torstai 26. tammikuuta 2017

Back again

Well hello jet lag.

I came home yesterday around 6 p.m. Time difference between Finland and our business destination, South Korea, is 7 hours and we started our homeward journey around 1 a.m. It was a long way - 15 hours of traveling! Luckily I was able to stay up until 10 p.m., so I managed to get a good 8 hours of sleep before heading back to the office. Apparently it didn´t go that well with my colleagues since I haven´t seen them today...

We managed to arrange our meetings so that we experienced the coldest two days South Korea can offer in winter. It was around -15 and windy... as one could imagine, the heating is not that efficient in a country with temperate climate and I was freezing basically throughout the trip. The hotel staff had a habit of turning off the air-condition after their daily clean-up, so the temperature in our rooms was around 15 degrees when we returned from meetings in the evening. Nice - NOT. Fortunately there was enough warm water in the shower, so I could feel my toes every once in a while :)

As we were very busy with work, I really didn´t have time to explore any attractions. However, I find Korean people very welcoming and polite. The traffic was as usual in Asian countries - hectic, but luckily we didn´t see any bad accidents. They do prefer their own car brands like Kia and Hyundai, and I even had a chance to get a ride in a modern Hyundai limousine. There is a first time for everything, right?

I have to say that sea food is not my favourite, so I don´t have particular appeal to East Asian kitchen. They do have nice restaurants with good beef as well, but of course we were mainly introduced to many traditional dishes. This time I was delighted to note that I could eat with chopsticks though! In Korea they use metallic ones, which are a bit more slippery than wooden sticks.

Korean dishes

perjantai 20. tammikuuta 2017

Packing for business

I will soon fly to East Asia for business and I thought I could share a peek of what I usually pack for a quick 4-day trip.

First, I always check the weather in destination. In this case, state of the weather seems to be quite similar to Finland, so I will definitely take my winter clothes with me. You never know how -5 centigrade feels in another continent before you can actually experience it. For example, even -1 feels much more freezing somewhere near Siberia than it does in Western Finland.

In my hand-luggage, which normally is a bigger handbag, I carry all the things I definitely don´t want to lose in any situation:

- passport
- smartphone & charger
- wallet with all necessary cards, possibly cash
- flight ticket (which I actually carry in my smartphone these days, thanks to several airlines´ applications)
- laptop & charger for work
- possible paper documents regarding business meetings + pen and notebook
- business cards
- wireless headphones for Spotify
- necessary medicines
- a good book or magazines
- (toothbrush if traveling long distances in economy class)

My male colleagues have often mentioned that I´m not a typical woman because I tend to travel light. For a short trip of less than a week, I can easily deal with a small suitcase which could easily be counted as carry-on luggage. Nevertheless, I will have it delivered into cargo space and take my handbag with me to the cabin.

For the following trip, my suitcase will include at least:

- socks & underwear
- blazer and few t-shirts
- trousers
- casual clothes for possible leisure time
- skin care and make-up
- tooth brush
- travel sized shampoo, conditioner and shower gel
- hair brush & spray
- alternative shoes
- pyjamas
- gym clothes

In addition to normal address label attached somewhere on top of my suitcase, I add the same information inside the bag as well. The luggage is certainly not handled with care, so in case of a loss and damaged address label I believe it is practical to have your contact details also inside the bag. Especially when traveling in more exotic countries, I tend to carry paper copies of my passport both in my cabin bag and suitcase. Just in case of losing the passport...

Lastly, I must admit I absolutely hate packing! This is why I always pack about an hour before leaving the house. The more I travel the faster I pack. I hope the same would apply for unpacking...

Anyways, have a nice weekend!

keskiviikko 18. tammikuuta 2017

Lonely traveler

Many people could not imagine travelling alone. I was one of those people before I decided to give it a try.

