För att komma till inlägget på svenska, klicka här: Söndagsintervjun: om stugliv, YouTube och framtidsdrömmar med Kalle Flodin
We had the great pleasure of sitting down – in front of our respective computer screens – for an interview with filmmaker and podcaster Kalle Flodin a couple of weeks ago, and it turned into a wonderful conversation about living remotely, being an online creator with a massive following, snow shoveling and much more.
For those of you unfamiliar with Kalle, he left a busy life in Stockholm for a (partly challenging) life in a very basic log cabin in northern Sweden, 6 hours away from anyone he knew. This was a few years ago, and he has since then fixed up his place a bit, fallen in love and had his Danish girlfriend Christine move in with him and become quite the successful YouTuber. His videos are a mix of mesmerizing videography and personal storytelling, and they’ve come to turn into his livelihood. We love Kalle and what he does, and hope you’ll enjoy this interview. Without further ado: Kalle Flodin.
So, how did it go down when you bought your cabin?
So I found the ad for it on a Tuesday evening and called my dad right away, telling him it looked very promising. I said we should call them tomorrow, but he was like “heck no, we’re calling them now” and so we did. The next day we drove up and actually bought it on the spot. It moved really quickly, obviously, but I’d been thinking about getting a place like this for a while. When I found it, it was an easy decision. But I didn’t buy it with the intention of moving here permanently, because I was just like “you can’t live out here!”. No income, no friends or family. I was more thinking it’d be a place to come hang out on weekends and during the summers.
Just for some time perspective, how long before you moved there permanently was this?
I bought it in the spring of 2017 and I moved in for real in November 2018. I was greeted by the harshest winter they’d had up here in a long time, with enormous amounts of snow and really cold temperatures. I had no heating system whatsoever, just an open fireplace, so in order to maintain any sort of warmth I had to keep it going all the time. Christine, my partner, says that if the cabin had been in the condition it was back then when we met, she wouldn’t have moved in, haha. So lucky me I had two years to fix it up!
Was the decision to move there difficult to make?
Oh yes, I would say I had a lot of internal struggles. I wanted to live out here so badly, but I couldn’t see how it’d be sustainable in the long term perspective, neither financially nor with regards to finding a partner to share it with. How do I find an income? I could probably work at a local grocery store, but that wouldn’t make me happy. And how the heck would I find a girl who’d want to live here with me? So even though I knew it was the right decision in my heart, I had lots of doubts.
So where does your income come from today?
A few different places. Partly from YouTube ads, and I recently started a YouTube membership option to basically fund my talks there. So from YouTube I make a few thousand (SEK) a month, and then I get some from Patreon as well. And going forward, thanks to a New York-based agency I just signed with, I’ll be doing sponsored videos every so often, which will bring in income as well. They’ll help me set up deals with companies, basically. With that also comes a fantastic network of other creators that you can bounce around ideas with and learn from.
When did the idea of sharing bits and pieces of your life through social media arise?
That actually started many years ago. I had a blog that attracted a few thousand readers a month but it never yielded anything, and I also felt so fake running it! I lived in the middle of Stockholm and worked at a high end store, but wrote about the outdoors and had to sneak off to nearby parks to get pictures I could share. But that’s how it started in a way. And then this past summer, in 2020, I decided to create a YouTube channel and start posting videos there. I had shared videos before but I wanted to get more serious, and in order to do so and actually deliver, I set a goal for myself to create and release a video a week on YouTube. I studied YouTube the entire summer to learn all the ins and outs of it. What does a thumbnail look like? How should I interact with the camera?
Eventually, after 4-5 months of weekly videos, I realized it was too much to do one of these longer format videos a week, simply because it took too much time. Now I’m okey with a video once in a while, but it’ll be longer and of higher production value.
How many hours in a week would you say you spend on video creation and your business versus hours of living in a cabin that requires chopping wood and stuff like that?
