Finnish sauna. Almost everyone in this country has one and even though the nuances are varied, the basic concept could almost be found in our constitution.
It’s a funny concept — you warm it hot (80°C is about right), get naked, go in, sit (or lay) and sweat there for some time (15mins is about right), silent. And throw some water to the stones constantly. Then you scrub your skin with something, or beat yourself with a birch whisk (don’t ask), and sit silent for some more minutes. Further on, you go out, jump into an ice cold water or if the season is right, snow, and curl there for some seconds, get back in, sweat some more, and shower.
Then you take your bathrobe and an ice cold beer, go out to cool down for few minutes and take another set of silent moments. Finally, you come to the conclusion that life isn’t so bad after all. With perfect skin.
For Finnish sauna, you don’t have to stay in or come to Finland though. When traveling, it’s always interesting, and rewarding, to find sauna, especially if it’s labeled “Finnish”, and test enjoy it. To see what the prefix Finnish means with each case; if it’s hot, humid and minimalistic as the best ones, or if it’s just good enough. And then I just sit there quiet for a while, letting the body and mind relax.
I’ll add few good sauna finds below, around Europe. And if you know a nice one, which you think I should definitely try, please tell me or invite me over. If it’s close snowy mountains, or in the middle of busy city, the better.
Recently, I’ve even started to browse and dream of spa holidays or at least travels including as much spa’s and sauna’s as possible. Steam sauna’s and hammams, Korean saunas and so on. Traveling with a tight budget, as I normally do, creates stress for which spas and saunas offer nice remedy. Almost as good as a long sleep in comfy king size hotel bed.
In Finland, finding sauna for the everyday stress relief is pretty easy, and one of the best perks of Finland is definitely the saunas even in the smallest urban flats. In few weeks, when finally moving to a new flat after months of homelessness, I’ll even get a tiny home sauna myself. And for that personal “spa”, and since my skin is screaming “woman why did you bring me back to this hell called dry Finnish winter air!”, and hair is screaming “come on woman, you can’t run with me from the -20°C directly to the +80°C sauna without consequences“, I’m also updating my wellness self-help kit, starting with Aésop in pictures (they came wrapped in that cute paper, ordered from their own webshop). It’s high-end, a bit expensive, and not as eco as I’d really like, but oh boy it will look nice in my shelves, next to sauna.
Hello from the Arctic Circle. I’m back up and as you may have guessed, there’s been something keeping me away from blogging. Unfortunately, I’m not a professional traveler like surprisingly many have thought. Even though Instagram tells I’ve been traveling a lot and it’s taken lots of my time sure, I’ve had lots of other things taking my time too. Like the day job which funds this lifestyle. But finally, I’ve had few nights to draft and plan, and there are many interesting things, posts and new things coming up. And since the natural light is already pretty scarce up North, let’s start with my trip to sunnier latitudes, to Morocco. This was Girls Surf and Yoga Week in Taghazout.
LET’S GO SURFING
As long as I remember I’ve been fascinated by the surf culture. Almost the total opposite of my native inland – above Arctic Circle – outdoors culture. I’ve been dreaming and admired from distance the freedom and the toned, trained, damn well good looking bodies with the perfect surf hair. And I’ve been drawn to the overall coolness which has nothing to do with the real cool we have enough in North.
Unfortunately, I’ve also understood there’s a bit negative masculine culture related to surf and especially the industry around it. There’s still sexism going on and honestly, it hasn’t been the most tempting sport for an active woman like me, who likes the surfing itself more than the role of the pretty girlfriend (though I have the perfect surf hair naturally, especially with the hint of sea salt). However, like rest of the extreme sports and adventure travel scene, surfing too seems to be turning into a more inclusive sport and leisure activity. There’s a long way to go still, but there are amazing opportunities for aspiring and even the more advanced surfer girls. There’s camps like this Surf Maroc’s Girls Week, there’s movies and role models and there’s communities and there’s discussions. And there’s me, finally learning to surf, with awesome likeminded girls! How fun is that?
I’m not going into detail here why I’ve found these all women camps so amazing (greetings to M – I have my arguments ready and honestly, it also took me a while to understand why it’s good to separate the sexes in some cases) but I do hope you get at least part of the idea why these kind of camps are awesome. And even though the experience itself is available to men too, (and I do like surfer men – you know who you are) I do hope it’s more women who read this. And especially women and girls who are looking for something similar and want a honest story of what this kind of thing might be. So take a coffee or green juice or whatever and read on. Commenting is free too.
SURF LIKE A GIRL
Few weeks back I found myself for the first time in Africa, in Taghazout, Morocco. Falling asleep to the sound of the Atlantic ocean and learning how to stand up (on surf board and generally in life). It was an awesome week, full of learning and reflecting and just relaxing. For me, it was the first time and it was good to have the full package from Surf Maroc and Boundless Betty (won this time, but I’d pay the full price anytime), which felt a bit strange (nevertheless oh so good) since all the normal hassle was gone and I could just concentrate on enjoying my time and learning new things.*
After I made my way to Agadir which some hick-ups (Air France…) I had everything covered; airport transfers, accommodation in the amazing seaside Taghazout Villa, full board (pancakes for breakfast!), surf lessons, WiFi and yoga. I traveled solo, as usual, and again got reminded how good of an idea a camp and communal table for dinner is. Even more, learning something new and challenging and pushing my limits for a whole week was awesome. I tried and learned surfing and on the side realized how much more a thing like this can teach (just wait when I tell you about my marathon experience too). And I learned a lot about the surf culture itself and this fascinating country and especially the Berber culture, local to the Agadir region.
