Writing About My Trip To Finland Is Impossible

Writing About My Trip To Finland Is Impossible

By |2016-07-21T23:47:09-04:00October 1st, 2012|Finland|68 Comments

Bike Tour in Hanko
Without a doubt, I thoroughly enjoyed my recent trip to Finland. However, I’ve been sitting here in front of my computer for a total of eight hours over the past two days trying to write more about that trip and the only thing I have is two pages of the most absurd gibberish and dribble I’ve ever put together.

Here’s an actual sample…

And so, after a good lunch in Turku, I sat on a bench near a nice river and sat there wondering how to find the other hidden things to make my stay even better.

What horrendous garbage!

While I have plenty to say about the time I spent in the small coastal town of Hanko, on the island of Kimito, in the old Finnish capital of Turku and in the inland city of Tampere, I am having great difficulty putting these experiences into coherent sentences and paragraphs. Heck, at this point, I don’t even know if I could put together a coherent two-word phrase.

Why am I finding it so challenging to write about Finland?

After exactly forty-two seconds of deep thought on the matter, I reached the conclusion that it all has to do with the fact that Finland lacks the must-see attractions, the ‘wow’ activities and the life-changing highlights that we often seek out when we choose a destination to visit.

It is infinitely harder to describe to you why I enjoyed my time in Finland so much when the list of experiences I had in that country looks so simple when written down.

And hence the gibberish.

But just because these activities look so simple, and possibly unexciting at first glance, doesn’t mean that they too cannot change ones life or at least help create a travel experience that stands out as something quite special.

I Have a Question For You

Do you think that, as travelers, we believe that a destination must have ‘something’ in order to make it a destination worth visiting? And by ‘something’ I mean a major sight or event or even just a short paragraph in your guidebook that tells you that such-and-such a destination is ‘definitely worth a 2-3 day visit’.

How else do we decide where to spend our time while traveling? We certainly don’t stop too often in the towns, cities and villages that don’t appear to offer much after we do some online research. But we must be careful if we do this, because there are destinations out there that will indeed change your life, or at least have a significant impact, even if they are rarely classified as ‘must-see’ by anyone else.

Such places include, among millions of others, Hanko and Turku and Tampere and Kimito Island. While you won’t find a two-page list of seemingly amazing highlights when reading about these destinations, if you dare to visit anyway, what you will be able to do is…

  • witness pristine nature, to spend an afternoon rowing a canoe around a stunning lake while surrounded by scenery that makes you realize just how beautiful this planet truly is
  • ride a bicycle everywhere you go, along forest paths and along quiet lakeside roads, all while exploring friendly, cozy communities that welcome you to their tiny weekend festival as if you had lived there all your life
  • stand on empty beaches as you inhale the therapeutic sea breeze and feel your head become infinitely clearer than it has been for a very long time
  • dine on such delicious local dishes, all prepared with the freshest of ingredients and served with the widest of smiles

Eating Muikku in Tampere

Aura River, Turku

  • finish the day with a trip to a smoke sauna in the woods where you chat with the locals in the 81.5 C heat and then join them outside for a quick swim in the 15 C water of the nearby lake
  • interact with some amazing people who live in a small island community that is so impressively dedicated to improving the lives of it’s residents as well as to offering such unique and memorable experiences to all visitors
  • purchase fresh fruit from a roadside stall right in front of the farm, where you simply take what you want and leave the money in a jar (not many places left in the world that work on the honor system!)
  • travel around an archipelago by ferry, talking with the captain throughout the journey as he gives you a first-hand account of life in this remote island region
  • stroll along beautiful rivers, wander through local markets and visit interesting museums that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit
  • find yourself invited to and genuinely welcomed at the opening of a new art exhibit even though you’re in jeans and a t-shirt and everyone else is in suits or evening gowns
  • meet an endless stream of locals who will go out of their way to ensure your visit to their hometown is as perfect as possible

Night Out in Turku

Lake in Tampere

I’m not sure what you think of the above activities. Maybe you find them to be interesting, maybe not. For me, these are the activities that contributed to the success of my trip to Finland, and even thinking about them right now makes me quite nostalgic (and the trip only finished two weeks ago!).

So, now that you see how I spent my time during that trip, I say, look beyond the ‘must-see highlights’ that we so often seek out. Go out into the world and visit countries, cities, towns, islands and villages that don’t get as much attention, that don’t have the huge write-ups telling you that you must see this destination before you die.

