The Great Thing About Traveling Slowly

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We’ve been on the road for almost two weeks now. It isn’t a very long time, for sure, but it feels like we are now getting into the groove of traveling. We are finding our routines, figuring out how we want to spend our days on the road.

In the mornings, I write. It’s been relatively easy to get going with my morning routine of writing although I’m no fan of writing before I’ve had breakfast and a cup of coffee. However, nothing beats the feel-good after a rewarding writing session.

(Lately, I’ve been practicing writing adventure/action scenes – it’s tough because I’m more for the relaxed or deep-talk-kind-of scenes.)

After I’m done writing, the rest of the day is free for whatever activities we feel like doing. For the most part, we do what tourists do: walk around, say “no thanks!” to tuk-tuk drivers and when the heat of the midday gets unbearable, we step into one of the many 7/11 –shops with the greatest air conditioning, pick an ice cream flavor we haven’t tried before and eat it outside the shop before walking on. We visit temples, try new fruits like mangosteen and sometimes exchange a few words with other backpackers.

A New Perspective on Traveling

However, as we have travel plans into October which means we’ll be on the road for a few months more, the perspective on traveling changes. The days aren’t about wake up as early as possible to see as much as possible like they usually are on short city holidays because we have time. We have days upon days! We’ve been in Thailand for two weeks now and we still have 1,5 week to go before we hop on another plane. That means we can stay a few nights longer in every city we visit and take the time we need to get to know places.

In other words, we are in no hurry. And because we don’t have to count every hour of the day, we really get to see what we want to see.

What made me think of this was an evening a few days ago when we were still in Chiang Mai. We decided to visit one of the many temples of the city, a temple called Wat Chedi Luang. We went to the area, paid 40 Baht as a supporting fee to the temple and started walking around the area.

First we visited one of the viharns, assembly halls, which are usually the golden, colorful, pompous even, buildings – but which I rarely find fascinating. The reason to this is that the viharns are very often built in the 20th century which makes them very new and fresh and I am more for the old buildings and ruins.

Therefore, as visiting the viharn with all the other tourists was a small disappointment, I was beyond excited (I might even say I was momentarily breathless) when I saw the real thing. The Wat Chedi Luang.

Taking In The Quiet, The Calm

It was already in the evening and the sun was about to start setting when we came to the old temple. The ancient layers of stone, the carvings, the details put into the chedi were all beautiful – partly because it was well done, partly because the evening sun gave it a wonderful color and partly because I was awestruck by the fact that this temple was built in the 14th or 15th century.

Many of the tourists who also found their way to the chedi, were happy to just walk around it once, take a photo of it and then leave. We, however, decided to sit down and enjoy the peace and quiet of the temple area – we had the time.

An hour flew by as we sat on the white bench, watching other tourists walk by, take a selfie with the chedi and then leave. We also saw a young man sit down with his sketchpad to draw Wat Chedi Luang (he also took almost an hour to draw the temple), some stray dogs and many of the monks go on about their daily business.

We took in the quiet, the setting sun and the beautiful warm color of the chedi as the sun shined on it. As we sat there, it felt as if I could feel the temple, the serenity of it.

There were so few who took the time to actually sit down and look at the building, to take in every detail of it, I really wonder what they can remember of it. Of course, they have the photo to remind them of the temple – but can they feel it as I do even after days of seeing it? I wonder how many historical buildings, artefacts and paintings I’ve looked at (probably numerous) without really seeing them.

It’s time to change that.

As there is slow-food, there is also slow-traveling. It’s about getting into the groove, about feeling things rather than only looking – it’s almost like mindfulness, finding yourself in the moment of now.

 

What My Grandfather Taught Me

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Tomorrow is my grandfather’s funeral. He died peacefully at the respectful age of 95 on a beautiful Friday morning two weeks ago. I visited the care home that morning to see him one last time and I was happy to see the peaceful look on his face – it felt important to see him one last time.

After he passed away, I’ve been going through some old photos I found at my grandparent’s apartment before the place was emptied as they had moved to a care home.

Most of the photos I found have been taken by my grandfather, some of them have been taken by someone else as my grandfather is in the photo. The photos have made me wonder who he was, what he believed in and what of his values has he passed on to me.

He was a silent and a thoughtful man who did smile but not very easily. I remember how he was always reading the newspaper or sleeping. He liked sweets and baked goods. He was always organizing papers and staying updated about what was happening in the country – they subscribed to four different daily newspapers.

