• BLOG
  • From Ocean Swells To Real Wilderness

    Tiina Kivelä

    I’ve been back to Lapland for about a month now and damn it’s been a grey month. This month, there’s been one sunny day. One! Polar night is not even here yet, but already the darkness is wearing me out. I miss Morocco. I miss Switzerland. Anywhere with sun. It wasn’t this bad back in the days when I didn’t know of any better – but now when I know that there’s more options… Oh it’s hard.

    With this honest introduction, greetings from the Northern blues. With the weather and half-functioning foot, when I mostly stay in and read and work and browse things social media… It’s hard to stay smiling and positive these days. But it’s easy to keep on thinking. The first avalanche news of the season (I can’t really believe we talk about this the way we do – the first of the season) made me again think what the hell are we am I doing? Did I just book a winter camp in the Alps, for steep skiing and real mountaineering (and the sun)? Do I really, voluntarily, take the risk? Yes, I think I do. Though it’s difficult to describe clearly why so (except the sun part) – for me it just is the only way to go. The thing which motivates me and which keeps the (head)doctor away.

    And things have many sides. Before the news of the avalanche, I hadn’t heard of Hayden. But now I know, about him and his thoughts and writings too, which are interesting and very though provoking. Of course I would have liked to get to know him and his writings some other way. Nevertheless, this week I read this by the late Hayden and it made me thinking even more.

     

    I’ve also experienced how mountains strip us down to our true selves. We see who we are, and we see who are partners really are, and they see us back

     

    I’ve been also sorting photos of the past year. Checked the pics from Switzerland and thought how grateful I am for every single moment I’ve experienced there. I’ve thought about the mountains and people I’ve met there, and after little reflecting I have to say I like the effect these things have had on me. Then Morocco and the warm sunny days

    And today I stumbled on the video below. When compared with the articles I’ve recently read in Finnish newspapers about Morocco, a country full of young people without job, money or hope, potential terrorists, the video paints a rather different picture of the country. The articles are good and telling the truth too, but I’m that kind of person who likes to know the whole picture – see videos like this and remember my own trip to Morocco. World and these issues are complex and almost always there is some kind of hope – a different side to the story. How about we gave more people surfboards? How about we’d give them an example that there are other possibilities too?  And what if we talked more about this side of the story too – about the potential and different way of living – would it help? I don’t know – but in one way, I see again new purpose for my own writing and adventures. Pictures and stories I want to live, take and tell.

    In Morocco, I was living in a kind of a bubble I admit. But still, I was living the reality of that bubble, which was Moroccan in its own way. While there, driving back to the Agadir airport, my driver played both Justin Bieber and local radio station. In the ocean, I swam with other tourists and locals with or without burkinis. There were big new resort and apartment complexes being built by the coast too I saw (let’s not og into detail what this mean really and how positive the foresight really is for them). I was really experiencing the Moroccan life, real life (first I was going to write here I was living the Moroccan life, but then I read this and came to think again that I really didn’t live like a local there, I rarely do – I was a experiencing it as an outsider, visitor). I am kind of a nomad now, local away, and luckily now I’m finally ok with that. As long as I can share the experience with someone – the locals, other visitors and with you when writing this.

     

    our belief in inextricable human connection is one of our most renewable sources of courage in the wilderness – we want to believe that despite our differences and despite the need to brave the wilderness, we don’t always have to walk alone

     

    Now when I think back my travels, I really realize how and why I love travel so much. For me it’s the best way to see more, experience more and connect with other people, all kind of people. Feel the connection and prove that it really exists, out there on the road even. You may not identify it right when it happens, but it’s there, especially if and when you stop, pause, breathe and reflect. It’s ok to be local and outsider too, and hopefully also remember responsibility and respect.

    Recently, I’ve also heard from many people that they thought I travel and live the way I do with someone else’s money. And that I don’t choose something just because I don’t want it – not because I can’t afford it (which is the reality, btw). Many seem to think that I have some kind of magical fund (or parents or a man) supporting me financially. Unfortunately, I have not. I have an education though, the free Finnish one, but I work hard for my money and lifestyle now. I am privileged of course, white girl from western country, but things you see here and in my Instagram feed are funded by hard work by me, myself and I – they are a result of hard choices and many times sacrifices too. I don’t own an apartment. Right now I don’t even rent one. I can’t afford a car (which would btw make life up here so much easier) and I fly with the unreasonably scheduled flights because they are the only ones I can afford. For another example, I lived in Zürich with my savings from the previous winter and I do use my credit card a bit too much to my liking.

     

    Trade-offs are not something to be ignored or decried. They are something to be embraced and made deliberately, strategically, and thoughtfully.