I would say it’s more work than you could imagine. It’s hard to not work, because I love what I do! I can’t really turn it off. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas I just need to scribble down. Often Christine and I say “ok, from 5pm we’re not allowed to talk about work”, but after a few hours it starts to sneak in anyway. So I’d say I work more or less constantly. Or my brain is actively working all the time, at least. I balance that by carrying in firewood, cooking food, shoveling snow and stuff like that. At the end of the day though, people would be surprised by how much I hang out with my laptop.
We can totally relate to it being hard to step away! But we also feel like that’s what propels us forward and stimulates our creativity. Do you have any goals for your platforms?
Well, a very superficial one is to reach the 100,000 YouTube subscribers milestone. It’s maybe not so much the numbers but the fact that so many are interested in a guy living in the woods with his girlfriend and two dogs, you know. I find it so interesting that something so simple can be of value. Otherwise I’d say a goal is more financial security, where I could feel more safe. I’m spending so much money right now, redoing the roof and replacing the door, so I need to bring in a lot to make it sustainable. And we want more financial security before we have kids, of course, and we’d like to feel more relaxed in our day-to-day, being able to say no to things and be a bit more selective.
We love hearing that you have kids in your plans. You have something magical ahead of you!
Yes, I think so too! We just need a bathroom and running water before, haha. I feel like social services would come if they heard of us bringing our kids out into the snow to wash them off. A bathtub would be preferred!
Indeed! And not having a traditional 9-5 office job away from home when you have kids is amazing. Sure, we still work, but we do spend most of our time together and we’re always available. That’s something you’ve got going for yourselves.
For sure! We never liked the idea of having kids and soon after sending them off to daycare and only seeing them for a bit every morning and evening. I’m sure our kids will hate us when they’re teenagers, but I think they’ll realize they had it good eventually. It was similar for me, actually. I grew up in the countryside as part of a small village and my friends and I, in our teens, promised each other we’d take off and never come back – and now they all live there. I think it’s healthy to allow your kids to try their wings and go off to live in the city, but I know many will return and find their true values where they came from.
Oh, so you actually have that countryside background then?
Yeah, we moved from the center of Stockholm to Stallarholmen when I was two years old. We had some chickens and cats, and I’d say my upbringing was pretty similar to what I want my kids to have. This will be more off grid though.
Does that mean you have plans on more animals, besides the dogs?
Ah, we’d love to! But it’s a little complicated as Christine is from Denmark and we leave to spend a month straight there every so often. It’d be quite the sight packing up 12 chickens in the car, haha. But we still dream of it so maybe one day – perhaps we can borrow sheep for the summer or something like that. We both love animals.
And what about vegetables? Any plans on growing your own food?
Yes! I put up a greenhouse last year, and we’ve cleared space to create a garden this year. We’ll put boxes in place and experiment this season. Christine has never really grown anything but we’re so excited to get going.
Sounds amazing! Speaking of Christine, how involved is she in your business and what you do?
We work together a lot! Everything from bouncing ideas around to filming to deciding titles to making sure I can actually film by leaving the cabin, taking the dogs out… yeah, she helps me with so much! It’s hard to be creative in front of someone else, even if it’s someone you love. You’re very vulnerable when you’re creating. So yes, she’s a major part of it – and she’s also on a similar journey, as she has her own channel.
We often say that if one of us had an office job and the other one did what we do, we’d hate the person doing what we do! But the understanding for the process and the industry is amazing to share. Imagine wanting to have dinner and then your partner is like “stop, we need to film this from a different angle now!”. When we film us having a cozy evening, we’re not having a cozy evening – we’re working. We have the cozy evening off the camera. So I’m so thankful we’re doing this together.
Did you have to convince Christine to move in?
No, I wouldn’t say I needed to convince her. Of course we discussed things and how to go about it – she ended up switching from big city life to this life over night, whereas I had some time to get used to it, by spending summers there and sort of fading into no shower, really cold temperatures in the bedroom and stuff like that. But she had envisioned herself in the countryside before she met me, so she already had her mind set on something different.
So about cabin life, what would you say is the most challenging thing with living there?