Those are some of the memories I have of him. But for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about his legacy – what he taught me through his way of being and how he lived his life. This is what I’ve realized:

Routines

My grandfather was a man who followed his daily routines. He would wake up at 4 AM to read the newspaper and then take a nap (it was usually my job to go and wake him very carefully and kindly for breakfast). Then he would read or organize his papers, maybe work for a while at his work apartment in the house next door. In the afternoons, he went for his walk. Every single day. Even at old age when Alzheimer was taking over his brain, he could remember all the streets he walked through during that afternoon walk.

I don’t know why he had his routines – I never asked. But he must have known they were good because they give so much more time and space for some proper thinking and for understanding things. Maybe I’ve simply taken after him?

Knowledge

When I was little and did some homework after school at my grandparents, I sometimes needed help finding out about a fact. Most often, I turned to my grandfather who was known for knowing great many details about what seemed to be everything.

However, when I asked my question, may that have been about history or geography or grammar, I never got a straight answer from him although he probably knew it. Instead, he would go to the great bookshelf and pick up one, two or three books about the subject. He then helped me find the right page where I could find the information I was looking for.

I believe he knew that if I would find the information myself I would remember it better – and I believe he was right.

Literature

As you might have realized by now, my grandfather was a man who respected information. He was a history guide and a tour guide on trips in Europe – and together with his team he won several years in a row a competition where the team is supposed to drive from one place to another and answer some detailed questions about the city.

He knew a lot without getting any help from Google, Siri or Sierra.

In addition to love for information, my grandfather respected books. My grandfather was the one responsible for buying us all a book for Christmas. He didn’t mind that they were fiction but I think it meant a lot to him to know that all his grandchildren were fond of reading (I wonder what he would think about Yellow Tails).

Although I wouldn’t maybe hold on to as many books as he did while he lived, I still like to think his love for literature and information has passed on to me.

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In addition to these things, I remember him for his good humor, wisdom and excellent board game skills. One time, me and my grandfather were a team while playing Star of Africa and we won the game by finding the diamond in time and returning home rich as any. He was a clever man.

There’s so many things I would like to ask him now – real grown-up things that I wonder about and would like to hear his thoughts on. I hope he would’ve written a diary of some sort to know what he thought and believed in. But I can’t do that, not ask questions or read his thoughts. It’s too late for that.

But I have his photos, I have my memories – rest of it I’ll just have to build up on my own.

The Idyllic Villages We Pass By – An Update From Sea

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Hello.

It’s day eight at sea. For the past week, we have sailed along the eastern coast of Gotland, visiting small fishing harbors and idyllic villages. We’ve had rain, we’ve had sun. Incredibly hard winds, followed by non-existent winds. My socks have been dry but they have also been completely wet.

It has been a ride – and at the same time, it feels as if I’ve been on holiday. A different kind but nevertheless, a holiday. Every new village and harbor we visit gives something new to see. We’ve seen some incredible nature (that reminds me of Norway, Ireland and Greece at the same time) and met some nice pub owners.

One of the best things to do in a new harbor after a long day of sailing is to eat ice cream. So simple, so enjoyable. However, finding ice cream can become tricky – these small idyllic villages we stay in for a night or two have their own way of doing things. In one of the harbors, the nearest grocery store is four kilometers away and only open until 6 PM. In another, the flea market that sells ice cream is open only when the owner feels like it.

Despite the challenges in ice cream hunt, these small places have been nice – as long as we stay there for a short amount of time. Otherwise, the place can start feeling too small. It’s a relief to know, that we are only passing by. Many of these people, however, are staying here all year around. I wonder how they do it.

The Italians, who serve pasta carbonara at their restaurant in a small fishing harbor. Of all the places, how did they end up there?

The owner-lady of the tiny grocery store where every item is still registered manually by number series. Is this her life work? What will happen to the store when she retires?

The woman who instructs a yoga class at her house every Thursday at 7 PM. A slice of something exotic in an otherwise traditional Swedish society?

I realize that I live a very different life now than they do. It takes time to adjust to the thought.

But before I have time to think about these people too much, we move on to the next place. The people stay in their idyllic houses, keep on their day-to-day lives while we raise the sails and head out to sea.

(Although, next up we have a 30-hour sailing trip ahead of us to the next island if the weather treats us nicely. That island is supposed to have a colony of seals – we’ll see if it’s true.)

Goodbye To All Things Familiar

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The Finnish Archipelago at 8.35 AM on a Tuesday.

I love sitting down at a random place to write: whether it’s writing notes in a notebook, a journal entry or a blog post, writing it somewhere else than home makes the whole thing much more enjoyable.

(I mean, it’s a raw fact that writing isn’t always pleasurable – it can be a pain in the butt. And still so incredibly rewarding.)