That’s how I ended up in Finland and that’s how I plan to organize many of my future trips as well.

*Before I go, I’d like to thank the following for making my time in Finland so memorable:

Pekka and Liisa from Hiking Travel (great people, great kayak tour in Tampere)
Michel from E.A.T. Tampere Tours (excellent biking/sauna excursion around Tampere)
Ville and his team at the incredible Dream Hostel in Tampere
The staff of Laivahostel Borea in Turku (located on an old cruise ship)
Hotel B8 in Hanko (an old police station turned into a hotel)
Alan’s Cafe (as good as it gets – food, atmosphere, hospitality!)
Saija Huhtiniemi for showing me around Turku
Leena Immonen for the bicycle tour of Hanko
Joakim from Sun Fun Ferry (based out of Hanko)
Daniel from Wilson Charter (ferry company based out of Rosala)
Every single person I met on beautiful Kimito Island!

Do you only seek out destinations that offer must-see sights or attractions? Or do you look for places that are not necessarily ‘must-see’?

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  1. Elliott August 1, 2015 at 6:06 am - Reply

    I love what you’ve brought up here. I write a small blog and there’s many destinations I just never bothered writing about. The funny thing is that some of those I didn’t write about happen to be my favourite. There might have been a lack of exciting adventures to write about, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t amazing.

    Can’t wait to visit my girlfriend’s hometown of Tampere this year for the first time!

  2. […] read this post on a blog called Wandering Earl after it was shared by This is Finland on Facebook. I […]

  3. Alana August 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Destinations on my vacation list are:

    1) cold (I’m from Texas. I’m sick of heat and humidity.)
    2) beautiful (architecture and/or nature)

    I am perfectly content to sit by a river bank for half the day just soaking up the beauty of it all.

    I am perfectly content to stroll by elaborately built historical buildings, amazed at what a good craftsman can do.

    I’ve found I particularly enjoy those “in-between” cities and towns – the ones in between popular destinations, the ones that only get a black dot on the map but are full of friendly locals and small town charm.

  4. Osvaldo May 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Until now I managed to read this entire post Earl. In my case, I travelled to Belize and, despite being a country with no “must see” places, I enjoyed the simplicity of every city and town I visited there.

    As for the companies you mentioned at the end of your post, did they help you by giving their services for free? Just curious 🙂

    • Wandering Earl May 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      Hey Osvaldo – The Finland Tourism Board offered a couple of free accommodations but not everything was free.

  5. Thamar December 10, 2012 at 8:17 am - Reply

    what a wonderful experiences…simple things do make a great experiences..love it

  6. Stephen November 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    I visited Finland, loved it, and said the same exact thing. It lacks the must-see sights.

    But the standard of living is just so high that it is a great place to be–although expensive!

    • Wandering Earl November 22, 2012 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Hey Stephen – It is an expensive country overall…and while it is possible to keep costs down for certain aspects, it’s probably not a country one would want to stay for very long as a result of those prices.

  7. Laura November 4, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl! I’m form Finland and I was truly so interested while reading this post. Cause as a Finn, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine what’s the “thing” why people from other countries would like to come to our small little country. But you were so right first of all by saying it’s sometimes better to look for the not “must see” things. I’ve realized it as well during my trips. The most spectacular one’s were as I was invited to local people’s houses. There’s something special in that, must say. I’m sorry about my bad english but anyways just wanted to tell you that it’s amazing to see you’ve enjoyed our country and you definitely described it with right words. And you’ve been to smoke sauna? Nice 🙂 That must have been one hell of an experience! But you know what, during my own trips around the world I’ve realized one thing. Finnish lake view is something you can’t find anywhere else. Brings peace in ur mind. Hopefully you’ll find yourself back to Finland one day again! I like ur blog and the way you write and I admire how damn brave u are by travelling all around! Ps. I’m from Tampere, hopefully you liked my city 🙂

    • Earl November 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Hey Laura – Thank you for your comment and first, I most certainly did enjoy Tampere 🙂 I wish I could have stayed longer but unfortunately didn’t have enough time. Hopefully when I do make it back to Finland, we’ll be able to meet up in person. I would love to meet more Finns next time around!