It was summer about five years ago and, typical for me, I had no plans for midsummer. First I tried to recall whether I had any friends who could join me, but at that time most of them had plans with their families. I never thought I would not be able to travel alone - it was the complete loneliness I was concerned about. Then I realised I spend most my weekends alone at home, so why not do that somewhere else?

I pondered different options and ended up with familiar one - London. A city which has so much to offer, so I thought I wouldn´t get bored that easily. The trip went well and all, but I still think it would have been more fun with company. And yet again, I did the same thing last summer so I guess it isn´t that bad after all. Business trips are a bit different because at destinations I have scheduled meetings and most likely local partners to have dinner with.


So what do I enjoy when travelling by myself?

Freedom. I can do whatever I want and whenever I want. I can decide whether to spend all day reading a book at the beach, rent a car or a bike, take a bus to another city, shop, go to the gym etc. I can choose what and where to eat and no one is criticizing my choices.

Time to think. Last time I travelled alone I was feeling quite low for some reasons. When you are far away from home, things can be seen in a different perspective. Nasty argument with someone close to you may start to feel pointless, you might realise you have set way too high expectations for yourself or you can realise that something is not good for you and you need to let it go. I had time to think about the things that bothered me without them ruining my holiday, because I really had plenty of time to do fun stuff as well.

New people. I have to say that I´m quite used to spending my time alone (not sure if I like that or not), and as an introvert I´m not the most eager to get to know new people. Luckily sometimes it just happens without big efforts. I decided to go for a horse riding trip once, and there I met a lovely lady who owned the ranch. We had interesting conversations about her horses and the stable´s history. You never know who will sit next to you on the next flight - for example, I´ ve experienced the most hilarious flight sitting next to a frisk Finnish businessman talking about his experiences of an exhibition we both were on our way to.

Unfortunately there are also some less enjoyable aspects while traveling alone.

New people. Yes, they can be both good and bad acquaintances. What I don´t particularly enjoy, as a woman, are over-enthusiastic men. Especially in tourist places a young(ish) woman eating alone in a restaurant truly attracts local gigolos. I would never ever say yes to any invitations for "I´ll show you the city with my Mercedes"- kind of occasions, no matter how cute the inviter is. On my previous "alone trip" I attended an interval training class accompanied by another Finnish lady. And boy was she chatty! She would probably have wanted me to move to their hotel room just to tell me all about her life in details. No wonder her husband was not as chatty as I met him in the end of our class...

Loneliness. This is definitely the biggest disadvantage on my list. Even though I spend lots of time on my own, it is only half the fun to explore and experience the world if you don´t have anyone to share it with. I don´t like to have dinner alone in a restaurant so I usually buy something from supermarket / fast food restaurant and eat in the hotel room. Sounds extremely dull, I know, but then again I do that all the time at home. It is not fun to sip a cocktail at a bar either, so what I usually do is focus on other activities such as sports, shopping and walking around the streets of whichever city I´m in. Maybe I would learn to fully enjoy a lonely weekend somewhere if I had a totally hyperactive family, but at my stage of being a heartless single I could use some company when traveling.

Constant "standby" mode. Well, this can be seen as instructive as well, but sometimes I find constant controlling of schedules, transportation arrangements and observing possible changes during journey quite tiring. Of course I am always observing the timetable and checking that I have everything with me (passport and money, for instance), but somehow I can be more laid-back in company which I know do the same as I. When you are alone, you need to take special care of yourself and your luggage, because no one will tell you not to forget your jacket when leaving the lounge or to note that the gate for your flight has changed for the third time. This may sound as if I was a little child who needs to be cared for, but I can tell you that you can behave quite exceptionally when you suddenly notice that you need to run to the other side of terminal in three minutes. I hope someone enjoys the book(s) I have abandoned in Frankfurt... and Dubai... and Bangkok...

