This blue marble

– and yet it spins


Loosening up

yarn”Pay attention to when it falls off,” the retreat lead told me last fall when she gave me this yarn bracelet. It would serve as a reminder of getting used to living with uncertainty – a topic I gave much attention during that weekend and afterward.

Well, on the last day in April the bracelet fell off. As I was holding my iPhone to photograph it, the phone rang – with a job offer in another company. I took it. And I finally quit my first real industry job, and a journey that started nine years ago, after I left academic research. It is time for another turning point in life, and a new direction.

Seems my Copenhagen slow life is going to be short-lived. After the summer, I will finally need to show up at a local office, most week days. For the first time in nine years, my team and manager will work in the same country and office as I. And I have yet another reason to update my life plan. More on that soon.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)


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Travel journals

notebooksAfrica, Bali, Bali & Malaysia, Singapore & Bali, Spain. Wish I had written travel journals also from the Brazilian Amazon, Kenya, Nepal, and Crete. And even way before, during my previous life, from Thailand, the USA, and elsewhere. But I am glad I corrected my mistake and began to write. These journals have always served as raw material for my blog posts – and the blog posts may serve as raw material for something else I’m working on.

If you’re curious what journals I use: the two Soumkines on the right hold up well and the paper is sturdy and lovely, but they get quite blotchy in use.

The dark and medium blues are Moleskine Volants. Even those covers get worn out around the edges, but the book holds together well. I love the detachable sheets and always keep a Volant in reserve, in case I run out of pages but don’t need another entire notebook to complete the trip journal. I just tear out the pages I used, staple them together, and paste them to the back with a paperclip. The downside with Moleskine paper is that it bleeds through if you use liquid ink or more wet rollerball pens.

For trips where I know I will write a lot, the Daycraft journal is a winner. It is thicker, the paper is amazing, and the cover is a thick, bouncy soft material that stays neat. The burgundy journal went with me around Namibia and Zanzibar for two months and does not look any worse than it did when we set off.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)

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New space

strandBeach, book, bike ride, and ice cream. All I need on a day off.

I lay down behind the tufts of grass, sheltered by the freezing spring wind blowing from the sea, and savored reading a book about journeys and being in constant motion by Olga Tokarczuk. This spring I have been more still than any other time the past twenty years – geographically. The constant motion within my head has been relentless, bubbling and prattling on like water in a brook. It has been a balance of raging frustrations and inspiring whispers.

And yet it has not been chaos, but the creation of something new. I belong to that half of people who discovered in the pandemic a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fill the time saved from no commutes and work trips with life planning, learning something new, and working on a creative project. Once social media filled up with protests of people who, instead of discovering the same as I ran into chaos, fear, and despair, I stopped gushing to people about all the things I could now fit into my day. But I made a daily schedule, and stuck to it – most days. The remaining few ones were reserved for beaches, books, bike rides, and ice creams.

(Amager strand, Copenhagen, Denmark; April 2020)

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New beginnings

newcareerMy new Copenhagen slow life got to an even slower start thanks to the coronavirus. Not only did I get the chance to focus on only one job project, I found myself without a single airline booking, business or private, for the first time in 20 years. What did I do? Wake up at 7 am, have a stretch and a breakfast smoothie, and read a book before work. Go for mid-afternoon runs. Run brainstorming workshops using MS Teams and a virtual post-it note and whiteboard app. Run meetings with country operating company management via Zoom. Everybody has to use video, otherwise it’s so easy to multitask and not be properly present in the meeting.

And I have been rethinking my career. What do I like about my work? What don’t I like? In which circumstances and environment do I perform best? And, most importantly, what is the impact I want to create on this planet and the living things on it? I love the work I have been doing until now, but is it time to stretch further? Would someone believe it, and give me a chance to try?

I have lists of base-case jobs and stretch jobs. There are lists of organizations in Denmark, and elsewhere in the EU. Lists of headhunters. Even a list of alternative cities around Europe, ranked based on most livable -rankings, expat quality of life, job opportunities, and taxation. For the first time in my life I am really using LinkedIn, beyond just updating my CV and liking one or two posts from my network. Two trustworthy friends are also helping me out: a notebook from UN City which I received from my sister, and granpa’s 1970s mahogany-handle Ballograf Epoca pen. (In case you have one, too: I discovered it likes Caran D’Ache ballpoint refills).

