2017 – What to remember

Ocean, Terceira, Walking

Once again, a year has passed and it is semi-mandatory to look back into what on earth happened in the last 365 days. How odd we people are.

So, as I don’t want to rebel and do this in April, here we are. The moments to remember from the year 2017 in the lives of Veera and Waffle:

1.

We started the year off by visiting Cyprus in the midwinter. We often like to break the winter with a little bit of summer. Cyprus was a destination from which neither of us really expected much, but it turned out to be a fairly positive surprise! We indulged on the rugged coastal line and tried to find some turtles.

Lesson learned; travel with an open mind, where ever the ticket in your hand is taking you!

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2.

It was pretty quickly after Cyprus that we headed for Terceira island in the Azores. It had been my dream to visit these islands, and since Waffle is very keen on spoiling me (my inner strong and independent woman screams at him for this), he bought us tickets to go there for my birthday!

Oh my. I was gobsmacked! From the very beginning the island sprouting from the volcanic core of the earth was taking my breath away. From the starlit skies, to raging ocean to the green jungles I felt like I was in a paradise! The air is so fresh you taste it in the cheese they produce!

So far I think it is the most rewarding travel experience we have had. So far so, that we are traveling to the islands again, very soon!

Lesson learned; Fish of the day on an island in the middle of the storming Atlantic is not going to happen…

Terceira, Azores, Coast
I could have woken up to this every morning for the rest of my life.

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Terceira, Poolsof Biscoitos
Pools of Biscoitos.

3.

One of the best moments in the spring time was having my dear dear friend over from Finland! I wiped off the dust of my girlier side and we took a train to Paris. Spend there a day running around the city like mad men, enjoying the slowly awakening spring. Waffle came to rescue in the evening and took us to the seaside, to  jump on the rocky shore of Ambleteuse.

How grateful I am for having such a friend, whose eyes see your soul and with whom you can connect with no matter the time or space in between!

Lesson learned; A freshly made chocolate fondant in France is a perfectly justified breakfast!

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4.

Easter and Normandy. We can’t seem to get rid of that duo. Normandy was probably the first landscape I really fell in love with in France, I am always eager to return there. This Easter too, it was as pretty and serene as always. We brought friends along, hiked the coast and the meadows, enjoyed the tender spring sunshine and aired out our brains!

Lesson learned; Sea is well able to eat away the white cliffs, so be careful when camping on top of one. Also, if you are looking to surf, go further. 

 

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Normady, Hiking, Coast

5.

The half marathon project. The venture where Waffle soared and I tumbled down with my knee problems. Not much of a happy experience, giving up never really is. But I was happy to start trying, in any case, and I still am running, at least to get in better shape, maybe eventually aiming for some speeds at 10 km. Maybe.

Lesson learned; Patience. Patience in letting your body get a hang of jogging. I am not 20 anymore. Sadly. 

Jogger, Runner, Mist

6.

Oh, the biggest accident we have yet had in our lovely little relationship. Buying a cottage in Finland. I say accident, because that’s was it really was. We rolled the thought of it on the table for 3 days before sending our final offer and receiving the keys.

Such excitement I have not felt too many times in my life. I actually had acquired a piece of my childhood and one of the prettiest landscapes in Finland! I could return to my family more often now. My my, so very happy about this!

Oh, and the sauna in that cottage – marvelous!

Lesson learned; 4 trips to Ikea in a week is definitely enough!

Log cabin
The main hut.
Family!
Family!

Finland, lake, Autumn

7.

For a while now, we have been inspired to travel to the Eastern Europe. For 2017 the destination was Bulgaria and the Pirin mountains. It was not a disappointment. The country is pretty and the mountains with all the lakes scattered around make it a unique surrounding for hiking.

Spending the night high up there under the stars, in freezing cold at the lakeside was a memorable experience. A night slept outdoors is never quite like the other.

Lesson learned; Taking a smelly cheese up to a mountain with bear population, might make you nervous… 

Pirin, Mountains, Bulgaria
Ice crusted tent anyone?

8.

The home extension project is finally hovering above the finish line! What a thrilling feeling to see the work of your own actually get realized and exceed your hopes! Every little bit is there, just some moderation, improvements and finishing touches need to happen, as we gain experience in using this little house!

A more detailed post will follow, once I have time to put my thoughts into words and online.

Lesson learned; With a project like this, it is a winning lottery ticket to have an actual carpenter in the family. 