Therefore, I’m excited to be writing this particular blog post on a ferry that travels in the Finnish Archipelago. Together with my partner, I am on my way to a very small island.

Utö, the island we are going to, is the last island in Western Finland. After that come the international seas. And that’s where we are headed.

The Two Realities

The past couple of weeks have been extremely tough. First, my partner lost a family member. A week later, my grandfather passed away. So many, too many devastatingly sad things have happened in a short period of time.

At the same time, I have become a Master of Science, and me and my partner have been preparing for this big huge trip we’ve been planning for the past two years.

We have been going through our things – selling them, donating them, throwing away the things we no longer need and that cannot be recycled. In a way, we are more free now. We have emptied our apartment, sold our furniture. Last night we slept in our sleeping bags on the floor with three blankets to soften it.

The mind alters between two realities – in one, it is dealing with death. In the second, it is dealing with life.

Death waits for no one, neither does it care about carefully made plans. The timing of these two deaths has been so odd as they’ve happened precisely at the same time as we are planning on embarking on our journey.

But we don’t let Death make us wait – we don’t alter our plans because it paid a visit. Therefore, despite the devastating happenings we have continued making our plans and preparations for our journey.

It may sound harsh but for me it sounds like celebrating life, like I’m aiming on living a fulfilling life on this planet.

The controversy of the two different realities that take turns in my mind has been confusing. At the same time, life ends as it goes on.

I miss those who have gone onward and at times my chest fills with grief – and at the same time I feel excitement, pride and happiness for things to come.

From Ferry to Sailboat

So, at the moment we are traveling towards west to meet up with friends and join them on a sailboat (it’s a familiar one from before). From the little island of Utö we aim towards Copenhagen where we plan to be in two weeks. After that, we’ll see what happens.

We have all our belongings with us – everything we think we will need in the coming months are packed in two backpacks and two day-time bags. We have said goodbye to all things familiar and look forward to experience something quite new.

We mourn those who have passed but at the same time we remind ourselves of the good things that come.

I hope to be able to update you along the way from Utö to Copenhagen if I find wi-fi to do so. But just know that I am on the road (or at the sea) and –

I am celebrating life.

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(From now on, the blog posts may come on other days than on Thursdays. I aim to post once a week but as I enjoy these happening right now posts, I’ll probably post when I have the opportunity to sit down, write and, when finished, press ‘publish’. Maybe in this way I can transfer some of the travel feels through this blog to you, reader.)

When Death Collects One

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(This post deals with death and suicide – no gory details, but still, please read with caution.)

We all distract ourselves from the realities of life in different ways. Some turn to Netflix to watch TV-series for an hour or two. Some spend time on social media watching what others our doing. Some go out and get active, running or playing pool or trying to escape from Escape Room in less than 60 minutes.

And some distract themselves from the realities of life by leaving it.

When a person one knows so well decides to take his own life, it forces oneself to think about the world in a very different way. And it forces oneself to think about death in a very different way.

About what led to the point of no return.

About how strong but at the same time selfish the act has been, the person has been.

Was there something I could have done differently – or how much do we actually have control over this kind of things? (the answer is: very little)

How is becomes was.

One thinks of what happens after death, if there’s a place for the deceased to go to and if that place looks like Nangijala, the land of campfires and storytelling as depicted in Astrid Lindgren’s book The Brothers Lionheart.

About how we humans consume mystery and murder novels, have no trouble watching Game of Thrones or Handmaid’s Tale where people are shot, hanged, beaten, or killed with a sword or a bow or by a monstrous beast. How we voluntarily watch people die and suffer in TV-series and movies when the reality of someone dying is so horrible. It’s a weird conflict.

And one thinks about the statistics. How both the person who passed away and oneself become a part of the statistics on (1) young people who decide to take their own lives and (2) on people who know someone who has done it. And how crap that is, especially when one knows the specific statistics in Finland.

Lastly, and this is a more consoling thought, one thinks about stoicism and how a person has no or very little control over other people’s choices. I can only appreciate this person’s will and believe he is better now.

And remember that the best cure to deal with death is to live; to be active, to try new things, meet new people, stick to what gives meaning to one’s life and remember the ones who have left this world with warmth.

Thoughts on Graduating

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I will be graduating in a few weeks.

When I get my Master’s Degree, it means that the eighteen consecutive years of my education come to an end. The journey started when I was seven years old and ends when I turn 25.

It feels weird to know that, in the future, I will be doing something completely different after such a long time of doing exams, completing reading lists and writing essays. It feels liberating, for sure, but also weird.

A new chapter is beginning. But what kind of chapter?

Six Years of Political Science

The first nine years of schooling are compulsory in Finland. After those years one can continue to high school or vocational school and after that, if one prefers, get a degree at a university or a vocational university. Both are optional but the majority decides to keep studying until they have a degree in something. Partly because it’s highly valued in the society and everyone is encouraged to get a degree, and partly because the education is free and most often of high quality.

I, too, have taken the opportunity to get a degree at a university in Finland.

My studies at the university have taken six years – but what exactly have those years entailed? Intensive studying at a library, a cup of coffee every afternoon to keep those caffeine levels high, feverish essay-writing a few hours before the deadline? Yes, sometimes. But even more than that.

Of those six years, four months were spent abroad studying Political Science and Sociology in Galway, Ireland as an exchange student. After that, I did a six-month internship at an organization. One year was spent in another city up North studying Journalism for a full year, followed by another internship at the local radio station.

During this time, I have taken up responsibilities such as being the chief editor for a magazine and been involved in different courses and trainings.

However, I’ve gained so much more than just a degree during these past six years.

Knowledge of Value

In addition to the life-changing event of meeting my partner during my studies through a friend, I’ve also developed as a person during these past years. Much of the progress has been recorded on this blog.

When I started at the university, I was depressed and only had a few routines to keep me going. I wasn’t a healthy eater, didn’t enjoy physical training that much and had difficulties getting friends at school. Looking back at that person now, six years later, I barely recognize myself. I went through a few years of therapy where I learned why I act the way I do (a development that has continued even after that), and during the past couple of years I’ve really learned to eat healthy and enjoy physical exercise.

I’ve also gained a new perspective on my life and learned to question and redefine my own values. I have a better understanding of what I want to do with my life, what and who I want to be. I discovered the pleasure of writing again after six long years of not writing.

I’m quite certain of the fact that even though these six years result in a diploma valued by the society, my personal development, and the knowledge and perspective on life and values I’ve gained are far more valuable than finishing a degree.

A bold thing to say, perhaps, but for me, it is the truth. I don’t quite know what I’ll do with a diploma – but I do know what I want to do with my life.

A New Phase

As this chapter in my life, the chapter of education, is coming to an end, I’ve been thinking about the things I’m leaving behind but also the new ones I am gaining.

Around me, I see many fellow students feeling reluctant to leave the life of a student – and for a reason. I’m leaving behind the freedom of being a student where one gets to decide when and where one studies and what courses. I’m letting go the monthly subsidies the state offers to students. And I’m letting go the daily discounted lunches and dinners with friends at student cafés.

All these things have been wonderful and I understand why many are unwilling to speed up their graduation, but I believe there is so much more to life than this comfortable, easy way of living.

Graduating will give me a different kind of freedom than the one of a student. It will also come with different kind of responsibilities. It will give me a bit more independence and a wider view on life outside the secure walls of the academic world. By graduating I am opening the world and finding out the different opportunities it has to offer.

There will be questions, there will be a harsher reality waiting for me, but I believe I’m ready for it.

Reconnecting, part II

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Another advanced election week only a month after the previous. Another 70 hours of work requiring constant alertness squeezed into seven days. Another week of stressful sleep that leaves me dizzy when the alarm clock goes off at 6.30 AM.

You could call this post Reconnecting, part II.

Why do I do the work? A good question – especially when you consider all the negative aspects of the whole thing. Why would anyone want to put oneself through that?

For the democracy?

To show my respect towards the fact that we are able to vote and it’s a great honor?

Because of the voters? The atmosphere? The politics?

Unfortunately, no.

I do it for the the money.

(Side note: I also do it for the great company – we have an awesome crew at the place where I work so I’ve had fun times as well, but money is the main reason I put myself through the week.)

I am graduating in just a few weeks – if my thesis is accepted, which I’m pretty sure will happen – and after that I am taking a break from the ordinary, day-to-day life of this work-driven society.  To be able to do that, I need money.

(I’ll tell more about my plans later.)

So, here I am: tired both physically and mentally, taking a few days break from more or less everything before diving into new projects.

Despite of that, I’m kind of happy I did this week of election work, too.

My bank account is happy and my mind a bit more free when it doesn’t have to think too much about economical things.

But most of all, the good thing about the 70 hours of work in a week is that as I haven’t been able to write during those days, my mind has still been actively thinking. Right now, my brain is filled with ideas for blog posts, fan fiction short stories and revisions on Yellow Tails and I can’t wait to get to dive into all these things.

However, right now, this is all the text I can manage to produce today. I’ll be back next week with some new thoughts on life, the future and the past. See you on Thursday!