Things I learned in Turkey/Finland/Sweden/Estonia

In this trip, I experienced near misses of travel mishaps. Mostly around being late for a flight, poor planning for a train, etc. Like packing too much? But did we learn a lesson? I turned to Chris each time after we resolved those stressful points and mimicked his mother when she admonished him as a child, “Did you learn your lesson?”

We smirked and replied, “Nope!”

It should be said that better planning in terms of time and navigation could helped. Setting expectations would have helped. But of course, our priorities in seeing as much as possible, acquiring the goods and foods superseded everything else.

But here are random things that we learned (and potentially observed):

  • Northern lights are truly transient. That is, there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll see them even if you have a clear sky and went as north as possible in a Nordic country.
  • Cruises from Finland are popular with the locals not because of the destination, but because the duty free shops offer alcohol significantly marked down than when on land. Finns would buy all alcohol needed for their weddings on a $18 USD cruise.
  • It’s so much easier to sleep during the winter when abroad. As Americans (and San Franciscans), we find it impossible to sleep in warm, humid climates unless the AC is on full blast and silent. Sixty degree temperature is best.
  • Overnight trains in Nordic countries are clean and well-designed
  • Finns and Swedes trust their people. Security is unnecessary in parks and zoos, because they expect visitors will do the right thing. Right?
  • Likewise, liability is very unlike the US. If you fall, it’s totally your fault! I mean, didn’t you see the cracked sidewalk?
  • From my talk at Interaction 16, healthcare isn’t always perfect abroad. It can be frustrating and disenfranchising as the states. Like in Singapore, the Netherlands, Germany. And yes, even in Scandinavia.
  • It can be comfortable to sleep on top of a frozen lake if you’re in a mobile cabin powered by a gas heater, a comfortable mattress, and a compostable toilet. Is this like glamping?
  • A refresher in the metric system is always useful.
  • But as an American, I will never be quite satisfied with the lack of English, the different currency, and the non-use of the imperial system
  • Volvo is the pride of Sweden. Safety. Safety. Safety!
  • Swedish drivers (and possibly even the Finns) are incredibly patient. Cars will stop for pedestrians. Cars will never cut off other cars. Cars will even yield to fast-moving vehicles
  • Pedestrians will never jaywalk. When it says don’t walk, it really means that they don’t walk.
  • Swedes ski in resorts that have wide trails. The weather is always bad—windy and low visibility.
  • There’s no such thing as a beginner Swede on skis. Because shortly after Swedes learn how to walk, they learn to ski
  • Visiting four museums in one day is possible and very satisfying!
  • Having Chris as a chef helps with the budget, especially in expensive countries
  • It’s always worth it to cook in an area with limited (and potentially disappointing) food options
  • It is possible to make a multiple diverse meals with tomato sauce, tortellini, frozen berries, meat balls, dill seasoning, potato product, eggs, lettuce, ham, cheese, milk, butter, cherry tomatoes, apples, oil, salt, pepper, pasta, popcorn, butter
  • When giving a talk, insist on seeing the stage and presentation setup before going on
  • Just breathe when giving a talk
  • Alcohol-free pairings are the BEST at fine dining
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