At 50 Degrees North we like to call ourselves specialists! We don't try to do everything - only what we know. What we know really well. Our Director grew up in the north, he is Scandinavian and is passionate about designing realistic itineraries and experiences that work for you. He also spent years working in Northern Asia looking after the quality and operations of tours in this region. He has worked locally in Mongolia for an inbound operator in Ulaanbaatar training and developing local staff. 

As destination specialists, we are able to tailor make holidays to suit you, be that customising the itineraries shown on our website or creating something bespoke. Therefore, if you cannot find exactly what you are looking for, tell us about your interests, timescale and budget, and we will get to work. We are prepared to spend considerable time and effort making sure that your holiday is right for you, ensuring your time away is fun and hassle free.


Satu Vänskä-Westgarth

Nordic Manager

Satu is our outdoor loving team member in Norway. Originally from Finland, she grew up in a small town surrounded by beautiful lakes and ridges with magnificent views close to Finland’s second largest city, Tampere. Satu fell in love with Norway over ten years ago when she first visited the fjord region, and after regular visits all over the country, she finally decided to make it her home when she finished her studies in Ireland and France.

With experience from all the levels of tourism industry, Satu has worked in the sector since her early student days doing everything from raft guiding and travel writing to most recently heading up a Sales and Operations Team in a Norwegian incoming tour operator to Scandinavia and Finland. Satu is very enthusiastic about exploring the northern regions and she never goes anywhere without her camera and notebook to document and share her experiences.

Satu has recently been cycling and hiking around the Lofoten and Faroe Islands, and touring Greenland. 

Mari Räsänen

Destination Specialist

Mari was born in Finland (a bit more than 25 years ago but less than 100, lol) and spent all her childhood summers in Turku Archipelago with the whole family tucked into a small fishing boat, no matter what the weather. Then when she got a bit older, she married a guy who loves sailing, so there she was again - stuck in the Archipelago every weekend. Her whole family loves skiing, and currently her passion is ski-holidays around the world. About 10 years ago Mari moved to Denmark and lived next to Copenhagen for 5 years before moving to Melbourne.

Mari has recently escorted our small group tour with Hurtigruten in Norway. 

Tietse Stelma

CEO & Co-Founder

Our CEO & Co-Founder, Tietse Stelma, divides his time between the 50 Degrees North offices in Norway and Australia. Tietse is Norwegian and was born far north of the Arctic Circle in a Sami village called Karasjok. He grew up in Hvaler in the outer Oslo fjord. Tietse joined the travel industry in the early 90’s in Norway working with off the beaten track travel, as well as specialist tours to China and Mongolia. In the late 90's he lead tours in North Asia, and later established the China product for Intrepid Travel in Australia. From 2005 to 2010 he headed up the global operations team for Peregrine Adventures to ensure high class product delivery.

With 25 years in the industry, Tietse has spent years exploring the extraordinary northern region and knows the area better than most. Tietse speaks fluent Norwegian and Dutch.

Leila Myllymäki-Hay

Sales & Business Development Manager

Leila grew up on a farm by a lake in the middle of pine forest in Finland. She started her career in travel and tourism in 1980's while studying at Helsinki University. She went on to work in hotels, restaurants, local visitor information centres and travel agencies in Scandinavia and Australia. Leila has also co-ordinated various events ranging from gala dinners to tennis tournaments and from Icebreaker cruises to 2-day festivals.

Before moving to Australia Leila worked as Sales and Product Manager in one of Scandinavians largest Destination Management Companies - custom made special interest and incentive tours is her passion! Leila is also very passionate about Finnish design and architecture. To pursue her love of great design, she has been running her own Scandinavian design shop for the last ten years. Leila speaks fluent Finnish and German.

Leila recently spent Christmas in Finland & Estonia escorting travel agents and is spending the summer in her homeland with family.

Anna Hård

Destination Specialist

Anna grew up in a small town situated an hour south of Stockholm in the beautiful archipelago of eastern Sweden. She has worked in various fields of the tourism industry since 2012 when she started her travel-and-work way of living. She has lived in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and is now settling down in Norway.

Her own passion for travelling and exploring is the driving force behind her aim to provide the best possible experience for people wanting to explore the Scandinavian/north corner of the world. Anna spends her spare time exploring the beautiful nature of Norway together with her boyfriend and their polar dog - preferably on skis during the winters and on mountain bike in the summers. The holiday of her dreams would be to go ski touring on Senja. 