All in all, my final opinion is that everyone should try traveling alone at least once. Even though I personally prefer traveling with company, there is some glory in taking time for yourself as well. The first trip alone was instructive, and afterwards I was happy to be able to implement it regardless minor anxieties. Now I know I can do it and enjoy it for sure.

maanantai 16. tammikuuta 2017

Cruising in Brescia

One of my most recent business destinations was Italy. I have been at the same region twice and driven exactly the same highways both times. Well, at least I drove the first time. On our latest trip my colleague demanded to get behind the wheel. I wonder why - I only got two fines... anyway, since our meetings were in Brescia area, we flew to Milan Malpensa airport and rented a car. It is easiest to drive from Malpensa to Brescia in order to avoid heavy traffic near other airports. In addition, Finnair offers direct flights to Malpensa.

Last time we got a hybrid Toyota. It was a first time for me to sit in a hybrid car, and I think I will prefer one the next time I need to rent a car. I love the idea of less fuel consumption leading to less pollution load. I wish this kind of technology evolves fast to replace today´s vehicles.

I have few remarks regarding the fines I got few years ago. I think the traffic is quite vivid compared to Finnish accurately controlled road transport, thanks to four-laned freeways with only a few surveillance cameras. They do have them in cities though. I noticed this since I got a ticket in 60km/h speed limit somewhere near Lake Iseo. I didn´t realise this until my colleague received a letter from Italian authority about six months after our trip... the other surprise I got after two years: a letter titled "Non-payment of motorway tolls". Worth 4,21eur + mailing expenses. Better late than never, right? I know these tolls are worth around 6 euros / 100km and we did conscientiously pay them, but apparently we didn´t pay enough. I hope 4,21eur ticket was worth 2,58eur mailing fee. ;)

About roads in (Northern) Italy. The freeways are mostly smooth and well maintained. Gas stations are easily found. Smaller roads between villages in the countryside may have few bumps and tough curves, but otherwise driving is carefree. I enjoy cruising between small cities and admiring the lovely views. Vineyards, mountains, farms, suburbs. Even the smallest village has at least one minimarket and restaurant. During my latest stay in a commune of 800 residents, I suddenly had to pay a visit at a pharmacy. Thanks to a caring hotel clerk I found one: in connection with a butcher´s shop! Definitely not feasible in Finland.

Torrazzo of Cremona

Even though I´m currently not a fan of do-it-yourself backpacking travels (since I really have had my share of arranging trips for work), a road-trip in Italy would be something to consider. I bet renting a car is a much better way to see the country compared to bus or train. You can choose your own path and accommodation along the way. During summer time it might be a good idea to book hotels in advance, but otherwise the hotels in small cities are usually not fully booked.

By the way: if Lake Como or Lake Garda are so last season, I recommend a visit to Lake Iseo. It is not that known but I wish to be able to see it during summer time as well. Such a beautiful place.

perjantai 13. tammikuuta 2017

Stockholm love

As I previously mentioned, my friend lives in Stockholm. I have been visiting her few times a year and every time find myself in fantastic restaurants, cosy bars, lovely little cafés, shopping centers, parks, concerts...

I wish we could have at least some of the fresh Scandinavian atmosphere in Finnish cities as well, and I just cannot help myself comparing Stockholm to Helsinki. Even though I think Helsinki is a nice capital of Finland, I find its atmosphere a bit cold. I usually get the feeling that everyone is in a hurry and  very organized and don´t have time to sit down and have a glass of wine with a friend. Those kind of small and casual things like a coffee with friends need to be organized well in advance. Why? In Stockholm the overall atmosphere is more casual, even though I know people have their hustles there as well. For example, after work events (either as planned or sudden ideas) are popular and people want to spend time with each other.

What would I recommend to do and see in Stockholm?

Gamla Stan (old town). I have been there both in summer time and in November, just in time for Christmas Market. Mulled wine has never tasted better! The architecture takes you back to the 17th century. The royal castle, royal palace, several churches and museums together with various cafés and restaurants attract many tourists.

Shopping. My favourite is NK. Near by located Gallerian offers multiple shops as well. Åhlens department store is a Swedish reply to Stockmann and Sokos. They have several stores in Stockholm, and the biggest is located few blocks from NK. In addition, various brands have their own stores around Norrmalm and Östermalm.

