no category, traveling, vandreams

My Favourite Travel Destinations

Moscow, Russia

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Okay, I’ve written about this already before but what can I say – it’s just so weird? A historical city lamented with cultural heritage marked with the rich (and bloody) history of Russia. A city that has a centre full of beautiful churches and infrastructure (the famous metro stations, as an example) straight out from a fairy-tale. To be fair, the other side might be the monotonic colourless suburbs surrounding the growing megalopolis; being home to the population flowing to work in the capital from all over Russia and the former Soviet countries.

Mihail Bulgakov captured the atmosphere of Moscow in his novel ‘Master and Margarita’ – a classic I sadly haven’t been able to obtain into my restricted van library just yet. But the day when our physical paths cross will come, and until then I can always count on the public library or my friend’s book shelf. Also, it is worth mentioning that nowadays a mega city like Moscow serves for the first world needs of a hipster vegan nomad millennial like me from multiple vegan restaurants and shops to unique underground areas, museums and party hotspots.

Seattle, Washington, USA

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I took photographs only onto film back in those days…

Because it’s the geographical birth place of a genre of the generation who was young around the time I was born, grunge. Although I may not agree on the hate for their hippie generation parents, the music, fashion and attitudes are still pretty great to this day. I found Seattle to be such an awesome city with lots of creative people, and I was lucky to be able to visit there in 2013. Gosh, it seems like a decade ago already!

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Waiting for my flight to depart in Manchester Airport.

Also, I confess being quite addicted to Starbucks’ plant-based caramel latte these days. The first coffee shop going with the name was indeed founded near Pike Place Market in 1971 – and it’s still actually running! Here’s a tip for you: the chain brands that serve vegan products are required to do that in all over the world which sounds pretty lame but can actually save your butt in a hurry sometimes.

Helsinki, Finland

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The Cathedral pictured from the stairs of the main University building.

I don’t know if it’s just embarrassing or uncomfortably patriotic to list your own current home town into this kind list but… damn it! Helsinki has just that something that really treats this small town girl fondly even in the rush hours of a capital city (on Finnish scale) or coldness of the winter wind blowing straight from the sea into your core.

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The interior of cafe ‘Ihana’ in Helsinki.

Even if I never have lived in the actual area that is considered to be the centre, the University of Helsinki is nowadays located right next to the Cathedral (or at least the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are). For me, the best moment is to walk past the church and turn to the Alexander Street (Aleksanterinkatu) which is beautifully lit on Christmas time – starting from late November. After the last lecture around 6 pm the air is usually crispy and clear, sometimes even filled with small flakes of snow. If I have time, I sometimes stop by at my favourite cafe called ‘Ihana’ (which means ‘lovely’) to have a warm glass of glögi (hot mulled wine).

Copenhagen, Denmark

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I visited there once as a part of a student excursion and it all seemed very cute, colourful, environmentally friendly and, somehow, European (whatever that is supposed to mean). How can you not like a place with huge public swings in the parks? At least if you’re not a complete dull head.

 

Cities/Countries/Areas that I still have on my bucket list:

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Yep, clearly there’s room to fill in there!

Budapest, Hungary

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The capital of Hungary is on the top of my list for somewhat same reasons as Moscow: they both are very historical and just a bit weird in an intriguing way (or so I’ve heard about Budapest since I haven’t yet visited the place). Also, as a kid I used to love the truffle-filled candies wrapped in the silver paper with decorative blue font. I wonder what happened to those sweets? Could I be able to find them if I REALLY put my investigative mind and effort into it…? This could be worth an adventurous post. Let me know what you think: to hunt or not to hunt the lost candies of the childhood!?!

Croatia

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Haven’t YOU already heard the rumour that it’s absolutely beautiful in there!

Also, my favourite character Kate Cameron in the American historical fiction TV-series ‘Pan Am’ fell in love with a tall handsome stranger from Jugoslavia. When they departed, the savvy red-head whispered tears in her eyes that she heard it’s beautiful in there. This intertextual reference makes it even more dramatic and intriguing for me!

Iceland

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A couple of my friends at the Environmental Science went as an exchange student in Reykjavik and posted stunning shots taken from their field trips.

Vietnam

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In a somewhat twisted and bittersweet way I do find the history of this country pretty darn interesting! My godfather has visited Vietnam multiple times, shown me pictures and told some stories from his trips – and now I am permanently in an utter state of despair mixed with travel jealousy. Grrrr!