     

    I need to choose and compromise a lot to be able to live like this. We all have, except for the very few who can have everything. Maybe. I’m kind of sure no-one can have it all really. With my lifestyle, I also hear a lot people saying that maybe just haven’t found my place yet. Like I should really and which has caused me some stress earlier. Or what it’s even more worrying, they propose I’m running away from something, more than else from myself. Ok, that might have been the case years ago and in some situations right – sometimes I just need some time in a beautiful place to clear my head – but now it’s almost the opposite. On the road, especially when traveling solo and moving from country to country alone, you are extremely open to yourself and your feelings and your own problems. And if and when you are going to survive it all well, you have to be extremely open and nice to other people. Wherever you go or wherever you stay.

     

    it can actually limit the opportunity for growth and reflection if you don’t stop, pause, breathe, and reflect

     

    I do know some people simply can’t choose. They have to stick to what they are given and for what they are born to. And I don’t know if it’s because of the travels or what, but the older I get the more I feel like I need to make my choices as wisely as possible and understand to be grateful for being able to choose. And more than else I wanna share the experience, tell my part of the story.

    Right now, if I could, I’d choose coffee by the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently it’s the season of good swells. But for now, I have to be happy with just the cup of coffee and watching the gray northern landscape. Hoping it will turn white soon so I can make snowballs and roll down the hills like a panda in snow. Yes, I do like these kind of light funny flicks too. I do have a humor, which you might not easily guess of my serious talk (joking is btw one of the hardest things to master in foreign language).

    I’m also preparing well for the coming winter season. Book trips, buy some essential stuff for mountains and my coming apartment (at some point I’ll have it again, maybe) and do some squats for the skiing and push-ups for the rope sections. And yes, I do some reflecting too. Now when I have the time to stop, pause, breathe and reflect. Thought I can’t wait to get back on the adventures – taller than ever. Because if this reflecting and the books on personal growth I’ve been reading don’t help me grow, a lot, then I don’t know what.

    If you managed to read this far, well done. I get back to growing now. See you later!


    Where: World


    Quotes: 1 & 4) Hayden Kennedy, 2) Greg McKeown, 3) Brené Brown,

     

  • BLOG
  • Good Place To Sleep in Rovaniemi – Arctic Light Hotel

    Tiina Kivelä

    The title of one of my favorite songs, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, could describe this hotel quite well. However, Arctic Light hotel is not my style. I’m not luxury like it. Almost the opposite. Normally, my go-to option is everything nordic cool, or hipster, as my friends would say. But the older I get the more I like posh, or rather I would say I like taking care of me. In other words, I’ve now found myself liking the 5* hotels, expensive smelly candles and even spa’s. More adventure but even more comfort.  Or, as this sentence from here sums it: play hard, rest hard.

    In places like Arctic Light hotel I like especially the 5* service and design with an Arctic twist. Oh boy it’s nice and I love it. Why wouldn’t I? As the title suggest, the beds are especially good for sleep. Breakfast is famous and delicious (worth waking up early) and the most important thing in Finland, sauna, both the in-room and the separate hotel sauna (which you can reserve for yourself only from the reception) is excellent as well. The sauna works extra well when paired with the hotel toiletries by Rituals (with whom I have a long complicated history by now) and if you are lucky, you may also share your bath with a polar bear (but please note that polar bear isn’t native in Lapland really). And for the interested (and enough earning ones), hotel is one of the few in Finland offering Concierge service.

    I wish I’d have more money to stay here more often. It’s not my style but I love it enough still. And if you can, check it out. Go have a good sleep or stop by for a breakfast, after work drinks, or dinner.

     


    Where: Arctic Light Hotel, Valtakatu 18, 96200 Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland

    ~

    Ps. An insider tip: I just looked flights for December (I just can’t keep myself away from the best Christmas markets) and noticed it’s time to hurry up, if you plan to visit Lapland in December, especially during the holiday season. The flights are pretty expensive already, and some days fully booked even.

    I’ve been myself quite devastated that Germania didn’t continue their direct seasoned flights between Lapland and Switzerland after last winter. Those flights were kind of a selling point for me when I was thinking is it worth to move back north this winter and now I do feel a bit trapped in here (or should earn a bit more to afford the Finnair flights). However that’s just my personal catastrophe, and there are other flights still for you and me even – fewer and more expensive, but still. Just make sure you are on time when booking your trips to and from Lapland – it’s busy up here around Christmas.


    FI: Sarjassamme hyvä paikka nukkua Rovaniemellä: Arctic Light Hotel

     

  • BLOG
  • GIRLS SURF AND YOGA WEEK IN TAGHAZOUT

    Tiina Kivelä

    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.

    Tiina Kivelä

     

    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.

    Tiina Kivelä

    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

    Tiina KIvelä

    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.

    Where: Taghazout, Morocco, Surf Maroc / Boundless Betty Girls Surf Week


    *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.