You might think that a senior pilot for one of the world’s leading airlines would have seen and done most things, but Cathay Pacific senior first pilot Katrine Friis Olsen jumped at it when offered the chance to see a remote corner of the world and do some good at the same time. 5 unexpected places to see the Northern Lights from Joining a crew of women setting off on the Arctic Circle Trail in an effort to raise money and awareness for underprivileged women affected by climate change in Asia, Olsen boarded the plane for the adventure of her lifetime. The trip involved traversing the Arctic Circle on fat-tyre bikes over icy tips and frozen lakes, and then a final 200km ride from the Russell Glacier across to the west coast of what is the world’s biggest island, Greenland. “Working in the airline industry, I have certainly had opportunities to travel solo for many years to the outskirts of civilisation,” Olsen recalls. “The excitement had somewhat faded and I lost some of the drive to explore. A purpose was missing. And so the world’s increasing ecological and sociological problems, which I’ve always been aware of and interested in, became my saviour.” This is not Olsen’s first fundraising expedition. Olsen set out with an all-women team to Western Mongolia in 2018. The 2020 expedition once again took her to extreme conditions, though for a different cause. Olsen, along with nine other women, went to Greenland under the banner of a self-funded HER Planet Earth team led by founder Christine Amour-Levar. “Climate change does impact women and children disproportionately in many countries, such as Bangladesh, where up to 17 million people are expected to be relocated because of rising sea levels caused by ice melts,” she added. “As Vidar Helgesen, Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, once noted: ‘What happens in the Arctic, does not stay in the Arctic’.” Visit Greenland to spot humpback whales and dodge great glaciers This all-female expedition, organised in partnership with UN Women UK, has put underprivileged women’s welfare and climate change at the centre of the conversation. “Facing the Arctic winter [at] -20 to -40 degrees Celsius for up to 10 hours a day while cycling was rather intimidating,” Olsen continues. “We had an ex-British-military expedition guide [Paul, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan] with us as well as two local guides for support. After two to three days of acclimatisation, exhaustion kicked in and the long days on the bike started to take its toll on my body, [manifesting in] soreness, bruises and numbness in a few toes, a somewhat sobering situation when you’re constantly worried about ‘feeling’ your feet to avoid frostbite.” Olsen’s training as a pilot definitely came in handy during the trip. “[The psychological challenge of] staying focused yet unattached to the physical pain and mental chatter that tells you to stop, take a break or, even worse, quit [is] similar in many ways to flying and the focus needed during take-off and landing. “Pilots frequently get attention for ‘saving the day’, but less visible is often the deliberate decision-making process borne out of experience, good communication skills, teamwork and knowing our own limitations – in my opinion, these are vital for making a flight, or an expedition, both safe and successful. And so, constant awareness of the dangerous sub-zero temperatures during the long days of up to 10 hours riding without shelter, checking each other's gear and well-being was a clear testament to the whole team’s [success].” 8 ways to exercise outdoors in Hong Kong “Riding into [the final stop] Sisimiut was one of the most ecstatic moments I’ve ever experienced,” Olsen recalls. However, that was only the beginning of a wild ride into the very first outbreak of Covid-19, all of which the team was still unaware during the duration of their six-day trip. “Having left behind the difficult trails in Greenland I thought the hardest part of my trip was behind me, but suddenly and urgently having to flee my home country [Denmark], not knowing when I would see my family again, [and at the same time] not knowing whether I would make it home to my husband, was by far the hardest part of my journey.” Now, safely home in Hong Kong with her husband, and having been grounded for the past few months due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions, Olsen has a new perspective on life. “[Like] most pilots, I'm not good at being grounded for long … [but] I realised I had to let go of wanting to control the situation and instead look for the joy and contentment in being at home. I’m starting to understand a fulfilling life isn’t necessarily lived in the fast lane. [Grand experiences] can just as well be found in our backyard or kitchen.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .