10°C + 30km/hr wind + rain? No Finland – no!
Today was not the summer’s day we expected. It has been cold, wet, windy and most un-summerish, at least by Australian standards. Guess one of the consequences of being past the 60th parallel (Savonlinna is 62° North of the equator) is changeable weather and the occasional summer’s day that chills you to the bone. Given how inclement it was today, we decided to forgo our planned lake cruise and stayed in instead. It was actually great to rug up under the doona and spend the day reading and chilling out. We ventured out only to hunt and gather (at the local supermarket), and quickly returned to the warmth of our apartment. The wind is icy – fresh off the Arctic and cold enough to freeze snotsicles to your face. Not a fun day for any kind of water sports or hiking! So I’m afraid we have nothing to report today. We did nothing of interest today; nothing! We looked at some of our pictures from the other day though – remembering longingly the wonder of Savonlinna blue…
We did, however, have lots of time to chat and reflect on all the travelling we’ve done so far. It’s been 6.5 weeks since we left Brisbane with our worlds packed into a couple of backpacks. In some ways the time has really flown and it’s easy to see how years could pass in this way, if one had the means to keep travelling. In other ways, it seems like ages since we landed in Osaka and had that first disastrous cold, fishy breakfast! We’ve done so much new stuff in the past few weeks, certainly so much more than we would have if we’d still being working and going about our lives back in Aus. We’ve seen some amazing stuff, had some unique experiences, learnt a lot, had some great food, and met some really interesting people; we’ve also been pushed outside our comfort zones and had to navigate our way through some rather challenging situations. But that was always the appeal of travel for us – to experience things we never could back home, to learn and to perhaps shift our perspectives a little.
Certainly we’ve found that we’re quite enjoying living very simply and our experiences so far have made us realise how liberating it is having minimal amounts of stuff to worry about. That freedom is precious to us and we really don’t want to re-clutter our lives with stuff. The flip-side of owning so little and being so free is that we also don’t have a home or much stability in our lives at the moment. 47 days in that’s still not a problem, but perhaps it will be in a few more months; the key will be finding a way to live and enjoy a balance between stability and freedom. For now though, we’re quite happy changing cities every 3 or 4 days, seeing new sights, trying new foods and meeting new people all the time.
We’ve been particularly fortunate in our travels so far to have met some great people. For example, on the train from Aomori to Osore-zan in Northern Japan we met Russell, a British gentleman who has been living in Japan for more than 11 years. He has married a Japanese lady and teaches English. We spent the whole 3 hours train journey chatting to Russell about his experiences living in Japan and about his insights into Japanese cultural norms. It was really enlightening and interesting, and gave us the opportunity to understand a bit more about the Japan, beyond the superficial things one sees when travelling. Most of all we really appreciated Russell’s generosity in sharing so much of himself, his experiences and his thoughts with a couple of strangers on a train.
In Russia too we were lucky enough to have in our tour group a family from South Africa who had been heavily involved in the anti-Apartheid movement. The patriarch of the family had been part of the ANC and had served as a minister in Nelson Mandela’s government. He had been to the Soviet Union in 1985 as part of an ANC political delegation and had brought his family with him to see the wonders he remembered from his previous visit. As a member of the ANC he had been forced into exile from South Africa for 26 years and had travelled extensively throughout the world (including in Australia), trying to garner support for the anti-Apartheid movement. It was fascinating talking to the family about their experiences and their perspectives on South Africa – how far it has come, and how far it still has to go. To meet people with such passion for their convictions is humbling.
It’s also been quite humbling seeing some of the sights we’ve seen; being in the presence of immense natural wonders such as the volcanic mountain of Osore-zan, Lake Shikotsu-ko, or the 500 year old cedar trees of Togakushi in Japan, can definitely make you feel small and awe-struck. Some of the man-made wonders have been pretty awe-inspiring as well, but in different ways. In places like Koya-san and Pskov it was more the sense of history that affected us; whilst in the Hermitage and the palaces of St Petersburg it was the overwhelming display of wealth and artistry. So much of what we’ve seen and experienced though has left us with a deep, abiding sense of wonder. The world is most definitely an amazing place – and we’ve yet to see so much of it! We’re very excited to see more!
So nothing new to report from Finland, just that we are well and, despite the Arctic summer, are still enjoying our travels. Tomorrow we’re catching the train back to Helsinki and then boarding a ferry for an overnight trip to Stockholm. So tomorrow evening’s blog will come to you from somewhere out in the Baltic Sea….