Wine and dine (and some more wine). I love the variety of restaurants, bars and cafés in Stockholm. One of the best (and surprisingly delicious for a meat lover like me) meals I have had at Hermans vegetarian buffet restaurant at Fjällgatan 23B. It is located near Fotografiska museum and Viking Line´s terminal.

Stureplan has several bars and restaurants, and I can warmly recommend East in case of sushi cravings. Many Stockholm´s hotels, such as Scandic Anglais, offer stylish bars for drinks.

I have spent much time in Kungsholmen, and based on my knowledge Mälarpaviljongen is definitely the place to enjoy sunny days. It is a café/bar where you can stop by to have coffee, beer or skagen. Mälarpaviljongen is open from April to the last warm autumn days. Orangeriet is a great place to have a glass (or two, or three) of wine. If you want to show your moves, Lemon Bar is the right place to release your inner dancing queen in Kungsholmen area.


Parks and seashore. There are many nice parks around Stockholm and my favourite one is Kungsträdgården. It may not be as green as parks usually appear to be, but the cherry trees are enough to capture my attention. Unfortunately they bloom only in spring time. There are many lovely cafés around the garden. In the summer time you can find terrace docks with bars and restaurants near Kungsträdgården (ok, basically everywhere you can see water and boats). Swedish people really know how to enjoy summer!


Culture. Stockholm has several big concert venues (Tele2 Arena, Friends Arena, Gröna Lund) and many great artists visit them on their European/world tours. I have been to Tele2 Arena to see Red Hot Chili Peppers, and that was an amazing experience. Besides concerts, Stockholm offers countless theatres, exhibitions, museums etc. Not to mention various events such as The Color Run I have attended few times.

Next time (which will be in few weeks!) I´m looking forward exploring new restaurants and encountering some culture. Maybe Fotografiska museum or search for a good band playing somewhere? Gröna Lund is a must-see if I ever get to travel to Stockholm during summer. There is so much more to see and experience that I´m sure I ain´t seen nothing yet... anyway, see you soon K & A!

keskiviikko 11. tammikuuta 2017

Traveling mode

There are basically two occasions why I travel: either for business or just for fun and relaxation.

I have a job which has taken me places I probably would have never decided to go by myself. It may sound cool and glamorous to experience different cultures, and of course it has its virtues, but after few years I find several reasons why it can also be quite exhausting in the long run. You can actually get tired of traveling, believe it or not. And I´m not even traveling that much compared to some of my colleagues!

First of all: I don´t live in Helsinki. I actually need to travel 3-4 hours by car or taxi to get to Helsinki airport, which gets so boring especially if you have to do return trips three times in a month. This is a big disadvantage and I´m eagerly waiting for faster train connections or dependable domestic flights to Helsinki!

Helsinki airport is quite functional: normal procedures such as safety control and flight information are well organized. I just don´t understand the prices in the restaurants and bars! It is simply ridiculous to pay 3,40 euros for a small bottle of water. If you want a small (carefully measured 12 cl) glass of wine, you need to pay around 10-12 euros. Quality of food is not at all worth the prices. I hope something, or someone, will change this phenomenon asap.

Destinations are either near in Europe or far in other continents. Either way, the flights are quite boring and numbing. I usually travel in economy class, but for long-haul business flights business class is accessible. Since unfortunately I´m not capable of sleeping in sitting position, I am grateful for horizontally adjustable business class seats. They have saved me few good night´s sleeps so far. However, I have to say I just don´t see the glamour in flying in "upper class". I admit it is nice to have 3 course lunch/dinner/good breakfast featured by numerous beverages, but personally I wouldn´t pay 2000 euros for business class if I could get economy seat for 500 euros. It wouldn´t reduce the flying time anyway.