Overall, I’d say that things take so much longer. Like just keeping warm involves work and feels like a part time job. Or shoveling snow – our driveway is over 400 meters long and we do it by hand. So it takes several hours each time.
Wow, that’s crazy! What if you didn’t need to worry about an income and you were still living in the cabin, would you still be creative and share videos?
I actually have a video on that topic coming up! I think if we had all the time in the world and didn’t need to think about money, we’d like to educate ourselves in some way. Learn a new language, a new film skill, take a cooking class. Do therapy and learn about ourselves. I think that’s what I would do. I know we’d be bored if we just sat back and twiddled our thumbs.
After doing this for some time now, do you feel completely comfortable and at peace sharing your life with thousands of strangers?
Yes and no. I’m constantly trying to balance personal and private and find the line between those. I’m okay sharing personal, but not private. When we started sharing, we didn’t think about the people watching because we didn’t have an audience, but then all of a sudden one of my videos hit 1 million views – and then you inevitably think about it. It’s a bit scary in that sense, but I’m not overthinking it too much. I also think I’d be able to tell if things got too private.
People start to expect things, though. If Christine hasn’t appeared in a few videos, for example, people immediately start asking if something has happened, even though it might be as simple as the topics have been business related. The most common question I get, besides “how did you do this life change” is “when are you going to marry Christine”. I get asked when I’m proposing and why I haven’t proposed yet all the time. It’s a little strange that others are so invested in our life and it’s amazing that it can be an income source. That I can talk about me and our life and share my videos online and that it can actually yield money so we can live out here.
What was your family thinking when you decided to move permanently?
They’ve been very supportive! And they weren’t surprised when I bought it, but they didn’t think I was going move there full time either. But they can see how happy I am. They’re not thrilled about visits though, as the whole outhouse and no bathroom concept isn’t their cup of tea. I can’t wait until we’ve fixed up this place a bit more and turned it into more of a proper house so people actually want to spend a weekend!
Is there one piece of wisdom that you would want to share with everyone reading this?
I think a lot of people are carrying some sort of dream inside of them. It could be anything from wanting to write a book or moving out to the countryside or starting a podcast or whatever it may be. I would recommend people seriously asking themselves: if I give this a go, what is the worst case scenario? And then writing that down on a piece of paper and looking at it. Is it really that horrible? That’s what I did before moving here. Worst case scenario was me moving here, not liking it, not being able to make money and hating being alone. I would maybe have had to move back to my parents or get an apartment in Stockholm again. That’s not too bad, in the end, because I would have ended up pretty close to where I actually started if the worst happened. Today, I don’t think trying new things is that scary anymore.
Very well put. We can’t let you go without touching upon one of our dearest topics: food. What do you guys like to cook and eat?
Christine is a big vegetable person, so to speak. She can’t wait for the garden! If she’s away, I try to sneak in some pancakes and stuff because she’s can’t have any milk products or gluten – which was my whole diet before. Basically everything I used to eat had to go, haha. Right now, we really like eating summer rolls with a lot of vegetables and a bit of tofu, and we love potatoes, simple pastas mixed with greens and things like that. We’ve both been vegans and vegetarians in the past. I don’t eat any meat from the store today, but I buy reindeer or moose meat from butchers around here. I think that’s a a good middle ground because I know the hunter and I know where it’s coming from.
And even though the transition might be a little intense… your final question: what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Oh, big time ice cream junkies over here. I do love the classic vanilla with cookie dough, and recently I found the pint-sized Magnum ice creams. That was a big mistake, because they’re not that expensive, fit perfectly in the freezer and you can empty one in a few seconds. Maybe I’ll have to say one of those, actually.
Thank you so much, Kalle, for taking the time to chat with us. We’ll continue to be inspired by you and your endeavors, and we can’t wait until you and Christine have your own kids! Until then, we’ll make sure to never complain about snow shoveling again, as your driveway has ours beat by about 370 meters. If you’re curious to learn more about Kalle, please check him out on YouTube and Instagram, listen to his podcast and pay him a visit at kalleflodin.com.
All images courtesy of Kalle Flodin
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