Asko Meriläinen

Destination Specialist

Asko’s home town sits at a latitude of 62 degrees north in the Finnish lakes district, not far from the Russian border. Like most locals, he spent his winters skiing (how else would he get to school?) while his summers were spent swimming, fishing and collecting wild berries at his family’s “Mökki” (Summer House). Asko has spent the last two decades working in Tourism and Hospitality. He has travelled, worked and lived throughout Scandinavia, Europe and Australasia including spectacular Scandinavian destinations such as Flåm in Norway and Saariselkä in Finnish Lapland. Prior to joining the team here at 50 Degrees North, Asko worked with one of our airline partners, Emirates Airline.

Asko first came to Australia in 2005 and spent a year backpacking around the country - he liked it so much that he now calls Australia home. As a qualified a la carte chef and graduate of Helsinki’s most prestigious culinary school, Asko has a passion for good food. His favourite dishes are Scandinavian delicacies made with fresh seasonal ingredients like wild mushrooms, berries, trout and even reindeer!

Asko has recently visited some of our favourite destinations including St. Petersburg, Christmas in Finland, Norwegian coast with Hurtigruten and Iceland. Find out about Asko’s latest trip to Iceland from our news section. 

Natalie Lauzon

Business Development Manager - North America

Natalie started travelling at age 2 when her family moved overseas. She has lived in Asia, Western Africa and the Middle East. She has travelled to over 50 countries and has made travel and tourism her life, some would say it’s in her blood. The Nordic countries count among the ones that she has explored!

Natalie has worked as a tour guide, in product development and sales and marketing for Contiki Holidays, G.A.P Adventures (now G Adventures) and the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). She has done some consulting and has taught Hospitality Management.

Natalie likes challenges! Among these was being an employee of the CTC during a cross-country move, corporate rebuild and then refreshing brand Canada as Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. It was a great opportunity to get to market Canada! Now she looks forward to bringing 50 Degrees North to North America!

Natalie has an active lifestyle, is an avid outdoors-person. She loves hiking, backpacking, swimming (especially in the ocean), and skiing. She also loves cooking!

As a proud mom to a busy 4-year old, she now stays closer to home exploring Beautiful BC (Canada) with her family. She has backpacked and hiked Nootka Island along the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island, challenged herself physically by participating and finishing two Ironman Canada races in Penticton, BC, and volunteered during the 2010 Games in the capacity of Range Official in Biathlon up at the Callaghan Valley.

Mona Catterall

Product Manager

Mona is Norwegian and grew up in Trondheim but has lived all over the country from Hammerfest in the North to Oslo and Fredrikstad in the South. The tourism industry has been her career for the last 10 years and she has a great passion for travel, travelling to many parts of the world.

She loves snowboarding, hiking and cross country skiing and one of her favorite places is The Pulpit Rock in Southern Norway. She has now settled in Melbourne with her Australian partner and two kids. 

Camilla Dahle

Destination Specialist

Camilla grew up in a small mountain village near Jotunheimen in Norway, where her parents worked in tourism and she followed in their footsteps, working in different areas of tourism her whole life.

Camilla loves the snow and cross-country skiing is her activity choice number one, but she also loves alpine skiing and sledge rides or building a snowman. Camilla also has a passion for horses and riding, and for many years she brought tourists up in the mountains during the summers from a local farm in her home town.

Since she finished her Bachelor in Tourism, she worked as a Booking Manager at one of the Historic Hotels of Norway for several years before starting working with 50 Degrees North in the Nordic office.

Ivy Thompson

Destination Specialist

Ivy was born and raised in Oslo, the capital of Norway. She also spent 2 years of her childhood living in Aardal, a tiny town at the very end of Norway’s longest fjord; the Sognefjord. In 2003 she moved to Melbourne to complete an undergraduate in visual communication followed by a diploma in advertising. 14 years later, she’s still living in Melbourne with an Australian husband and 3 kids.

Ivy loves to travel and write about it, cooking and the occasional camping-trip for a big dose of nature and wilderness. She is also passionate about yoga, design and Scandinavian culture. She loves helping people putting together their ideal Nordic adventures so they can explore this beautiful part of the world for themselves.

Tanja Gustavsen

Destination Specialist

Tanja grew up in a small town on the south-eastern coast of Norway, about 2 hours from Oslo. She spent her summers traveling up and down the Swedish archipelago and Scandinavian country side, including a road trip around Iceland.

She’s been fascinated with travelling and exploring countries ever since. Taking any opportunity to live longer period of time in new places. She has called Bergen, Copenhagen, Geneva, New Zealand, Mexico and lastly Oslo her home, before coming to Melbourne for new adventures, 5 years ago.