Japan

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Around the time when I was in my early teen years, we had a major boom of the manga and anime culture: suddenly it become highly mainstream to draw manga and consume Japanese culture products on a daily basis. Even I underwent a period of one year where I would spend my weekly allowance on a manga comic book which used to cost from seven to ten euros per piece. Luckily you didn’t have to own all of the series yourself since friends were always there to loan you their collection – a couple of books or all of them at once. You could always spot a manga fan pretty easily judging from the amount of books they were carrying around.

After eight grade my sudden interest faded until recently when I started to watch at least somewhat more authentic Japanese anime series with a friend (the cute comedies are my favourites!). That’s actually something I could potentially make a proper post in the future if you are interested to hear more! Anyway, Japan seems to be a somewhat conflicting culture (in terms of feminism, for example) but an interesting one worth getting in touch more. Especially the smaller towns and spectacular nature of the island country!

Canada

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Actually the resemblance is quite uncanny to Finland!

Technically I have already visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls but what I still really  want would be a full-blown road trip through all the forest and moose parts of Canada. Which I assume would hopefully turn out to be quite rewarding for a die-hard Twin Peaks fan like me.

Alaska Alaska

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Christopher McCandless aka Alexander Supetramp may have canonized this into the ultimate initiation rite for any young anarchist who wants to test one’s limits outside the known society.

Technically I could argue that for me the whole call of the Scandinavian Lapland is basically the same thing – and that’s exactly why I’m heading there first. (Sometimes in the summer, of course.) But I can’t deny that the thought of driving through Canada to Alaska wouldn’t be intriguing and most pleasant…

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If you happen to be from or have been in some of these destinations mentioned above, please let me know your story on the comments section! And if any of you are coming to Helsinki on this May, June or from August onwards, I’d be delighted to give you a free tour around the city centre!

Yours,

Miah

daily blog, vandreams

Introducing Nessa.

For a change, a little bit shorter blog post today!

May I present you with the lucky charm/mascot protector of my future van – the Rainbow Elephant! You may already think I am completely crazy but… I already named her Nessa.

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My tiny little wooden friend.

I happened to found her after a regular visit to the convenience store last winter. A kind-looking lady was selling her old stuff underneath the bridge that the local train uses. I think I fell in love with my tiny Elephant friend pretty much the moment I saw her. Nowadays, Nessa sits on top of my window sill – enjoying the sun shine and reminding me of my vandreams. She succeeds in bringing a smile onto my face every time I set my eyes on her. I think that’s the way it should be between travellers and mascots, anyway! Luckily I have found mine.

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Yours,

Miah (and Nessa)

 

vandreams

5 Humorous Reasons Why I’d be Totally Ready for #Vanlife!

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1. Experience on NOT looking at the rear view mirror while driving.

Vans are at least somewhat different from regular cars – you don’t need to be a worried parent/relative to tell me that cause I get it, okay. The legal age to pursue the desired golden ticket (also known as a driver’s licence) to free mobility is 18 years in Finland. I happened to be quite commonly known as the teenager who was really into Environmentalism and Saving the Planet… Which also meant that I pertained a, let’s say, classically critical attitude towards private motoring even in the countryside where public transport picks you up once in an hour – on weekdays, if you get lucky.

For my Mom on the other hand, grown up in the heavy rocking 1980’s, driving her own vehicle to work and earning some shopping money (which soon needed to be used for my diapers, though) was a sign of a working-class feminism in action. So, my Mom wanted to stay loyal to the empowering tradition and demanded me to land a place in a driving school. “That’s the only thing I have ever asked of you – to have a driver’s licence.” Seriously, that’s how much it really meant for her! Eventually I passed all of the required tests and was finally able to borrow my Mom’s car and drive to high school and my summer job. (Or sometimes to the back of local supermarkets in order to perform acts of rebellious dumpster diving, but that’s a completely other story.)

Anyway, times have changed, and legalized driving seems to be a somewhat useful skill to be applied in activism as well as in working life. But what most people around me don’t necessarily realize, I’ve recently become quite fond of driving – especially in the empty highways on summer nights. Even though I don’t yet own a car myself, I’ve had a lot of practice with a bigger car with no visibility in the rear view mirror due to the amounts of stuff usually needed to transport from place A to place B (tents, tables and such). That’s why I believe I could totally rock both owning and living in a van. Despite of the Environmental concerns I still obtain, I am a social-media-influenced millennial lacking a steady career and family opportunities after all. So, it’s better to hit the road than suffer in stability, right?

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2. Growing interest in fixing motors destined to fall apart.