  8. anna October 25, 2012 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    We once took a winter weekend trip to Nanaimo, BC. When crossing the boarder into Canada, the always stoic border guard laughed when we told him we were headed to Nanaimo. We had some of the best food and people experiences that weekend.

  9. Ellen Keith - La Viajera October 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    I have never been to Finland, although I have always been curious about it. That being said, I am from Canada, which I’m told shares a lot in common with the Scandinavian countries. I feel the same way about Canada: we don’t have really anything (Niagara Falls perhaps) in the way of tourist sites, and the cities aren’t anything special, but there is something about the country that seems to draw travelers anyways. I think what you said about just taking the time to appreciate how beautiful our planet really is hits the spot. We don’t always need to be “doing” — sometimes we just need to “exist” in a place, and that is enough to make it a wonderful destination.

  10. […] Earl made a brief visit to Finland. His blog post about his stay in Finland caught my eye here at Sail in Finland! Earl seemed to have had an experience of Finland that rang […]

  11. Hanko « Finland For You October 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    […] Writing About My Trip To Finland Is Impossible (wanderingearl.com) […]

  12. J.E October 8, 2012 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    Nice to hear that you enjoyed your stay in Finland! Here are some footage from Kimito Island for those of you that may wanna watch: https://www.youtube.com/user/Kemiokuvina/videos?view=0

  13. Dylan October 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    178 degrees is VERY hot outside! D: ! haha

    • Earl October 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      Hey Dylan – It was 178 degrees inside the sauna, not outside 🙂

  14. The Travel Chica October 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Sounds like my kind of place. The longer my travel sabbatical lasted, the more I wanted to visit places where I did not feel like I had to run around and see the main sights. I wanted a place with a unique vibe, good people, and beauty.

    • Earl October 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      @The Travel Chica – That seems to happen after a long period of travel. All of a sudden those main sights aren’t as interesting as they once were and all we want to do is enjoy a comfortable, unique destination to just stay for a while.

  15. Kurt October 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    Sometimes it is about the little nuances in a locale. Simple things/activities in a location can make it very personal. Seems like you identified your block and turned into a great post.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 5:32 am - Reply

      Hey Kurt – And I think that I’m more and more attracted to those destinations that allow travelers to really have a unique, personal experience. Maybe that happens after a while on the road. Where are you these days by the way?

  16. Sonja Heerman October 4, 2012 at 4:13 am - Reply

    What a lovely post to read about your own home country.
    I traveled for 10 months in Asia last year, and when people asked me about Finland I told them about nature, quiet, clean air and lakes and the archipelago. Those are the things we Finns appreciate and love. And that is why we so thoroughly enjoy to show them to foreigners.
    Thank you for your inspiring post of Finland!

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:58 am - Reply

      Thank you for the comment Sonja and any place that offers such nature and clean air is a place that I could visit over and over again!

  17. Nina October 4, 2012 at 2:58 am - Reply

    Hi Earl,

    thank you for the posting. I live in a small village near Turku and for two years I’ve travelled exchanging homes with people from different countries. When we first started my husband wouldn’t believe anyone would want to exchange with us. Still when I tell people about our exchanges they wonder what there is to see in Finland and how we manage to find exchange partners. And it is partly true, I do get a lot of answers like “Thank you, but we are not planning to travel to Finland”. But, on the other hand, I also get several inquiries a month from families all over the world.
    Our exchanges have also taught me to appreciate my own area. This summer we had two Californian exchanges, and believe it or not, there was a lot in my home and my village they wanted to take with them. Our sauna, of course, but also the local bakery and forest walking paths. I didn’t know I have a dinner table with a beautiful view before they told me so!
    I think now that people travel more, they also seek for new kinds of experiences. And yes, Golden Gate Bridge is amazing, but most of all we loved the little Sacramento suburb we stayed in with its cafes and parks.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:57 am - Reply

      Hey Nina – That sounds wonderful that you’ve been exchanging homes…that must give you such unique experiences, especially when you end up in random places that you might not visit as a traveler. And if I ever have a home of my own, I’d certainly be interested in exchanging with you so that I could get a better taste of Finland!

  18. Matthew Karsten October 4, 2012 at 1:03 am - Reply

    I don’t know about “impossible”, you’ve done a pretty damn good job right here! 😀

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:55 am - Reply

      Hey Matthew – Much appreciated sir!