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9.

Israel. Double feelings. It was a pain in the back side to get this holiday starting. First to make our way out of the airport, then get a car, and lastly get going through the desert. But once the starting hiccups were over the country treated us with beauty and bizarre flotation experiences.

The part where we left the country was even bigger pain in the derriere, making us thinking whether we will ever be back. What would bring us back, is the magnificent camping facilities Israel has to offer, plus we would still like to see the northern Israel.

Lesson learned; Salt from the dead sea tastes bad. Also, try not to piss off an Israeli customer servant. 

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10.

The year ended for us with another Christmas road trip. Once more, we headed south, to the space between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean in France. And then we camped. Our small home proved to be just what we needed; a shelter from wind and rain and a functional living room, kitchen and bedroom combo.

We had gathered a bunch of special people around us and the atmosphere was, if not Christmassy, at least warm and welcoming around the slightly too big campfire. The weather was not on our side when it came to hiking the mountains, so beach life was what needed to entertain us.

Lesson learned; Putting a bunch a relatively crazy people around a campfire with little social supervision can result in inappropriate songs. 

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That was 2017. 2018 is here with us and it is looking promising. The travel year starts with Azores, we have a bit of Finland in the planning too (Waffle’s parents first visit!), and who knows which other places Waffle comes up with.  Hope you’ll hang along too!

Oh! aand the pictures, once again, here: Flickr!

 

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Autumn In Our Finnish Paradise

October came, and like many Finns, us too needed to get to our summer cottage to make it ready to face the harsh months of winter.  Our journey was perhaps a little longer than most. The route went first by car from Belgium to Bremen, Germany and then an early morning flight with Ryanair to Tampere, Finland and again further by car to the cottage.

Rough journey by any standard, but as we were approaching the small Pirkkala airport in Tampere the tiredness was swiftly swiped aside. Pirkkala must be one of the prettiest airports I have landed to. It is surrounded by beautiful lakes and farmlands. The fields had mostly been harvested and formed a golden brown blanket underneath us. The islands in the lake were covered with yellows and reds. The mostly German crowd in the plane was clearly impressed too.

I had expected the beautiful colorful autumn to be over already, and that there would be a grey misery waiting. I was so happy to find out I had been wrong! The foliage was still very colorful. As we drove up towards our summer home, I felt the homesickness kicking in. Funny, how that feeling of longing can hit you like that, when you actually are there, in the place you have been longing to. I hadn’t even noticed the whole thing back in Belgium.

But there I was, sitting in the car, looking at the colorful countryside passing by. And crying. Don’t know why, but the tap was wide open. Waffle was spooked, probably thinking that his girlfriend had gone mad.

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While we had been gone, my parents had taken the freedom to use and improve our hut. So we arrived to a slightly different Finnish summer nesting place.  We had a new fireplace outside. Dad had made it, since the previous one was resolving in itself. Also the open fireplace in the hut had been prepared so, that the smoke would actually go up the chimney and not into the room. The dock and the boat were taken out of water for winter. My parents had checked our oil lamps too, and labelled the ones that work. The oldies themselves were on holiday, so the we were on our own.

Such a nice feeling to get back to our own little piece of paradise. As it was getting dark, we lit the fire place, the sauna and a ton of candles. Soon the hut was toasty warm, smelling faintly of smoke. We wrapped ourselves on the sofa to watch the living fire and our small piece of land disappearing into the dark.

We had raided a store on the road. So now we possessed a massive feast of all things Finnish. Mainly Carelian pies and blueberry juice, which we munched on while waiting for the sauna to heat up.

It is not the quickest to warm up, the sauna of ours. But oh my, the löyly (heat) it gives, is magnificent. Perfectly moist, still rich in oxygen, even if the heat rises to skin burning levels! What a wonderful feeling it was after a heavy travel, just to sit there, let all your muscles heat all the way to the core, water hissing off of the stove. Shared all with the best boyfriend in the world. Priceless.

As a part of the sauna going, we wanted to take a dip into the lake. If the colors, migrating birds and the dark night hadn’t brought it home, the temperature of the lake water did: it was autumn! Our sauna-warm bodies were quickly chilled in the water and the cold pricks in my toes drove me back to the heat pretty quickly. We are not quick learners, so we tried the water again, several times, before giving up and letting the sauna cool down.