One of the perks of business traveling is that I can choose a rather good accommodation. I don´t exactly love any hotels, but I do get better rest under clean sheets in smoothly conditioned and soundproof room. Unfortunately this kind of housing is not available in all my business destinations. I have slept behind bars and mosquito nets in a guest house located in the middle of jungle. I didn´t have the courage to look under the bed...

During the past few years my idea of a lovely holiday abroad has changed. Before I started traveling as part of my job, I was excited to plan and book the holiday trips carefully. Even a thought of a package tour was out of question because I enjoyed booking flights and hotels how ever I wanted. The more unique, the better. Today my ideal holiday is a week or two in a 5-star all-inclusive hotel resort in Crete. I implemented this kind of vacation last summer and it was perfect.

After all the criticality, I still am truly grateful to be able to see the world. All this traveling has elaborated my view of life. I have learnt to appreciate everything I have and I feel very obligated.

maanantai 9. tammikuuta 2017

Home sweet Finland

This year we are honored to celebrate Finland for its 100 years as an independent country. In my opinion, Finland is a great country. I´m not saying that only because I was born in Finland (lucky me!) - I´m saying that based on visits to several other countries as well. Of course there are days when I curse Finnish bureaucracy and harsh taxation, but even so I think Finland has more pros than cons. So, let me share some opinions about what makes Finland such a great country for me.

Fresh air. When traveling in tropical and subtropical countries, I always miss breathing the fresh air in Finland. In many developing countries pollution is a huge problem. Air pollution together with damp air is not ideal to breathe. This is why I have learnt to appreciate even the darkest season in Finland - even though you need a flashlight almost round the clock, you will feel refreshed after a long walk.

Nature. Finland is full of forest, lakes, fields and fells. Several studies indicate that even a short 20-minute walk in the woods reduces blood pressure and lifts up your mind. My favorite place for meditating walks is by the shore. I´m fortunate to live near one of the most beautiful beaches in Finland.

Four seasons. It is so nice to experience winter wonderland, nature´s green awakening, light summer days and colorful autumn leaves in 12 months! Even though I love summer, I probably wouldn´t appreciate it as much as if it was a permanent season.

Beautiful sunset in January.

Social security. Regardless many citizen´s opinions nowadays, Finland is a welfare society. This is something many Finnish people take for granted and yet still complain about poor subsistence. I could go on about this topic for ages, but I will just say that it is up to each and everyone to make life the best they can. Society is not responsible for financing fancy lifestyle for everyone, but it can help to get back on your feet if you are going through temporary rough times. I wish every Finn could be able to put things into perspective. We are lucky to have our kind of social security. If someone doesn´t agree, I strongly recommend living in Zambian countryside for a week or two (a day would most likely be enough to understand my point).

Zambian household.

Education. I sincerely appreciate the school system in Finland. There are no tuition fees for Finns and even lunch is free of charge in comprehensive school. I have studied both bachelor´s and master´s degree in Finland, the latter in English. Quality of education is excellent. You don´t need scholarships or rich parents to get education - you just need to decide what you want to study and go for it! This is not the case in many other countries.

Safety. Last year World Economic Forum (WEF) nominated Finland as the safest country in the world. I agree with that. I don´t have to think about whether it is safe to go for a run alone at 9 p.m. My friend can let her baby sleep in prams outdoors while she prepares dinner in their kitchen. Medical care is excellent in Finland. Traffic is safer than in most countries. Terrorism is not as big of a threat as it is in many other European countries at the moment.

Equality. As a woman, I am grateful that in Finland it is possible to break the stereotypes. For example, women can choose to vote, get higher education, become a president, dress without limitations, be gay, build a career, be a housewife; sky´s the limit. For a man it is acceptable to be a homemaker when his wife concentrates on educating herself or creating a career. In fact, social security system supports fathers to stay home for few weeks with mom and new-born baby.

People. Well, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about this nation. What I don´t love about us Finns is ungratefulness about what we have, sick jealousy of neighbor´s new car, lack of communicating skills and intolerance. On the other hand I appraise Finnish honesty, authenticity, pride, persistence and sense of humor.