  19. Basse October 4, 2012 at 12:57 am - Reply

    Thanks, that was nice to read! I love to travel the world but I love my hometown Hanko even more : )

  20. Traveling Ted October 3, 2012 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    I am sold on Finland thanks to this write up. I enjoy life changing places like Angkor Wat, Eiffel Tower, and Victoria Falls, but the list of things you did in Finland sound just as appealing as any of those places that one might find on a wonders of the world list.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:52 am - Reply

      @Traveling Ted – And I only had a small taste of Finland in the end. Just the fact that there is so much nature, everywhere, makes it a country that offers endless rewards to those who visit (assuming one likes being in untouched nature, which I believe you do!).

  21. Nomadic Translator @latinAbroad October 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    What an excellent trip, Earl. Just reading through your sentences transported my mind into a relaxing state. I really needed that today, I’m getting a little cabin fever and going crazy inside this warehouse I work at. Wish I could be in Finland relaxing

    Anyway, I completely get what you mean. Sometimes the vibe of a place just makes you feel amazing, makes you reflect, makes you think… makes you dig deeply within you and, in the process, you are transformed. I think that happens in any place where you can be close to nature. Seems like Finland is one of those wonderful places.

    About boring though? I don’t know, after reading things like:

    “The staff of Laivahostel Borea in Turku (located on an old cruise ship)
    Hotel B8 in Hanko (an old police station turned into a hotel)”

    That sounds AWESOME!

    – Maria Alexandra

  22. Nomadic Translator @latinAbroad October 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    what an excellent trip, Earl. Just reading through your sentences transported my mind into a relaxing state. I really needed that today, I’m getting a little cabin fever and going crazy inside this warehouse I work at. Wish I could be in Finland relaxing 🙁

    Anyway, I completely get what you mean. Sometimes the vibe of a place just makes you feel amazing, makes you reflect, makes you think… makes you dig deeply within you and, in the process, you are transformed. I think that happens in any place where you can be close to nature, in my opinion. since like Finland is one of those wonderful places.

    About boring though? I don’t know, after reading things like:

    “The staff of Laivahostel Borea in Turku (located on an old cruise ship)
    Hotel B8 in Hanko (an old police station turned into a hotel)”

    That sounds AWESOME!

    – Maria Alexandra

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:49 am - Reply

      @latinAbroad – The nature certainly does help as Finland was probably one of the quietest countries I’ve ever visited. This certainly puts the mind in a great state of relaxation every day and that leads to plenty of benefits of course. And yes, Finland does have quite a collection of interesting accommodation options 🙂

  23. Andy October 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    To me, every place in this world has it’s unique charm and can be worth a visit. It’s all about what you make of the experience. Finland may not have huge temples and pyramids and the local people and culture may not be exotic at all to a westerner.
    But it seems to offer beautiful nature, perfect infrastructure, safety & tranquility and friendly people who speak your language.

    This summer, I visited a small beach resort on the German coast of the Baltic sea. Technically, this would have had to be a “boring” experience since there are no jaw-dropping sights and there really isn’t too much to do either. Similar to Finland, prices are rather high and the infrastructure is over-developed, taking any adventurous edge out of the place. Or so I thought.
    Yet I had a great time staying at a friend’s apartment for free and riding his bike along the beautiful beach which had cristal clear water and nice dunes. I exercised on the shores and had a beer watching the sunset, thinking about future plans. Riding the bike, I came along a sailing school that offered free classes. Needless to say, I took one the next morning and spend my first official 30 minutes on a catamaran, learning a few basics. All in all, a very pleasent and relaxing experience that cost me next to nothing and I didn’t have to travel halfway around the globe to get it either. 🙂

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:48 am - Reply

      Hey Andy – That’s a perfect example of how a seemingly random and unexciting destination can prove to be quite memorable! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  24. Jonas Lindström October 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    My girlfriend and I are Finns. We’ve been traveling for 8 months now. Many times on this trip we have had the same conversation: people ask what Finland is like and we say “Finland has nothing to see”. This is of course a lie. Finland has plenty of things going for it.

    We do NOT have mountains, canyons or ravines, ancient architecture, a long national history, or a myriad of other things that you usually visit a country for.

    What we do have is difficult to explain, and so perhaps “Finland has nothing to see” is the easy way out.

