This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Career choices

rome-7“Dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got”, the (surprisingly effective) saying goes. If your career dreams include becoming a bishop, a cardinal, or even the Pope, this shop will help you fake it ’til you make it. If you can take the long stares from people you meet in the street, that is. And why not stare? This gear is absolutely fabulous.

(Rome, Italy; September 2018)


Rome after the rain

rome-10There was rain throughout our meeting. And right before our walking guide gave up the sky cleared up just a little, enough for a stroll around.rome-9At the age of eighteen I spent one day in Rome. During these two days I saw less of Rome than back then. And what I saw now was mostly the same sights as twenty years ago. rome-4But twenty years is nothing for the Eternal City. Two hundred years may cause a few major collapses, such as the one of the Colosseum. Two thousand years is possibly half of the age of Rome, if one adds the Roman population we know from history books to the Etruscans and other tribes who originally inhabited the seven hills of Rome. rome-3Today many of the ruins are under scaffolds. Either Italy has cash enough or it just seems so as in the city of endless ruins there is endless restoration work to be done. And sometimes new buildings are erected, too, such as the monument for the first king of the unified Italy: the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument from 1935 (also more fondly known as “the typewriter”). Today this humongous monument looks nearly modern. Perhaps two thousand years in the future it will be a heap of pillars and ruins, and a virtual reality as good as new.rome-8(Rome, Italy; September 2018)

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In Brande

brande-3In this small town of 7,000 people there is one main street through town. It is beautifully maintained by town folk: street art and murals decorate houses, an art festival takes over the town in summer, hay bales and pumpkins are on display for harvest, and Christmas lighting and market cozy up the town in December.

And yet the streets are quite empty. The wine shop owner says most people either live here and work elsewhere, or work here and live elsewhere. Most of his wine sales are for gift purposes, not weekend dinners at home. brande-4The people here must be of a church-going sort as the bells toll every morning at 8 am and about twice an hour every Sunday until well past noon. And for us others it serves as a good wake-up call especially on work days.

The days are shorter and my shadow is longer. Soon rainy Danish darkness will take over. And then the morning bell will need to carry through the wind and the rain, or else we will be late for work.
brande-2(Brande, Denmark; September 2018)

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Seafloor turned moor

brande-5Fall has arrived in Denmark. A few heathers still flower on the moor in the backs of the town. This moor is scattered with cattle gates and fences, but I never see the animals. Not even horses from the nearby stable.

Jogging down the trail I hit beach sand from time to time, even if I am an hour or more from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic Sea. Jutland, the peninsula of Denmark, is old seafloor turned into moorland. Instead of fish swimming around there are now mainly people walking their dogs. And me in my brand-new trail shoes.

(Brande, Denmark; August 2018)

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There was once a road through the woods


They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees. 
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.

(Rudyard Kipling)

loviisa-1(Loviisa, Finland; August 2018)


Completed: Day Zero Project

skeletoncoast-3Ever wished you could do this and try that and go there – without any of the wishes ever coming true? Why do we spend more time dreaming than making dreams reality? Why do we speak of wishes “coming true” instead of “being made true”?

I wrote the above three years ago, but it stands true today. And September 2017, one year ago, my Day Zero challenge came to a close. In January 2015 I set out to accomplish 101 things in 1001 days. Did I accomplish them all? No, because I listed quite a few major bucket list items to choose from, such as let go of past grief, learn a new language, and undertake major trips. But I accomplished 56/100, with another 6 items marked “in progress”. And I managed to visit the French Riviera not 1 time but 3 times, and same goes for practicing yoga on Bali. I found I loved those two places so much I kept going back. Perhaps without the Day Zero challenge I would still not know exactly what I have been missing out on.

Was it worth it? For sure. Otherwise I would probably not have spent a rainy day in bed in my PJs, watching movies and learning to knit socks. Or taken a ride in a hot-air balloon. Or accomplished some financial goals. Or traveled to Bali or trekked on the Everest Base Camp trail.

Life is not a rehearsal. You are the star of your show, every day, regardless of whether you are up for it or not. Trust me, the past few years I have mainly not been up for it. Yet life has happened anyway. It tends to do that, every day. We can choose to either drift down-current, or rig the sails, list our goals as bearings, and use life’s unpredictability and impermanence to change what we wish changed, and do what we always dreamed of doing.

So list your goals and begin doing instead of dreaming. For inspiration, here are my completed goals. And by the way, I am, too: already working through a 101 Goals, Vol. 2.

