notes everywhere.
I didn’t speak a word to “them”. Well, maybe I growled a “hello” – but then I fled to the dogs and took a long time feeding and watched the “intruders” from a distance. The situation was extremely terrible for me. They were uninvited on our farm and, naturally took out, moved and photographed all of our “things”.
Fortunately Johanna could handle it better. I could keep my irrational feelings at a distance. When they were finally gone, I chopped wood like crazy until one of our neighbors came by. He had noticed that the auction company was there and asked me how I was doing.
So there I was. Sweaty and full of conflicting feelings. And then I burst into tears. He was just there. That felt good. Letting go, sympathy, mourning. And we talked for a long time. He sympathizes much with us and thinks it is also tragic for the village that our tourist work ends here.
And then everything was online on the auction site.
All our things depicted on professional pictures with auction date and detailed description.
Grill house, sauna, canoes, life jackets, fatbikes, dog harnesses, training trolley, several dog sleds, tents, stoves, sleeping bags, bicycles, storage shed, chainsaw, trailer, UTV, snowmobile, snow blower, tipis, beamer, screen, cash register system, music box and much more.
Two days before the auction ended it felt like everyone knew about it. I got many calls and messages with reactions like: Don’t you need all this anymore? Oh God! How terrible! You need the equipment for the dogs! How do you want to continue without all of this?
Many friends seemed to realize the whole dimension of the bankruptcy first now and acted if the auction of our items was an unexpected information. At this point it was for us bare facts which kept us busy day and night for the past 10 weeks.
We already had a list of the “must haves”, what we need for the life in our rural arctic region and for the dog care. The list also included the maximum amounts that we could spend to buy back some of our things.
Last Tuesday, all interested parties were invited to visit the things to be auctioned. It was almost worse than the first visit from the auction company. Now everyone was allowed to come, look at everything, test it and walk almost everywhere on our property.
Of course I know that my feelings are completely irrational and that all those who came didn´t cause the situation. That makes it even harder to deal with this nasty feeling of helplessness, sadness and anger.
Shortly before it started, I went to a house inspection in our village. Friends of ours are interested in the house but couldn’t come themselves, and it distracted me a little.
After I was back home, Johanna, Mona and me withdrew in our garden, close to the dogs and waited. There was nothing more to do. The auction company took care of everything.
There we sat, in our little realm. Somehow powerless and helpless. Who should we be angry at? We could only wait until it was over.
Two days later, on Thursday, everything came under the hammer.
This time it was Johanna that it was all too exciting for and made an “out-of-home appointment”.
Mona (a friend from Germany) and I were prepared. Armed with the list of the most important things, coffee, checked internet connection and a second laptop (if something breaks down) and very dramatic music from Beethoven in our ears, we plunged into the auction.
My family had given me some money with which we were able to buy the most important things back. I only use the donations for the dogfood and medical care and would not use them for other purposes. It is intended for food and medical care and must be used for that! There is nothing more important.
And yet there are more existential things for our lives up here and the dogs.
In the end we won around 40% of our “must have” list. Only the most necessary:
- training sled for the dogs
- high-pressure cleaner to keep the kennels clean
- chainsaw to make our winter wood (there is still a huge pile of logs waiting to be cutted)
- two headlamps which you need from September to March
The auction was kind of exciting. It felt more like a game at some point and not as if we were going to buy our own things back. Just bidding for my beloved training sled which was almost a bit too exciting! Somebody else wanted it … Fortunately we got it!
In the end it was nice to see that our inventory brought in a very good amount and that there were many prospective buyers. The bankruptcy trustee was very satisfied. In general, we received a lot of praise for how well we prepared everything. And Johanna was told that she would be a very good bankruptcy administrator. If that’s her dream job – I don’t think so.
What is important?
Some important things for our daily life and especially the dogs are now missing. For us personally it is only important to have a sauna. Not only because of the warmth after long sled tours with the huskies, but also as a bathroom. We have none in the house and the sauna is also our shower.
But we can find a cheap alternative there. Our current one, which was mainly selected for groups of guests, will be transported tomorrow.
There is still a lot missing for the dogs:
At least a second training sled (if one needs to be repaired, the training stops too long), 4 sleds would be ideal. But we can get along fine with two for now.
Then we no longer have any training vehicles for the autumn training which starts in September. Both were auctioned off. We actually need a UTV or heavier ATV. Lighter vehicles are not suitable nor safe for the training of larger dog teams.
We also need a snowmobile to prepare the trails for the dogs and to quickly get to the team in emergency situations.
Soon we need another car which can pull the dog trailer to be able to go with the dogs to the veterinary and to get to the other training routes in autumn and winter. We bought the trailer privately. The car which was able to pull the heavy trailer is now gone.
And also the shed in which I could store the dog equipment dry will be picked up tomorrow. We also need a new way of storing everything in such a way that it lasts as long as possible.
There is still a long way to go before we can say that we have everything the dogs need. I have already got to work and am preparing a T-shirt campaign to offer possible supporters a thank you for their support.
Tomorrow many people will come to our little paradise to pick up the things they bought. Let’s see if I’m slowly ready to handle it better.
A little paperwork is still waiting and on July 10th we have to declare in court and under oath that everything went correctly.
The past 11 weeks have challenged us.
We grew, learned, were desperate, angry, despondent and hopeful. We buried our dream of our tourism company, asked ourselves existential questions, experienced support, sympathy and encouragement.
We were devastated, excited by the thought of what was to come, incredibly exhausted and full of energy.
A new time is waiting for us. We are not through the storm yet, but the wind is taking a break. We can take a deep breath and rearrange ourselves.
We can still use any help. Whether through sponsorships for our dogs, a t-shirt purchase (coming in a few days) or a donation.
What is left are our dogs and that we have each other.
Thank you for your participation in our situation and your help.
Without you, the last few weeks and the fear for the well-being of our dogs would have been unbearable!
Thank you from the heart.