    Thank you, Earl, for taking the time to explain this in detail. I can now put “the Finland experience” into words better. 🙂

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:44 am - Reply

      Hey Jonas – Yes, that is definitely a lie but I know exactly what you mean 🙂 It’s one of those countries where travelers just need to go there, carve out their own unique experience and enjoy whatever comes their way. And I’m confident that the majority of those who do visit have overwhelmingly positive experiences wherever they do end up, but perhaps like me, they will find it hard to explain to others who have yet to experience Finland for themselves.

      Thanks for commenting Jonas!

  25. Sputnik October 3, 2012 at 10:47 am - Reply

    I get a little nervous when my food is served with too wide a smile.

  26. Julia Immonen October 3, 2012 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Hi Earl!

    I was born and raised in Hanko and have a very deep love for those beaches. When you stand on one of those beaches or on a rock at the edge of a beach and look out at the vast sea in front of you you somehow feel both solitary and like a part of the world at the same time. Because really, you could sit yourself down on a boat and eventually you’d get to the other side of the world. This is what comforted me when I was younger and longed for the world outside of Hanko. Now having left Hanko a while ago going back home makes me feel even more like a part of the world. Now I live in Turku and I love it here too but I miss the seabreeze. I think one must surround oneself with the sea.

    P.S the lady who gave you your biketour happens to be my mother and her name is Leena Immonen (not Leena Immocu like you’ve accidentally typed)

    Our little seaside of Hanko bid you welcome back anytime!

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:39 am - Reply

      Hey Julia – I remember when your mother took me up to some rocks next to the beach where people often go for storm-watching. And as I stood there I wished that I could stay in Hanko for a week and just enjoy it all some more!

  27. Brooke vs. the World October 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    One of my favorite places in the world is Kyrgyzstan, especially the city of Bishkek, and there is nothing there. Not a thing in terms of big attractions… not much in general. But I love it. I love how comfortable I feel there {most of the time}, the unique culture, the daily adventures, the people — and that’s all I need. In fact “attractions” are often a let-down for me, so I don’t really travel for them as much as I do for the feeling of a place.

    If you want to write about Finland, I suggest writing about how it makes you feel. An experience that set the tone. I think you’ve already done that a bit in this post anyway 😉

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:35 am - Reply

      Hey Brooke – That’s a good point about attractions…they can let us down, especially when we go in with such huge expectations. And that’s why places that don’t have such attractions can be so rewarding…if we don’t have any expectations, we can accept every experience as rewarding and positive!

  28. Paul October 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl

    I certainly think that a city not having any “must see/do” attractions is not at all a negative. In fact, many of the cities that I’ve traveled to literally because I picked the name randomly from a list have been some of the best ones I’ve ever been to. For me the best experiences can be gained just by wandering around a city, walking, looking up, down and around, observing people, talking to locals, sitting down to have a drink and watch the world go by.

    Having said that, don’t get me wrong – as other posters have said, tourist attractions are often amazing too. Not fabricated attractions, but attractions that became attractions because they had “something” worthwhile about them. What I felt when I first saw the Eiffel Tower and Colosseum for example, far exceeded what I could have imagined.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:31 am - Reply

      Hey Paul – Picking them randomly is an excellent idea! And I’m similar to you as I often find a simple wander or a simple moment in a random place to be some of my favorite highlights.

  29. [email protected] October 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm - Reply

    First of all… “And so, after a good lunch in Turku, I sat on a bench…”

    LOL, you’re absolutely right – that IS pretty pathetic garbage prose! 😉

    But seriously, while I normally eschew the “beaten [backpacker] path” of sights like the Taj, Ankor, Giza, etc. I’ve learned that many of these “can’t miss” sights are legendary for good reason: They truly ARE spectacular. I mean, yes the hawkers at Giza are in a class of “Annoy” by themselves, but those pyramids? Gazing at them with my own two baby-blues was utterly awesome.