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That was pretty much how our weekend went. Keeping the cottage warm, doing some shopping for equipment and such, seeing relatives, visiting the touristic things in Kuopio, tracing elks and having some more sauna. The colors in the nature surrounding us and the beautiful fading autumn light created such an unspeakably beautiful setting.

No wonder neither of us was exactly jumping out of joy when the time to return home came, all too soon. We closed the place down, took the last sniffs of the smell of the wood fire and the moist forest and hit the road.  After a small mishap, we were running terribly late, given that we wanted to visit some friends in Tampere still before hopping into the plane. But the road was beautiful for the part we were able to appreciate it.

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The rest of the way, well, it did not go quite as planned. We returned the car, got to the terminal, through the security, all the way up to the plane. Even the plane got on to the runway and was speeding up. Until it wasn’t. Soon enough we found ourselves back in the terminal, waiting for a new plane from London. That took some time. So long in fact, that we could not land to Bremen anymore. They flew us to Hannover instead, a 2 hour bus ride away from Bremen.

We had thought, optimistically, that we would be back home, sleeping it all off in our own bed by 3 am the following day. Obviously that didn’t really happen. We started driving from Germany only after 6 in the morning. The German rush hours were kind enough to welcome us too into the slowly crawling queues. Waffle was soldiering through the misery without batting an eye, as I was drooling and snoring happily at the passenger’s seat.

When we finally got to our offices in the early afternoon, neither of us were too fresh. The work day was like wading through a thick swamp. But Finland had been beautiful! The weekend getaway had been perfect and I was happy to have had some Finland-time.

 

 

Just passing, but for how long….

I think many expats go through thoughts like these every once in a while. How permanent is the situation of living abroad? How permanent is the current location? Should I return home or not, if yes, when? I know I have posted something similar to this before, but it seems to pop up every now and then in my thoughts.

I have a small existential crisis – again, so I have been pondering and chewing on these questions quite a bit in my own head.  There never was a plan laid out for the future after moving abroad. I did not seem to need it back then. You know, I was moving into the center of Europe, with the best traveling possibilities imaginable. To live with a Waffle so close to perfection I could cry. Not much consideration or deep thoughts were involved in this process.

So far, it has been fabulous. We are traveling around Europe as I always was dreaming of doing. And there is still plenty to explore. But there are other life goals too, some of which require settling down, to somewhere, for some time. So it would be kind of nice to have a vision of where we would like to settle down to.

Belgium has some pros and cons. The ease of travel being one of the best points, as well as high living standard and delicious beer! But for a person who loves nature and mountains, peace and quiet, it is not exactly a heaven. Flanders is the most densely populated area in Europe which makes nature, peace or quietness pretty difficult things to find. Belgium has never been seen as the forever home for us.

But for now, we are building our lives in here. We both have a stable job, a nice circle of mostly lunatic friends and so forth. Despite these things I find myself hesitant to get committed into anything that would force us to stay put for a long time in this country. One of the main things bugging me is studying. Although I have a comfortable position in working life now, I don’t see myself having it as my life career. I want to jump onto another field of profession completely. But that would mean jumping out of a paid job – and sticking to this country for 5 – 6 years, cutting quite q big junk out of the travel budget, not to mention a putting a huge strain on Waffle. Then again, Belgium does have some of the top ranking Uni’s and I am not getting any younger…

This desire of studying would of course hinder some other dreams from coming true. I have been planning to buy a horse now for a while. But owning a horse, going to school and traveling every month to somewhere might be a difficult combo to pull off.

Seems like I have a dilemma here.

And then there is the whole Finland question. I think both me and Waffle want to go live there at some point. That wonderful, evasive point of time called “some”. Now that we have a piece of property there that point became less urgent, I have he possibility to get to my roots even if my parents needed to let go of the farm. It does make hunting down the right “some point” more difficult though. At least we have some traveling to do before going to Finland more permanently.

If there needs to be a conclusion to all this, I think it is that we are  going to live just like we have done so far; in the moment. I am not big on making lists or going through a problem logically, figuring out all the pros and cons of each alternative. I prefer just jumping after any interesting enough opportunity that presents itself. Not really too mature way of looking at life, I know, but it seems to be working, as long as there are not many too strict goals in sight.

I just hope I don’t have to do any job interviews where I need to answer the threaded question: “Where do you see yourself within 5 years?” Because I have absolutely no clue, could be in Belgium or Mars as a nurse or a circus director, who knows? I just have to learn to love this randomness of our life a bit better.

Baltic sea, archipelago, sunset