Can You Hear The Mountains Calling?

OoIt has been a while since my last posting but I assume I have a good excuse. Traveling. And prepping for travels. I embarked for my 3-week European tour last week, and it probably is not a surprise that the days leading to my departure were rather hectic as I had to get a bunch of things sorted out, farrier and veterinarian appointments scheduled…. on top of my regular work.

My trip started by flying from Nashville to Copenhagen via Chicago and Frankfurt, a quick stop in Copenhagen before the 3-day weekend in Salzburg, Austria. Mountains have always had a special place in my heart as I started climbing and mountaineering a couple of decades ago, and have been involved in mountain rescue, guiding as well as teaching avalanche awareness, technical rescue and just basic mountaineering skills. My first time on Mt McKinley, or nowadays Denali, was also one of the reasons why I moved to Alaska in the first place. To get to climb more, and more of those majestic Denali range mountains. And I sure did. Quite a few times.

This time I didn’t have any major plans for Austria but decided to play it by the ear, with weather permitting. It turned out that some of my old mountain rescue buddies were around. A few Facebook messages and a WhatsApp group message got things going, and the gang was together again. Ellmau, Austria, the beautiful village on the foothills of Wilden Kaiser became our destination on Saturday: ropes were coiled, back bags packed, and mountaineering boots’ laces tightened. And just like that, we were out again. Jokes were flying, stories were being told, and old times remembered while diligently planning every move on our climb.

My heart was full of joy.

The old saying says something about no matter how long it has been since seeing your friends, the true friends can pick up the conversation like they’ve never been apart. This is how it is with these guys. It has been over ten years since our last climb together, and a lot has changed over the years. Marriages, divorces, babies, climbing mates lost on some grueling climbs in the unforgiving heights, new mountains conquered …. some of us made the climbing a professional career, other semiprofessional, others just still climb because they love it and can hear the solitude of a mountain calling their name. Days like this truly remind me how much I miss the mountains and the thrill of climbing. Did you know that I have a fear of heights? And I love that darn fear – it makes me feel so alive.

10 + 1 Questions About Living Abroad

Yet another blog challenge, pretty interesting one.  I got this idea from Paula Gaston’s blog; she also writes in English here. You definitely should check her site – she is a pretty cool lady living in sunny California.

1. What is the best thing in your country? 

People. Variety. Options. Certain kind of freedom. I love the way how people are friendly and outgoing here in the US. It’s easy to make friends and be social. You always feel welcome everywhere. Variety of everything – as this is a huge country, there is always something to see and do from beaches to mountains, from white sand to white snow. I also like the initiative and appreciation of the hard work – it is possible to accomplish things here with the dedication, and many people are eager to do so.

The politeness here is also on its own level. To me it is extremely rude if someone doesn’t hold the door open, offer to help carrying big items, or doesn’t look at you when they are talking. Sir, Ma’am, excuse me, how are you, you’re welcome, thank you – all these should be in everyone’s daily vocabulary.

2. How about the worst? 

Long distances… it takes about the same time to fly from Anchorage, AK to Miami, FL than from the east coast to Europe. As a fitness and health nut, I wish cities were less car-centric and more walking friendly – little exercise doesn’t hurt anyone.

Sometimes the constant gogogo attitude is a little overwhelming. Drive-thrus, fast service this and that… maybe sometimes it is a good idea to slow down and sit in the coffee shop sipping that coffee without rushing from A to B and gulping the coffee down from the paper cup.

3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, for free, for two weeks, where would you go?

This answer would probably change every day but right now to Orkney Island in Scotland to do some wreck diving. Or may to Micronesia, to dive WWII ship wrecks in Truk Lagoon.

4. Where would you travel again?

France. Val de Loire has a specific spot in my heart: French there is perfect, and such a joy to speak, food is delicious, and my wine connoisseur heart smiles there constantly. Or Italian Alps. Or French Alps. Oh, how I miss climbing there!

In all honesty, there are so many places where I would go again. Out of about 80 countries I have visited, I have always found something charming in every place. Something worth going back.

5. Which Finnish food do you miss the most abroad? 

Bread cheese. ‘Nuff said. The Wisconsin variation of it just doesn’t taste right.

6. Do you think you could move back to Finland one day? 

No. I can’t see myself living in Finland again. Visiting is lovely but I doubt I could get used to the general atmosphere and way of living there.

7. What is the most exciting/interesting holiday in your country? 

4th of July. No matter what political stance people may have, on that day it feels everyone belongs to the one, big family. I also love Thanksgiving – decorations and hosting the big dinners. Plus the fall is gorgeous here in Tennessee.

8. What was the hardest in moving abroad? 

Nothing. Or maybe decluttering the house before packers came. But other than that, I just picked up my stuff, hopped on the plane and that’s it. Simple.

9. Could you imagine living somewhere else than in your country or Finland?

Yes. I wouldn’t mind living in Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Austria, Germany, Italy, or France one day. Maybe at least part-time.

10. What was the most memorable moment of 2017?

This year has flown by extremely fast. One of the very memorable moments has been diving in Iceland, between the continental plates in ice-cold water, 34F (~2C). Absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to go back. I still have so much more diving to do there!

10+1 And the bonus question – are you going to travel somewhere this year? 

The rest of the year is actually going to be non-stop traveling ….. already trips booked to Florida, Washington state, Colorado, Sweden, Germany, Austria, California. And more will come, for sure.