2015 completed
  1. Host a board games night (we made this an annual tradition with my cousins)
  2. Learn to knit socks  (still wearing the ones I made!)
  3. Make candles
  4. Spend a rainy day watching films in my PJ’s
  5. Get back in touch with 2 old friends
  6. Spend a weekend at a spa by myself
  7. Make jam
  8. Travel to New England
  9. Crochet a quilt
  10. Find a career mentor
  11. Get an Indian head massage
  12. Install a mirror in the hallway
  13. Have a hot stone massage
  14. Go back to Kathmandu
  15. Read my old journals
  16. Clean out my wardrobe  (this expanded into KonMari’ing my entire apartment)
  17. Go to the French Riviera  (goal completed 3 times)
  18. Eat at a Korean restaurant
  19. Complete a coloring book
  20. See a performance at the Helsinki Music Center
  21. Hire a cleaning maid  (one of the best decisions of 2015)
  22. See a play at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in London
  23. Find a penpal and write real letters  (I found several!)
  24. Read all moomin books
  25. Practice yoga on Bali (goal completed 3 times)
2016 completed
  1. See a Broadway musical in London
  2. Throw a tea party for ladies only
  3. Watch a meteor shower
  4. Take classes in yoga philosophy
  5. Have a picnic on an island
  6. Photograph the sun from the equator
  7. KonMari my apartment
  8. Tie a note to a balloon and let it go
  9. Ask 20 friends to suggest one book, and read them all (I loved this one)
  10. Learn to make Limoncello
  11. Install a sliding door to my bedroom
  12. Go trekking in Nepal
  13. Have a picnic on the beach
  14. Travel by train instead of flying (took the train from Paris to Biarritz. 5 hours)
  15. Influence a person to make a Day Zero list
  16. Visit Riga again (took my mother along)
  17. Get a new wristwatch (ended up being my uncle’s wind-up watch from the 50s)
  18. Visit a Buddhist monastery (both in Nepal as well as in the French mountains)
2017 completed
  1. Read 20 books per year
  2. Ride in a hot air balloon
  3. Visit Zanzibar (where I learned how to dive!)
  4. Join Earth Hour every year
  5. Save up 5000 euro either in cash or stock (this turned out to be much more)
  6. Do an annual detox (á là Gwyneth Paltrow – and I found I loved her (expensive) cooking)
  7. Go to the dentist once a year
  8. Collect 1 investment gold coin per year
  9. Volunteer with dolphin research again  (I ended up spending a month in Namibia)
  10. Watch a Cirque du Soleil show  (in London)
  11. Visit an observatory  (in Helsinki)
  12. Pay off student debt
  13. Put away $10 for every goal completed
In progress
  1. Find joy  (mostly completed in 2018)
  2. Attend a TED Talk event  (completed fall 2017)
  3. Let go of past hurt  (mostly completed in 2018)
  4. See the opera Aida  (completed spring 2018)
  5. Learn French  (switched to Spanish in fall 2018)
  6. Read all books on the 106 books of pretension list  (completed fall 2018)

(Brande, Denmark; September 2018. Photo from Skeleton Coast, Namibia; July 2017)

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bll-1“Apologies for the sudden lift.” The captain’s voice shot down through the intercom of the cabin. “We had to go around as there was another plane on the runway.”

My new home airport has only one runway. It is a major airport, but a major provincial airport. You can see this also from the rows and rows of cars and rental cars in the park: here one does not get far by public transport or taxi.

Staying in Denmark will also mean hello SAS Gold and then Diamond status, and good-bye Finnair Platinum. While I consider this a downgrade, I look forward to significant upgrades in my work-life balance. Traveling 1-3 days a week means the remaining work days I can roll out of bed and sit down by the laptop half an hour later, with ample time for a relaxed morning. No need to pick out business wear or lipstick or do my hair, unless I have a video conference. No need to commute in the morning rush hour, or to rush home via a stock-full grocery store (because we aim to shop weekly).

Working from home means 2 precious hours more time for myself, every day. I am beginning to like the concept of living nearby a provincial airport.bll-2(Billund, Danmark; August 2018)

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Swimrun = swim with sneakers + run in wetsuit

swimrun-3One beautiful August morning, there I was, bobbing in between two scraggy islets in the outer archipelago of Stockholm, wearing sneakers, wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, and a colored team t-shirt. A drone circled above us and there were camera people in the water, too. Along with about 350 other colleagues, like groups of colored ants clawing away at the water, drifting from shore to shore.

Swimrun means swim and run. No time to change gear in-between. The original swimrun is 41 km on this same group of islands, although we only completed a 9 km course. And it was more than many of us ever dreamed they would accomplish. Some were 60 years old, you see. Others were scared of swimming in open water. And quite a few were nervous about running such a long distance. But everybody had a buddy and a tow rope for pulling a tired swimmer, and it was not uncommon to see people pushing their colleague in the back, making running just a tiny bit lighter. swimrun-2The company I work for aims to have a healthy workforce. The local Nordic managing director takes things a notch further. This year it was the swimrun. A few years back nearly 300 of us climbed a mountain in Norway. We have also biked around Skagen in Denmark, spent an entire day outside in a snow mobile suit in -27C in Lapland (some of us got cold burns), and gone horseback riding on Iceland.

And so the entire company swam and ran between the islets of Utö in Sweden, pushing, pulling, and coaching each other until we crossed the finish line, one team at a time. Because it was never about winning a race against anyone else except for ourselves and our prejudices about our own capabilities and performance. And quite a few witnessed their own minds reset to new levels of at-minimum-achievement.swimrun-1(Utö, Sweden; August 2018)

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lauttasaari-1Dear Lauttasaari island, you have been good to me. You have been my safe haven for years. A place to hide and to just stare at the (mostly windy) sea.

It is difficult to live in a landlocked place, away from the sea. I have done it twice and I will be doing it again. All three times have also been the three times I have lived abroad.

I have also lived in two relatively rainy, wet places: the UK and the Netherlands. Now I intend to try out another rainy (and this time windy, too) place: a little town in the middle of Denmark. For how long? For now.lauttasaari-2Dear Lauttasaari, I will miss your sea, sunshine, and the vast open space. The ships leaving for various Baltic port cities, and the sound of broken ice blocks floating on the water in spring.

But life plays out in seasons and no matter how well one plans, the beginning of the next season always comes with a twist. Growth does not take place when we feel comfortable and set in our routines. And so I intend to break my routines big time, hoping that growth will follow with equal measure.Larubynight(Helsinki, Finland; August 2018)