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)

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There are no travels on my calendar, for the first time in 20 years. My only planned travel is to the grocery store, the market, and the healthy living shop, twice weekly. Is it bliss? Perhaps. Yet, traveling has not always been bliss, either. Here is my list of recent mishaps:

2019 No mishaps. Would have been total bliss in Spain, but my grandfather passed away while I was there.

2018 Earthquakes on Bali. It just kept shaking, for weeks. We were lucky to not be on Lombok or the Gilis.

2017 Seriously infected blister on foot in Namibia. The doctor was concerned about bone infection and gave me a heavy dose of near-last-line antibiotics. I could not walk well for a week which meant boat duty every day (observing dolphins, not so bad!).

2016 Post-op recovery on Bali. I had a torn meniscus and my knee ligaments were generally mangled by too much running.

2015 Dog bite on Bali. Spent half of my time there chasing rabies vaccines across the island, as stocks were low. Even if I had been immunized for rabies previously. “WHO protocol”, I was told.

2013 Appendicitis in Berlin (and a centipede bite in Kenya). I had surgery on day 2 and spent my week-long holiday at the Charité, on the 20th floor, either in the psych ward (why?!) or the post-op, filled with dying cancer patients. It was… interesting.

There was also a work trip to Stockholm once, where I crashed in a Segway on a karting track and had a mild concussion. The next day I found out I had two broken ribs, thanks to the pain that shot through me when I laughed.

All these calamities were minor. I was hospitalized only once. There were no repercussions, and I am still alive and healthy. Also, there were good times every time. For example when I was permitted to leave the hospital in Berlin and cleared to fly home the same night, at the end of the holiday (see here for the full post):

“Outside of Charite university hospital, I heaved myself grimacing into a taxi after my sister.
She: “schloss Bellevue, bitte.”
Taxi driver with big eyes: “jetzt?!”
Me in bad German/Dutch/English: um… Ich will laufen (‘lopen’ means ‘walk’ in Dutch but ‘run’ in German)
Taxi driver: “JETZT?!”
My sister: “no she means walk, spatzieren”
Me feebly: “ich habe Urlaub in hospital… Ich muss zurück nach Finland heute abend”
Taxi driver decides it better to stop asking and just drive the crazy tourists.”

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)

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My ride

bikeMy brand new Copenhagen ride: a healthy alternative for public transport especially now in coronavirus-times. Heavy and granny-style, in a color what we in Finnish call “poison green” – but just a touch velvety. Hopefully inconspicuous and less attractive for resale, as bike thefts are everyday occurrences here (so common that each home insurance typically has bike theft insurance specifically included).

The problem is, I like my ride a lot already. It will be such a bummer day when it is snatched from me.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)

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Everyday hero

BritaThis everyday hero changed my Copenhagen life. The water here is so hard that one droplet leaves a white ring on any surface when it dries. The soil of the houseplants is turning white after just one month of watering. Tea tastes like clay water and cups need manual scrubbing or 2 dishwasher tablets to clean off. Not to mention the tea kettle which is covered in white sediment just after two weeks’ use.

Enter the Brita filter jug. Now water tastes smooth and almost a little bitter, like rainwater. The tea kettle seems to actually clean itself up slowly. And I bet the rainforest plants like rainwater better than limestone water. The only downside with this little wonder is that it is substantial in size but only filters 600 mL in one go, due to the hefty cartridge size. And the cartridge probably needs to be changed every month thanks to Copenhagen water.

Now if only someone installed something similar in the shower…

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2020)

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Spotted: spikey

Spotted in the Helsinki airport baggage claim hall bathroom. Along with a bunch of other cute animal friends. This bathroom, like the other ones at the airport, is also decorated with wonderful birdsong which seems to make them more spacious and fresh. Ambiance matters.

(Helsinki airport, Vantaa, Finland; October 2019)