Now, we may have differences in opinion but at least where I study and what kind of friends I have, we all agree that gender is a pretty performative part of our ‘identity’. Which means I never have felt myself super encouraged to encounter and tackle with the anatomy of any kind of mechanical machine. Sometimes I’m not even sure where to open up the bonnet – but that is hopefully about to change soon. As I’ve learned by following various channels of vanlifers adventuring in different parts of the world, vans as machines tend to break and fall apart on a regular basis. After doing a lot of travelling in our neighbouring country Russia, I know that for example bumpy roads, humidity or road salt will hack your engine at some point. That’s why I’m pretty confident I will have to gain at least basic knowledge of fixing my future van in order to survive out there. Okay, I don’t have the skills just yet – but the motivation sure is there.

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3. Lazy cook living for kettle-made meals.

Believe it or not, publicly at different kind of parties and events, I’m a pretty devoted, successful cook but at home I am an unbelievably lazy housewife-candidate-by-appearance. (I am trying to teach you a lesson here, guys… Moral of the story is to never judge a book by its covers.) Generally I just tend to have much more important things to do than to fix a complete, multiple times chopped and fried, meal just for myself. As a trustworthy millennial, I am specialized in opening cans, microwaving stuff (varying from oatmeal to frozen bread) and using ketchup as a general sauce on top of literally everything. Beans and toast with a nice cup of coffee – no problem in sustaining me like, forever! With finally making the decision to buy my own electric kettle, I see no limits to the cooking possibilities correlating with the future time spent on the road.

What it comes to the fridge/freezer situation, the former statement applies to them as well. Being vegan, I don’t feel obliged to necessarily have a cooling facility for my food since my diet mostly consists of oats, noodles, canned goods, fresh fruits and veggies plus hot beverages (such as coffee and tea). Also, the food that my dog eats, doesn’t need to be refrigerated either. On the downside I love to mix frozen berries into my oatmeal or smoothie – but I have already found a decently satisfying (and healthy) solution which comes in the form of dried and powdered berry mixes. Sure, they cost a little bit extra, but health is the most important asset we can have in life, and I’m willing to invest in it. Secondly, the terrain in the Northern sphere, where I’ve planned to locate most of my van journeys, is filled with wild blueberries, lingonberries and raspberries (sometimes even cranberries and cloudberries in swampy areas). Talking about the wild herbs and mushrooms ready to be foraged, dried and preserved…

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4. Properly organized CD collection.

As you may get to know from my next posts, I am at least somewhat into music (heck, who wouldn’t be?). And for me, the aspect of tuning into my favourite CD (yes, I happen to belong to that generation…) while driving down the highway serves as the ultimate act of nostalgia. As a matter of fact, I have managed to collect a rather good collection of different albums, starting in my early childhood when my grandma used to buy me second-hand stuff from a co-worker’s kid named Jenni. Usually it was clothes or toys but I recall one time she favoured me with a bag of old CD’S. Good ones – cause I still have some of them (for example the Madonna ones).

Lately I had an idea to invest into proper CD cases in order to minimize the space and weight that my necessary collection was taking. That project ended up becoming three individual trips to Clas Ohlson (why do every functional chain store around here come from Sweden?) but I finally have my collection set and sealed – ready to be opened in case of an adventure…

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5. What it comes to my hair, I might be a bit of a… cat?

The last point on this list might drive you (in a van or not!) away from my already poor start of a blog. And that’s exactly why I saved it last to increase the likelihood of having you made it this far. And since I’ve already spent more than generously time on second-guessing on this whole social media thing, I’ve decided to be brave enough to share this kinda intimate fact about myself. Are you ready cause here it comes…

I think that deep down I am a cat! I don’t think so only because of the improvisation of meowing I usually do when I am in the desperate need of C-O-F-F-E-E and too lazy to get on my feet to stumble down to kitchen. No, I also am deeply terrified of having water running all over my head. And by this I don’t mean a gentle touch of a summer rain or a highly annoying layer of snow creating an unwanted wet look after entering indoors again.

Like Jenna Marbles, I could even argue that washing your head isn’t even particularly healthy for you scalp nor the hair itself that ought to be glowing and flowing femininely in the air like in the Shampoo Commercial that has haunted you from your early childhood. But I bet that the fact that most of the time I just braid my hair and hide the greasy parts under a cute hat means that I could actually make it driving and adventuring around the wilderness (still posting Instagram-worthy shots on social media). With aspirations for that active van girl type of look I also hope to be manifesting that into my near future! Then you can say with a clear conscience – ‘bitch, you only brought it on yourself’ if I ever complain about my unwashed hair.

Yours,

Miah

P.S. To be perfectly honest, Finland does have the reputation of being the ‘land of a thousand lakes’. But who knows where I’ll wind up? You gotta be prepared to face even the extremes which means NOT being able to jump into a lake for a quick fix.