There are definitely much more to be grateful for, but these are the most important facts for me. These are the reasons why I´m always happy to be back home.

torstai 5. tammikuuta 2017

Traveling to year 2017

New year, new adventures.

On the first day of January 2017 I thought to myself "I didn´t travel that much last year". After that I immediately started reminiscing the past twelve months and quite fast came to a completely opposite conclusion. My image "I didn´t travel that much" actually meant that I visited 7 countries - one of them twice. Yep - your mind can be tricky. Where did I wander then?

My all-time favorite city - London. I have traveled there several times, and in January I spent few days there with my friend. Mostly shopping, shopping and shopping accompanied with pub food and drinks. Skygarden was a new and magnificent finding for me on this trip: spectacular view over London city and lovely city garden surrounded by fine bars and restaurants. Beats queuing to London Eye!

Skygarden in Aldgate, London

Good old Düsseldorf. A city where I first ended up through work about four years ago. This city is a true international exhibition center. In April it was time to attend one of the many exhibitions as exhibitor. In the evenings the old town was packed with people as usual, but we managed to get some food (and Killepitsch) after all. It´s nice to travel to Southern Europe in spring time to feel the warm weather and watch cherry trees bloom. It gives hope that Finland´s nature will soon turn green.

Stadtgraben in Königsallee. So green, so spring!

Stockholm. It is a city which I have come to know better in past few years. My dear friend lives there and it is always so nice (and easy!) to visit her. This time, on May, we attended The Color Run, which we did in 2015 as well. This weekend consisted of sun, great food, drinks, fabulous company of K and A and of course the run. Had fun as always - it is so cool to have such a complex yet scandinavian city so close to Finland!

In June I took my sister-in-law with me to Dublin. Again lots of shopping (partly thanks to my shopaholic company), strolling around city and visiting Guinness Storehouse. In addition we experienced lovely colors on the front doors, nice pubs, some Irish coffee and food. Someday it would be nice to rent a car and see the green hills of Ireland!

Norwegian nature on our way from Dublin to Oslo.

The most random trip of year 2016 was my getaway from Finnish midsummer. I was feeling incredibly tired and low, so decided to book a fancy hotel from Platanias, Crete. I have to say that even though I usually find traveling alone quite boring and sad, this trip was all I needed at that point. Sun, great hotel, mountain biking, horses, beach, pool, food, cross nature lessons, cold white wine, happy people, beautiful sunsets, good books. It was nice to come home after a relaxed week.

I miss these Cretan sunsets!

In September Stockholm part two happened. K and I went to see Red Hot Chili Peppers and the gig was just brilliant! It was the last warm weekend of 2016 and we spent most of the time outdoors. Stockholm´s restaurants (vegetarian burrito from a food truck was to die for!) and bars gave us their best as usual.

They have palm trees in Stockholm. In September.

In October it was time for business in Saransk. Well, what can I say... train ride from Moscow to Saransk station and back was somewhat interesting. Didn´t sleep that much there! Russian culture is very interesting and it was exciting to see how people live outside Moscow or Saint Petersburg. I would say there is quite a gap between Red Square area and Saransk suburbs.

St. Basil´s Cathedral in Moscow.

The seventh trip was again all business and included Brescia region in Italy. I had been there once before this trip and the places had remained quite the same. It is nice to see both cities and countryside, and I find Italian people very welcoming and polite especially in smaller villages. This time we had a chance to visit the amazing Areadocks in Brescia city. It was an indescribable complex with restaurant, bar, night club, clothing store and whatever you could imagine. I was very thankful for our local guide who took us there. The weather was quite pleasant even though it was November already.

Milanese city lights on my way back to winter wonderland.

So yes, it seems I sure have had my share of airplanes. This year may be interesting as well since I already have flights to two locations for upcoming weeks. First business, then pleasure!