    BUT… that said, I hear you loud ‘n clear about not settling for merely the “gotta dos” of the world. Yep, the Gobi was great but… my fondest memories of Mongolia shall always be the small interactions – churning yak milk into butter with a Khasak housewife; of Cambodia – sitting on a park bench chatting (mostly in mime) with an aged local; in Egypt – hopping on a falucca with a Nubian lad and seeing the grin on his face when we found the geocache on Elephant Island; and here in Vietnam? Yes, yes, Ha Long Bay surely didn’t disappoint and is not to be missed, but again, my fondest memories here are of ho-hum little every day bits that are impossible to wax glowing about in a blog post.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:30 am - Reply

      Hey Dyanne – Definitely. There is a reason why popular destinations are popular and I like to visit such locations as well. But I think it’s important to realize that there is more out there as well and that often times, just like you said, what we remember from our travels, what changes us the most, are those moments that no guidebook could prepare you for.

  30. RunAwayHippie October 1, 2012 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl, I really enjoyed reading this post! I find that people overlook places that arent in the ‘top ten places to see’ books. Some of my friends who want to maybe go traveling with me only mention big cities that have huge monuments that they want to go to. and while these cities or towns at probably very nice, I also want to see random towns that don’t seem to offer much. These are the places where you can skip all the tourists and see the culture of the people who live there! I totally agree with you on this point!
    Great post Earl!

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:27 am - Reply

      @RunAwayHippie – Random towns are the way to go and while it might be difficult for some to believe that at first, usually, after visiting a couple of non-guidebook destinations, most travelers discover the appeal!

  31. Scott Mallon October 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Earl – after living in Thailand for 16+ years, I sometimes feel I don’t know what exactly it is about the country that makes people so excited. I know there is alot to do, beautiful places, great people, interesting sites, but is that what keeps me here? I think not. More than likely, what gets people to come to a place or keeps people staying anywhere is a feel that something is right. I’ve been to Cambodia many times, maybe 40. I like the place but after so many times going there for visa runs, work, and fun, I no longer find the place appealing. Interesting for a day or two, but after that, I can’t wait to leave. The place doesn’t have it. Neither does Singapore or Laos, IMO. It’s the little things that matter: the food, the people, the experience AND THE FEEL of the place.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:26 am - Reply

      Hey Scott – Those little things certainly do play a major role and the interesting part is that every single person is attracted by a different set. So what is appealing to one might not be appealing to another, but in the end, that doesn’t matter at all. If we find the places that feel right to us, then that’s all that matters!

  32. Kendra October 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    This reminds me of the upper peninsula of Michigan. I couldn’t understand why more people don’t choose to go there, but then I took my husband he called it an “old people place” and said we should go to like New York City or some other crowded touristy place next time. Oh, well, some people just don’t get it 🙂 The U.P. has beautiful untouched forests like the Porcupine Mountains, tons of waterfalls, and clear water beaches on Lake Superior and culture in the few small towns that survive through the harsh winters (like Copper Harbor or Marquette). What’s not to like about getting a sandy Great Lakes beach to yourself for swimming or finding the most interesting rocks with just the right weather in the summer?

  33. Lien Pham October 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    Also, like you mentioned in the post that sometimes little activities like biking along the lakeside road, purchase fresh fruit from a roadside stall … could me wonderful highlights … i remember passing by the sleepy town of Leikanger in Norway and the hotel was next to a lake. Spending time at the charming lake shore, listening to the sound of little waves hitting the sandy beach was some of the my favorite time
    of the whole trip. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  34. Clare October 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Hi Earl, I think you summed up Finland perfectly. I spent five months out there in 2007 and your post made me feel really nostalgic (in a good way). One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Finland was because of the mystery – no ‘must see’ tourist attractions sprung to mind and I think that’s exciting. Travel is surely about exploring the places that don’t have much written about them. Obviously it’s nice to visit ‘must see’ sights, but it’s the little things and the people that really make travelling magical.
    Anyway, enjoy the rest of you time in Finland and if you haven’t got any other plans, I’d recommend driving through Finland to northern Norway. Tromso and the surrounding fishing villages are really incredible.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:21 am - Reply

      Hey Clare – I’ve actually visited northern Norway before, all the way up to Honningsvag and the Nordkapp (such a beautiful part of the world!) and this Finland trip was a relatively quick one. Glad you agreed with the post!

  35. Lukas Cech October 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl, I enjoyed this post!

    Mainly, because it´s something I´m trying to do on my travels too – I do research places to go, but generally ignore major recommended places and just land in a place, city or town, then talk to locals about what is there to do. Even if it´s nothing, it´s the talking to locals that sometimes is the highlight.

