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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Shock: Transitioning Back to the Western World

FINLAND | Saturday, 4 August 2007 | Views [953]

Helsinki was not always on our list of dream places to travel in the world.  We chose it because it was Darrin's "suicide pick" several years ago, when I posed the question to him, "Where would you go if you lost your job and got a severance package, and could go anywhere in the world?"  He kept saying he didn't know, so I demanded he just pick a place, and he blurted out "Helsinki."  He said he liked the sound of the city name.  Plus, it was where Jennifer Garner always seemed to be sent to in Alias for her next "adventure assignment."  So that's how Helsinki made it into the flight plan.  We land in sparkling clean Helsinki, Finland.  The airport is spotless, the public busses into the city run on time and are squeaky clean.  We ride the bus to the central train station and make our way through well labeled streets to find our hostel.
Out and about on the streets, Helsinki-ites are curious and friendly.  As locals approach us on the streets, we are caught off guard, and back up with trepidation, wondering what they are wanting to sell us.  We've been in Asia far too long, we view everyone who we don't know as a potential tout out to sell to us, or scam us.  Instead, we're greeted with friendly smiles and voluntary assistance to help us find our way.  We must look like clueless tourists, but their warmth and openness is a welcome change to the touts of the streets of Asia.  The air here is clean, we can breath with ease, and we don't see trash anywhere on the streets.  There are no mosquitos, and concern about malaria and dengue risk quickly fade.  The temperature is in the 70's Fahrenheit, and dry.  It's the first time in months that we're not drenched in sweat.  The streets are lined with historically architected buildings that remind us that we're in Europe... but all around us are also sleek, new modern architecture which reminds us of Ikea - wood, metal and glass aligned with hard angles and clean lines, all of which we'd expect to see lining the pages of Architectural Digest.  The locals are equally as trendy, hip and cool, wearing the latest fashions, donning the latest craze-color hair and tattoos & piercings that symbolize the era and a generation of fierce independence and individualism.  Hair color is big, and we even see older women with bright red and orange dye jobs to match their outfits.
The days here are long.  The sun rises around 5:00 a.m. and doesn't set until nearly 10:00 p.m.  Beer gardens line the streets and a social scene emerges through the day, continuing late into the evening.  Bands spring up on portable stages throughout the city, drawing audiences and playing for "pleasure" and no charge.  Everyone is out enjoying the beautiful weather, and it's tough even to find a seat at a cafe or beer garden.  We finally hunker down at a prime main street corner cafe and waste away time sitting back, sipping cool drinks and watching life cruise by on the streets.  We wonder what life here is like during the winter.  While summer sees sunlight nearly 24 hours a day during a couple of months, winters must be dark, cold and snowy.  We imagine it must be beautiful here, blanketed with snow, but we're not so sure how we'd be able to cope with long days of darkness.  The Nordic countries are known for their winter sports, so I'm sure it's a winter sports wonderland here and that we'd enjoy spending time here in this outdoor playground.
The harbor-side fresh market is amazing here.  Fresh fruits, veggies and huge hunks of salmon are grilling up with capers and peppercorns. Our stomachs rumble with the thought of being able to eat fresh fruit and veggies and not have to peel or boil them to death to have them be safe and edible.  We settle for some seafood paella.  We spend the rest of our big day out in Helsinki getting lost in the city streets. We wish we spoke the language here; it's been difficult to strike up meaningful conversations with locals over a beer, as many don't respond to our English.  Knowing the language would also allow us to have a real glimpse into the culture here.  We'll have to come back some day and spend more than just a day here.  
Our one day has been a welcome change.  The climate is ideal, the streets are clean, no one is spitting on the streets.  The air is fresh, and we can drink the tap water in the hostel.  There are no touts trying to sell us anything.  Actually, we are no longer seen as walking ATM machines.  Here our US dollars are so weak compared to Euros, that it's actually quite a sad state of affairs.  A glass of draught beer costs $7 USD, a coffee is just under $5 USD, and our youth hostel room consisting of two tiny single roll away costs in a shabby room with shared bath amongst 10 guests costs us just under $100 USD/night.  It's probably a good thing that we're only here for two nights and a day.  Our days of traveling Asia for under $40 USD/day have sadly come to a screeching halt.  Welcome to the Western World!

Tags: Sightseeing


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