LET ME GO SURFING
Basically, my days in Taghazout comprised of sleeping, napping, eating, surfing, swimming and yoga. On side of which I learned the lessons. Early wake ups and delicious breakfast before morning surf lessons, led by our amazing coach Margret. Then packed lunch on the beach and afternoon surfing, or napping, or working. In the evenings, there were the yoga, dinner and early sleep. There would have been early yoga too at 7AM, but somehow I preferred snoozing a bit longer every day…
We were a small group on the girls’ camp itself, only four. But, as the Villa accommodates more people in a communal setting, I had lots of company, both men and women, to hang out with. Thanks for the wine frenchies! When traveling solo, it’s so good to have people to eat dinner with and just to share the experience. And like one of the guys said, having people from all around the world in the same table, different but still so similar, humans, is one of the best ingredients of great travel experience. This is why we travel. Or at least I do.
The camp didn’t come at the perfect time or with the perfect form for me. I did miss a lot my surfer friends with whom it would have been awesome to share this experience with. Nor could I share the overall experience with the people I know would have loved it at least as much as I do. However, the trip gave many good life lessons and was in the end an amazing experience.
First of all, I learned how to surf and the sea made sure I remembered to stay humble by beating me up time after time. I also caught and stood up some green waves, which apparently is a very cool thing to do as a beginner. But more importantly, I had time to think and reflect and just be. Which resulted in important lessons about myself and my lifestyle. And for the interested, here’s a little summary of some of the things I learned:
LESSONS ON SURFING:
Winter gives better waves (and more surfer guys)
Surfing is incredibly difficult
No wave is the same as the other
There’s many ways to stand up; just make sure you learn to stand up, one way or another
The waves are scary, the sea is scary, but you can and should just feel the fear and do it anyway
Accomplishment is an amazing feeling
Give space and wait your turn
Enjoy, have fun and drink enough non-salty water
There’s never too much sunscreen and argan oil for your surf skin and hair
LESSONS ON LIFE:
I can and I should simplify my life
I don’t really need much to feel happy and comfortable
The cure for everything is salt water
Again, achievement is a good feeling
Always have time for kittens and goats
Let the wild things be free and respect them
Rest is best
Wait: morning coffee by the sea is the best
BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP
In addition to surf, there was yoga too. I still struggle with the spiritual part of yoga – for me, I still prefer the other kind of meditation or no meditation at all. However, I do like the “sport” itself for the way it forces me to slow down and take care of my body. It also allows me to gain strength in a different way I’m used to. And fear not, I’m not all serious yoga and vegan food kind of girl now. I still do my best to not take things too seriously. I don’t have a regime from which I could cheat, nor do I feel bad if and when I eat the burger and drink the beer when I haven’t run a marathon first. But I do have noticed I enjoy these things more after accomplishments. Simply, I enjoy the balance the most. And I have to give extra points to the men and women in our Villa who tried yoga for the first time during this week. Many said it most likely aren’t for them, not even the little it is for me, but like always it’s good to try first and only then give the opinion, of which I give them many points.
Strangely enough, I also enjoy being back at my “normal” everyday now. After a week of almost paradise conditions for self-care, it’s good to be a bit more occupied with the back-office work and hustle (and it was awesome to run the marathon too, again more of which you can read soon). I haven’t forgotten all the lessons from the trip, almost the opposite, and I try to continue the process whenever I am. But I also enjoy to get more structure on my daily life and concentrate more on doing and creating, for a while at least.
I’m also more than motivated (and damn well organized when it comes to plans and to-do lists) to come back here with more stories and pics. And I’m very motivated to get back to Morocco too. This time I concentrated on the ocean and activities, but some day soon I have to go back to fill my bags with the rugs and foutas and hammam rituals. And do the roadtrip to the Atlas mountains and see the night sky in the desert… I can pretty much transfer the hammam rituals to Finnish sauna, but for the Marrakech riads and the souk and the inspiration, I just have to get back. To Morocco and surfing. They’re so fascinating and so much different things than I’m used to. Good for the balance.
Have you ever experienced something similar? Or do you have some other new thing to try to suggest me? Comment is free and more than welcome. Take care and talk to you soon again.
*Note that because of the transfers and the fact I stayed in the camp setting most of the times I didn’t need to worry about the security aspects too much, although I do advice anyone planning a trip to Morocco to take the precautions seriously and plan their trip accordingly. Nevertheless, do not be too afraid to travel there; it’s an amazing place and I’m sure even women (solo) travelers can have great time there, as long as you do your research well beforehand.