    The best way to travel is to travel slowly. Then you notice all the things that you would miss if you just do tourist attraction hopping and go by official, published guides.

    Out of interest, how do you decide where to go next and how do you research the destination? Or do you just “land” in a place and then look around?


    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:19 am - Reply

      Hey Lukas – Yes, that is definitely a great way to travel and I also feel that such a conversation with a local often ends up being more memorable than any sights I could have visited. As for deciding where to go next, it’s usually quite random. I’ll just wake up one day and start thinking about a particular country and that’s it. And I don’t do much research, very little in fact. I much prefer to just show up and let the trip unfold on its own!

  36. Lien Pham October 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    Thanks Earl for sharing your wonderful time in Finland. The fish dish reminded me of the one i had down the steps from the Helsinkin Cathedral, in a local festival . Did you go to Eliel Saarinen’s house? When i travel scenery, history, art/culture, food place high in my priority list so i picked the location based on these criteria. However, i always leave room for surprise, meaning time that allows me to discover something that i had no idea about, suggested by the local people or media. This is the part that makes traveling exciting, imho :-). I remember discovering this place while wandering the neighborhood of Chartres cathedral in France https://www.discover-chartres.com/maison-picassiette.html

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:17 am - Reply

      Hey Lien – Leaving room for surprise is always a wise idea, no matter what the focus of our travels. And I didn’t get to Eliel Saarinen’s house, just too much to see and do during my stay.

  37. Lindsay October 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    The past few times I’ve had the opportunity to travel, it has been to major locations like London, Paris, and Rome with a few side trips to sights like Stonehenge and Pompeii. After a few trips like that though, I’ve been contemplating something more toned-down for my next trip. I have a week off of school near Christmas, and I’ve been trying to convince some friends of mine to join me in renting a cabin in Switzerland near some random town I’ve never heard of before. Nowhere spectacular… I’m less concerned with seeing the sights and more interested in just being there. I enjoy being the tourist from time to time, and I love encountering all of the history and culture associated with the major sights of the world, but I’m also looking for a more “local” experience. Sometimes it’s nice to not lug around a guidebook/map and develop blisters from running around a destination at breakneck speed to try and see as much as possible in whatever time I have 🙂

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:16 am - Reply

      Hey Lindsay – It is nice to just be somewhere every now and then and your Switzerland idea sounds more than ideal. If I wasn’t heading to India I would join you myself 🙂

  38. I'm Also Earl October 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Earl, a question. What do you do about stuff like books, or momentos or gifts that people give you. Hard to travel with these no? Do you have some kind of permanent storage somewhere or just don’t hang on to anything more than what fits into your bag?

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:14 am - Reply

      @I’m Also Earl: I don’t really hang on to much but I do have a couple of boxes stored at my mom’s place back in the US where I do keep things that I’ve picked up along the way. It certainly would be difficult to travel with these items!

  39. The Queer Nomad October 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I just spent 2 days in Helsinki and can’t wait to see more of Finland. Surprisingly, many things there remind me of Japan (maybe that’s why all the Japanese tourists go?). I don’t mind skipping ‘must see’ sights at all if I’m not personally interested, and some of the countries I loved best aren’t really popular with tourists or lack the large feature article sights – Taiwan and South Korea for example. It’s all about the general feeling, friendly people, good food and vibes.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:13 am - Reply

      @The Queer Nomad: Indeed it is and I hope you enjoyed the rest of your travels around the country!

  40. Derek Hippler October 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Oh man, I’ve always wanted to take a nice relaxing trip to Finland. It sounds like just the place to go after a few hectic months stuck at work or fighting the chaos of big cities.

    Also, “forty-two seconds of deep thought…” Do I spy a Hitchhiker’s Guide reference?

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:12 am - Reply

      Hey Derek – Ha, I actually didn’t make any reference of purpose 🙂

  41. George October 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Whenever anyone asks what my favourite city is, in a heart beat I say Helsinki. There is “something” about Finland that I loved that I just can’t put my finger on but I just loved every minute of my stay. Was it my amazing host, the great food, the wonderful people, the sitsit. I don’t know but I know that I will be back.

    • Earl October 6, 2012 at 4:11 am - Reply

      Hey George – Well, what made your stay so perfect is definitely less important…sometimes we just love a destination for no specific reason at all!

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