She enjoys learning languages, exploring new locations, finding great cafes and restaurants, as well as staying active with her two kids and husband.  

Sanna Niittymäki

Destination Specialist for Groups

Sanna was grown up in Helsinki, Finland. As most Finns, she also spent her childhood summers at the grandma’s summer cottage surrounded by sea, green forests and pure nature on the beautiful west coast of Finland. One summer the family travelled to Lapland and she fell in love; the robust nature and the silence that prevailed were unforgettable. That is how it all started ending at the point she is today. In addition to a degree in hospitality management she has plenty of experience from various levels and positions in tourism sector.

When she is not planning where in the Arctic areas the family could travel next, she loves baking with her 3 energetic children. Baking “korvapuusti” (a Finnish word for a cinnamon roll) is her specialty. Also, as a proud soccer mom she has started playing soccer herself.

Bjørn Risvoll

Destination Specialist

Bjørn grew up in Stavanger, located on Norway’s south-west coast. Having always enjoyed the sea, he spent the summers growing up sailing and camping in the nearby Fjords. At the age of 16 Bjørn moved to the US for a year for a High School Exchange Programme. In many ways this experience is the reason he decided to pursue a career in the travel industry. While studying Tourism Management in Oslo, Bjørn started working as a flight attendant – a job that would take him to all corners of the world.

In 2014 Bjørn’s passion for travel brought him to Melbourne where he completed a Master of International Business before he started to work for 50 Degrees North.

Henna Viitanen

Administration Consultant

Henna grew up in Southern Finland in a small countryside city famous for its horses. She has always had a huge passion for travelling and this has taken her to many wonderful places in Europe and Asia. The love for travelling and exploring different cultures inspired her to study tourism.

After completing her studies, she decided to go backpacking in Australia, where she met her partner, and has now lived for a few years. She travels back to Finland often and her favourite season is summer when the nights are bright and nature is in full bloom. During winter, she loves to go skiing and her next trip will be spending the Christmas in Lapland.

Heidi Kaipia

Administration Consultant

Heidi grew up in a beautiful summer city in eastern Finland, only 30 kilometers from the Russian border. Living so close to this mighty neighbour sparked a passion for Russian language studies and several travels to Russia. 

Passion for travel has taken Heidi to different places in Europe and Russia, and also brought Heidi to Melbourne and this is where she met her partner and now has settled down. 

Tiina Ayris

Destination Specialist

Originally from Riihimäki, Finland, Tiina has also lived in Norway and the US. A keen skier, she worked in a ski centre in Finland, just an hours drive from Ranua (home of the Arctic Wilderness Zoo). After a courtship across 2 countries, she moved to England, and then to Australia with her family. Now that her kids are grown up, life is all about 'that jazz'! On her travels, she is sure to check out the local music scene.

Alice Chamoun

Sales Manager

Our only Dane, Alice grew up in Århus - also known as the city of smiles. She started traveling from a very early age, and has travelled to most parts of the world and lived in the UK and Cyprus.

Naturally Alice's passion for travel brought her to Australia in 2005 to complete her studies in tourism and hospitality management. Alice met her Australian husband in Scandinavia and has been in Australia since 2011. 

Alice is currently on maternity leave. 

Minna Syvänen

General Manager

Minna is Finnish and grew up in the beautiful capital city Helsinki. She also spent a lot of time at her family's summer house by one of the thousands of lakes of Finland. In the wintertime she spent her time ice skating and cross country skiing on the frozen lakes and snowboarding in the Finnish Lapland.

Minna comes from a travel loving family and very early on developed a huge passion for travel herself. As soon as she was old enough the family trips changed to independent travel around the world. Between her studies in Finland Minna took every chance to travel, and later decided to come to Australia to study. Falling in love with her new home country eventually led to migrating here. Minna still loves her motherland and is passionate about travelling to and talking about this beautiful part of the world.

Minna has had a very busy summer with visits to Norway (cycling the Rallarvegen) and exploring Iceland, again! She also went to Finland, Norway & Sweden in Jan '16 escorting our Hurtigruten small group tour. Minna is currently on maternity leave. 

Jayde Kincaid

Marketing Manager & Co-Founder

Jayde is our only Australian. She is our Marketing and Publications Manager. The past 15 years Jayde has spent in the Outdoor Education industry in Australia, working for a major Outdoor Education Group as well as tour leading in China, Mongolia, Europe and North Asia. Regular family trips to Scandinavia and hiking in the Nordic region has fuelled her passion for the region. 

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