Living Out Of A Suitcase With Mixed Feelings

Tiina Kivelä

Technically, I’ve been living out of a suitcase for almost four months now. One third of a year. I’ve had more or less permanent residencies during this time though, but the suitcase has stayed in the middle of a room all this time, in one form or other. And at this point, I’m a bit tired of this. First world problem, I know. But still – this not easy and I’m looking forward to December, when I’ll finally have a place for my stuff and myself, more of less permanent.

On one hand, I’m wondering what I’ll do with all that personal space I’ll get with the flat. And what I will do with all that stuff in the storage still, which I haven’t needed the past 17 months. On the other, I can’t wait to have a place in where to rest properly. To have a place where to sit down and reflect, close to my books and coffee mugs and history. Hotels are nice, like the one I’m now in Helsinki, but they aren’t the same (and they are damn expensive in the longer run). It’s been an accidental experiment and important lesson this nomad life. An eye opener for my privileges, and misfortune. It’s a privilege, this freedom, but I’ve also been misfortunate – having had to move and start over so many times.

Before I get my stuff out of the storage, I try to find enough time for a good reflection.  I’ll not read KonMari or any of the “how to have a good life as a woman” books out there (which seems to be a massive trend now, this women’s wellness). Instead, I’ll think how my grandmother used to organize her life in tiny places and around essential routines. I’m planning to make a list of the stuff I’ve really missed and needed, and also to built enough self discipline that when I’ll open the boxes, I’ll easily throw sell/give away the stuff I haven’t even remembered owning. I may read book or two about personal growth too (not the KonMari though); about how to identify and execute the essential, and just manage the hustle better. But I’ll not get overly stressed about straight lines on top of my chia bowl…

Yes, you may noticed I have a few issues with the women’s wellness trend – I mean, I’m all about wellness, just read below, and all my post of nice hotel rooms and spa’s I’ve spent time this year. But making wellness another highly stressed way of live, and add more pressure to lean in and have it all… No thanks. I run my marathon but I’ll also drink my beer. Without regrets.

Tiina Kivelä


I’ve come to notice that when you live out of a suitcase, you are kind of a drifter, no matter how cool it may look. Day by day, it gets easier to leave, to move on and not care too much. Which, essentially, creates almost an unbearable lightness of being, as Milan Kundera has put it in one of my favorite books. You don’t really have your own space this way; the only space you can and will claim is yourself. Or that’s how I feel about it. While being overly connected in one way, and so happy for all the technology and money and freedom, which allows me to keep contact to my friends and loved ones wherever I am or they are, and travel and move this much, I feel overly disconnected. I can and I go as I like. Unbearable lightness, that is.

I don’t seem to be alone in this. Some say comfort is the new cool. That more than ever, we seek to regain connection and comfort. For ourselves and others. For some, this creates new business opportunities and others try to remake a remake of the office before another remake. And for someone like me, this is shown in the way I turn into comforting things, familiar things; solitude and stories and food and even wine. Nature and sleep and good design. Things which soothe and reduce the stress and noise in the head.  Things which make me physically so tired that I forget how mentally trained I am. Remember the marathon?

Research at the University of Oregon concluded that exposure to sunlight and outdoor views correlated to about 6 percent fewer sick days than those without

I’m still looking for the good place to live in. Not sure I even need to find a place, but something is missing here. It doesn’t need to be a place, maybe it’s other way of moving on. But something, something can be done better, like always. Maybe I start with the sunlight exposure. And outdoor activity possibilities.

These days, me and my suitcase are exploring Helsinki. Browsing books and listening good writers in Helsinki book fair; drinking wine and tasting food (there’s Applenzeller cheese – grüezi!) in wine & book fair, and having cocktails and meet-ups with local friends. Helsinki is still not my cup of tea, quite far from it, and I’m afraid it never will be. But like always, good people and good moments make it bearable. Some book and wine tips will follow here, for sure, and maybe, hopefully, some bar & restaurant tips too.

Tiina Kivelä

Yesterday, I arrived in Helsinki during a heavy snowfall. In the evening, I walked to the restaurant to meet a friend, along snowy Aleksanterinkatu, to Senate Square and the Cathedral, which stood there like an ice queen, opposite the cozy looking restaurants with candles and beautiful people.  It was snowing still, big fluffy flakes, and the scene was a bit melancholy, nevertheless lovely, fusion between Nordic Noir and Leo Tolstoi: “The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience”. Then I went and had some awesome cocktails which had their literary references right with my friend.

On my way to sleep I stopped to get a falafel-halloumi pita from Fafa’s (my Helsinki late night routine for years already), before returning to my suitcase. From there, I picked my pyjamas, sat down to browse the books I bought from the book fair, and tried to think something which would read cool and thoughtful in here. But in reality, I was just happy I had food, a big comfy bed and warm shower. I thought I needed a good rest and I knew I’d gonna get it the next few nights. And luckily, others had already said what I needed at this point.

Like my altime favorite Tove Jansson has said, snow also looks (and really is) cold, but if you make a snowhouse of it (like the snow lantern or igglo), the house will be warm. With the same logic, maybe this “cold” life can also be warm, if I make it warm. I don’t know yet how, but I’m on my way. Wish me luck. And please, if you have any tips of how to make this kind of life more bearable, share your thoughts. Me and my suitcase would appreciate. And maybe there’s someone else struggling with the same things as I. So hi – you’re not alone.